A first-of-its-kind solar plant in Central Nevada is back online and generating power after being down for maintenance for about eight months.
The Crescent Dunes solar power plant returned to service on July 12 and is delivering renewable energy to customers in the state of Nevada, according to NV Energy spokesman Mark Severts.
The $1 billion solar power plant facility backed by $737 million in federal loan guarantees is owned and operated by California-based SolarReserve. NV Energy is the solar power plant’s sole customer under a 25-year power-purchase agreement.
The 1,600-acre solar plant farm entered commercial operation back in November 2015 after a four years of construction on a federal land. It was forced to shut down in late October when a small leak developed in a tank filled with molten sodium chloride .
Back in December 2016, Mary Grikas, SolarReserve’s vice president of global communications, downplayed the situation and said that the solar power plant would be back online and operating at its 100 percent, 500,000-megawatt-hours of annual electricity delivery in January. Instead, the SolarReserve facility remained offline for six more months.
When the company was reached for comment on Wednesday, Grikas declined to provide further details about the cause or exact length of the delay.
“We don’t provide specific operational details for the media, nor do our competitors,” Grikas said in an email. “The plant is up and running — generating electricity, and storing energy for generation during peak demand periods.”
Grikas said the company expects Crescent Dunes to continue operating for the next 40 years at least.
The energy company uses more than 10,000 mirrored heliostats, an apparatus containing a movable or driven mirror and is used to reflect sunlight in a fixed direction, to focus sunlight on a 640-foot-tall central tower and heat the molten salt inside to more than 1,000 degrees. The super-heated mixture is then used to boil the water and drive steam generators to produce power day or night.
SolarReserve said that its patented storage system can deliver renewable power electricity on demand like a traditional coal or natural gas power plant but without any emissions to the environment, little water use and no hazardous waste.
SolarReserve is developing a similar arrays with electricity storage capabilities in South Africa and Chile. The firm also has massive plans in Nevada.
The leak that shut down the Crescent Dunes in Nevada facility in October was discovered just days after CEO Kevin Smith, U.S. Senator Dean Heller, R-Nev., and then-Deputy Energy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall gathered at the plant to unveil SolarReserve’s plans for as many as 10 more of the arrays at an as-yet-undisclosed location in Nye County.
If built, the $5 billion mega-project, known as project Sandstone, would rank as the world’s largest solar energy facility with an output of 1,500 to 2,000 megawatts, enough to supply about a million houses.