The project, run by Abengoa, is the first solar plant in the US with a thermal energy storage system that is able to generate electricity for six hours without the concurrent use of the solar field, so thatt solar energy can be stored and dispatched upon demand.
The plant is located near Gila Bend and about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona. It began construction in 2010. In tests, Solana successfully operated at the turbine’s full capacity while charging the thermal storage system, continuedto produce electricity after the sun went down, and started up the plant and produced six hours of electricity using only the thermal storage system.
Abengoa’s plant uses parabolic trough technology, which consists of parabolic shaped mirrors mounted on structures that track the sun and concentrate the sun’s heat, later transforming water into steam and powering a conventional steam turbine. The heat can also be stored and used to produce clean electricity after the sun goes down or during a transitory period.
Solana will generate the clean energy equivalent to that needed to power 70,000 households and will prevent about half a million tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere per year. Arizona Public Service (APS), the largest utility in Arizona, will purchase all of the electricity produced by the solar plant for 30 years through a power purchase agreement with Abengoa.