BrightSource Energy, Inc. designs, develops, and deploys solar thermal technology to produce high-value electricity and steam for power, petroleum, and industrial-process markets worldwide.
BrightSource focuses its selection process on areas of high insolation, or solar radiation, for project sites to maximize land efficiency and minimize a project’s footprint. The company’s proprietary technology minimizes grading and leveling while maximizing retention of existing vegetation and natural features.
Operating at high temperature and efficiency levels, BrightSource technology can use air rather than water to condense steam, conserving one of the most precious resources in the desert. BrightSource observes best practices designed to minimize and -- wherever possible -- avoid CO2 and criteria air pollutants.
BrightSource’s solar thermal system is operating at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California’s Mojave Desert. Ivanpah, which began commercial operation in 2013, is delivering power to PG&E and Southern California Edison. The project is currently the largest solar thermal power plant in the world. Ivanpah was constructed by Bechtel and is operated by NRG Energy, one of the project's equity investors.
Ivanpah produces energy by bouncing sunlight to the top of 450-foot-tall towers, where water is heated to create steam that drives turbines. Ivanpah is not without controversy. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that 15 months after opening Ivanpah is not yet producing all of the electricity it was expected to generate. In the first quarter of this year, however, Ivanpah generation was up 170 percent over the same quarter in 2014. As expected, the operating crew’s expertise with the technology is increasing all the time and the plant is continuing to increase its generation.