Nevada Solar One is a solar power plant located in Eldorado Valley, near Boulder City. The 75 megawatt maximum capacity is distributed over 400 acres and it officially went into operation in the June of 2007. It is the largest solar thermal energy plant built in the world in the last two decades and the carbon dioxide emissions it avoids in a year are equal to 20,000 cars. The initial investment was $266 million. A number of companies combined their resources to bring the project to fruition, but the Spanish company Acciona soon brought a controlling stake in Solargenix, the company formerly known as Duke Solar and now owns 95% of the project.
The Nevada Solar One power plant was built in Boulder City’s Energy Resource Zone. In order for a permit to be granted for a plant development in this zone, plans for renewable generation are required. The Nevada Solar One project was accepted as part of a larger project initiated by Duke’s Energy, who hoped to build facilities which could generate 1 Gigawatt of electricity in the El Dorado area.
During peak hours it uses specialized technology to track the movement of the sun and adjust the mirrors to concentrate the rays accordingly. The amount of the technology used is astounding, with almost 200,000 mirrors reflecting the sun’s rays onto approximately 20,000 tubes which lay at parabolic troughs. A liquid which transfers heat flows through the tubes and then is turned into steam which powers a turbine. This turbine is linked to a generator which produces the electricity.
Many hopes are held for the future. Nevada has an abundance of sun and land and, in theory, has the ability to generate around 600 gigawatts of electricity by using the same technology that Nevada Solar One uses. It has been enthusiastically theorized that, with a massive expansion of solar plants in the Energy Resource Zone, the area could provide enough electricity to power the whole of the United States of America. In comparison, similar facilities operating in the Mojave Desert have generated a capacity of 354 megawatts since 1984.