Solar power is on the rise in Riverside County-literally. The world's largest solar towers-two that are 750 feet tall each-have been earmarked on federal land in one of the county's designated solar zones.
The Palen Solar Electrical Generating System is a $2.6 billion project developed by BrightSource Energy and Abengoa. Abengoa will oversee building construction, operation, and maintenance, while BrightSource will focus on design and solar technology.
The pair of towers would generate 500 megawatts of solar energy-enough to supply power to 200,000 homes and offset 17 million tons of carbon emissions during the plant's lifespan.
BrightSource will use thousands of motorized mirrors that track the path of the sun and will direct sunlight to water boilers on the top of the towers. Once the water is heated to 550 degrees Celsius, steam moves through a turbine and generates electricity. (The steam is then moved back to the boiler to help extend solar power after sunset.) The solar field will mount the mirrors on poles instead of concrete foundation to allow vegetation to stay and grow under the mirrors.
According to BrightSource, "this design significantly reduces the amount of land required to produce energy - up to 33 percent less than a typical photovoltaic (PV) farm."
About 2,000 jobs are estimated to be created with the plant, which is scheduled to be finished in 2016.
The announcement comes on the heels of the opening of the world's largest solar plant, a $600 million project that covers nearly one square mile in Abu Dhabi. It is set to generate 100 megawatts of power.