Worldâ€™s First Hybrid Concentrated Solar Thermal Energy Facility Nearing Completion
At a time when many U.S. power companies are trying to design carbon capture systems for their existing coal fired generating plants Florida’s largest utility company is spendingÂ money to revitalize a natural gas generator by combining it with Concentrated Solar Thermal technology. In a move that validates the companies stated commitment to reduce their greenhouse gase production. Florida Power and Light is nearing completion of it’s Â hybrid Solar Thermal/Natural Gas generating plant. The Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center will rank as the world’s second-largest solar plant when it begins pumping out as many as 75 megawatts of electricity late this year. It will also be the only system of its kind in the world. The plant will have 190,000Â mirrors which to put in perspective will cover 80 football fields. The mirrors themselves will concentrate the solar energy onto aÂ total surface areaÂ less than one football field producing the high temperatures and Â energy densities required to eventually expand a working fluidÂ that willÂ power turbinesÂ .
FPL is building its “thermal” solar plant on a campus near Lake Okeechobee that already has 13 generators fueled by oil and natural gas. Steam from the solar plant will be combined with steam produced with the heat exhaust from four natural-gas plants to spin an existing generator â€” an approach not taken before. FPL thinks that makes solar thermal technology more feasible, because the utility won’t have to spend millions of dollars building a generator for the solar plant. The project costs about $420 million, which will add about 16 cents a month to the average FPL residential customer’s bill.
FPL also owns the world’s biggest solar plant, a solar thermal unit in California’s Mojave Desert that is four times the size of the Martin County project. The Florida plant is based largely on the technology of the 30-year-old Mojave system, though it has been given far stronger pylons, frames and mirrors to withstand hurricane winds of up to 130 mph.
The mirrors are installed in aluminum frames forming long linear dishes. Each frame holds 28 mirrors arranged in parallel rows that are linked together for a total linear length of approximately 50 miles. Each tube contains synthetic working fluidÂ that will be heated by the solar energy to 740 degrees F. The system has almost 150 miles of pipe containing 1.2 million gallons of working fluid.
- Construction commenced December 2, 2008, with completion scheduled for the end of 2010
- The first hybrid solar facility in the world to connect to an existing combined-cycle power plant
- At 75 megawatts, the Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center is the largest solar thermal plant outside of California
- Annual estimated generation will be about 155,000 megawatt hours or enough power to serve about 11,000 homes
- Located at FPLâ€™s Martin Plant near Indiantown
- During construction, the project provides around 1000 construction jobs and several full time positions after completion
- Over 30 years, the solar facility will prevent the emission of more than 2.75 million tons of greenhouse gases
According to the U.S. EPA, this is the equivalent of removing over 18,700 cars from the road every year for the entire life of the project
- It will decrease fossil-fuel usage by approximately 41 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 600,000 barrels of oil
- It will not require additional cooling water
- Solar energy can help Florida secure its energy future since it is not subject to oil supply disruptions or price volatility
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