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Solar Energy Generating Systems (Mojave Desert, California, USA)

Credits: wikipedia.com

Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) is the largest solar energy generating facility in the world. It consists of nine solar power plants in California's Mojave Desert, where insolation is among the best available in the United States. FPL Energy operates and partially owns the plants. SEGS III–VII (150 MW) are located at Kramer Junction, SEGS VIII–IX (160 MW) at Harper Lake, and SEGS I–II (44 MW) at Daggett respectively.[1]


SEGS Karmer Junction Aerial

Solar power plants III-VII at Kramer Junction, California. ©Apri Alan Radecki

Plants' scale and operations
The plants have a 354 MW installed capacity, making it the largest installation of solar plants of any kind in the world.[1] By comparison, the largest photovoltaic plant, which is in Spain, produces 60 MW, although a 62 MW PV installation (Moura photovoltaic power station) is under construction in Portugal[2] and a 154 MW PV Solar power station in Victoria, Australia, is planned.[3] The average gross solar output for all nine plants at SEGS is around 75 MWe — a capacity factor of 21%. In addition, the turbines can be utilized at night by burning natural gas. FPL claims that the solar plants power 232,500 homes and displace 3,800 tons of pollution per year that would have been produced if the electricity had been provided by fossil fuels, such as oil.[4][5] The facilities have a total of 936,384 mirrors and cover more than 1,600 acres (6.5 km2). Lined up, the parabolic mirrors would extend over 229 miles (370 km).

Principle of operation
The installation uses parabolic trough solar thermal technology along with natural gas to generate electricity. 90% of the electricity is produced by the sunlight. Natural gas is only used when the solar power is insufficient to meet the demand from Southern California Edison, the distributor of power in southern California. [edit]

The parabolic mirrors are shaped like a half-pipe. The sun shines onto the panels made of glass, which are 94% reflective, unlike a typical mirror, which is only 70% reflective. The mirrors automatically track the sun throughout the day. The greatest source of mirror breakage is wind, with 3000 typically replaced each year. Operators can turn the mirrors to protect them during intense wind storms. An automated washing mechanism is used to periodically clean the parabolic reflective panels. [edit]

Heat transfer
The sun bounces off the mirrors and is directed to a central tube filled with synthetic oil, which heats to over 400 °C (750 °F). The reflected light focused at the central tube is 71 to 80 times more intense than the ordinary sunlight. The synthetic oil transfers its heat to water, which boils and drives the Rankine cycle steam turbine,[6] thereby generating electricity. Synthetic oil is used to carry the heat (instead of water) to keep the pressure within manageable parameters.

Harper Lake
SEGS VIII and SEGS IX, located at 35°01′54″N 117°20′53″W / 35.0316°N 117.348°W / 35.0316; -117.348 (SEGS VIII and IX), are the largest solar power plants individually and collectively in the world.[11] They were the last, the largest, and the most advanced of the nine plants at SEGS, designed to take advantage of the economies of scale. SEGS VIII and IX have operated continuously and have been commercially successful since the very beginning.[6]

Kramer Junction
This location (35°00′51″N 117°33′32″W / 35.0142°N 117.559°W / 35.0142; -117.559 (SEGS III–VII)) receives an average of 340 days of sunshine per year, which makes it an ideal place for solar power generation. The average direct normal radiation (DNR) is 7.44 kWh/m²/day (310 W/m²),[8] one of the best in the nation.