SolarReserve plans world’s largest solar project in Nevada

The developer is looking to build a 2GW concentrated solar power plant that would cost around $5bn.

SolarReserve, a California-based renewable energy developer, is planning to build the world's largest solar project in Nevada using a technology that could rival photovoltaic plus storage for cost competitiveness.

Kevin Smith, SolarReserve's chief executive, told Infrastructure Investor that the company is about six months away from selecting a site in the Nevada desert to build the 2GW Sandstone concentrated solar project (CSP). He said the project will use a field of mirrors to direct sunlight at the top of 10 towers, heating a liquid that can be stored and generate electricity from steam.

These projects are more expensive than standard PV, and SolarReserve estimates the Sandstone project will cost around $5 billion. However, the storage component can solve intermittency issues and make them cost competitive with battery systems attached to solar farms. In the US, Smith said a solar plus storage project costs around 15 cents per kWh. SolarReserve is aiming to develop the Sandstone project so that it produces energy in the eight or nine cent range.

“It's an early stage development project, but the technology itself is fully developed. We've got a good handle on costs and how this technology can perform in the energy storage market,” Smith said.

After site selection and permitting is obtained, Smith said SolarReserve will begin looking at financing structures in early 2018. He said if this project is funded similarly to an $800 million CSP project in South Africa it is developing, the debt-to-equity ratio will be around 70-30 percent.

Smith said this project has a way to go before it is producing clean energy, but he hopes it will be viewed as a cost-competitive alternative to PV plus battery projects.

“We've identified this before people get too far down the road looking at batteries plus PV as the solution for solving intermittency with renewable energy,” Smith said. “We've got a solution that we believe is much more cost effective than trying to put a million batteries in place.”