A plot of land near the Stillwater National Refuge in Nevada has been the site of a geothermal power plant since 2009. Recent additions, however, have earned the site the distinction of being the world’s only power plant that combines geothermal with two types of solar power.
On Tuesday, the plant welcomed Italian Premier Matteo Renzi and National Renewable Energy Laboratory Director Marin Keller for an official dedication and ribbon-cutting.
Enel Green Power in North America — a subsidiary of a Rome-based Enel Group — added 89,000 photovoltaic solar panels to the Stillwater Geothermal Plant by 2012. As of last year, the plant added a solar thermal system as well.
“The lessons we are learning at this advanced geothermal-solar facility will be key to the development of other hybrid plants throughout the world,” said Enel CEO Francesco Starace in a press release.
By combining the complementary renewable power sources, Stillwater has boosted its energy creation efficiency. Geothermal energy production typically dips during the warmest and sunniest times of the day — which is exactly when solar photovoltaic energy production is at its peak.
To dig into the numbers, the geothermal plant alone has a 33.1 megawatt capacity, the 110-acre solar photovoltaic system contributes a 26.4 megawatt capacity and the solar thermal can generate an additional 2 megawatts. Combined, that adds up to an annual generation of nearly 200,000 megawatt hours.
For a point of reference, the average American home consumes 10.9 megawatt hours annually, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The solar thermal addition alone boosted Stillwater’s geothermal power production by more than 3 percent by increasing the temperature of the fluid entering the plant. That increase was achieved courtesy of a 22-row trough system that can concentrate the solar energy by 75 times.
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