The Rice Energy Solar Project, located in Riverside County, is expected to provide enough electricity to power more than 65,000 homes during peak electricity periods. The California Public Utilities Commission recently approved sale of the power generated to Pacific Gas & Electric via a 25 year purchase agreement.
The project is located in the Sonoran Desert and will include eight to ten hours of energy storage. This storage capability comes from the use of thousands of mirrors. The mirrors focus sunlight onto a central tower containing molten salt. The salt is then funneled through a steam generator to produce electricity. Since the salt retains heat for eight to ten hours, it can be used to produce power at night. This fully dispatchable storage adds significant benefits to the overall system, providing value not yet fully quantified.
The CPUC made storage ability a key to the project. “This capability will be crucial as California progresses towards its 33 percent renewable target” said Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve. SolarReserve is no stranger to solar energy storage. Their flagship project is a commercial scale solar plan located near Tonopah, Nevada. This plan features ten hours of integrated energy storage and is the first solar plant of its kind in the world.