One of the largest solar thermal applications yet is taking shape in the Arizona desert near Phoenix, with a goal of going online by 2013.
According to announcement by Starwood Energy Group Global, the company's affiliate, Starwood Solar, has signed a power purchase agreement with Arizona Public Service (APS) company for electricity from the plant, which is expected to generate 290 megawatts.
When finished, the project is expected to be able to generate enough energy for all 73,000 APS customers.
A number of solar thermal facilities are being built in the Southwest because of the area's high sunshine levels and what has been an increasingly favorable policy landscape for such projects. Up until recently, solar thermal had largely gained its biggest foothold in Spain.
The technology works by using mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto stored fluid, which becomes superheated and generates steam that powers turbines. Solar energy derived from this method has a couple of advantages, including the ability to keep powering homes after dark because of the heat that is stored in the fluid.
Some facilities also use molten salt technology to store heat from solar thermal applications longer.