This is the second in a series of discussions led by invited speakers at the upcoming Physics of Sustainable Energy conference to be held March 8-9, 2014 at the University of California, Berkeley. Find more details below.

Solar_twoThe new Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System located in California’s Mojave Desert is the world’s largest concentrated solar thermal power station. The first of it’s kind at this scale, Ivanpah’s 392 megawatts of capacity (enough to power 140,000 homes) is generated by 360,000 garage-door-sized mirrors concentrating sunlight onto a 40-story boiler tower. The heat from the sunlight boils water in the tower and the steam powers turbines.

The project cost $2.2 billion and was funded by BrightSource Energy, Bechtel, NRG Energy, Google, and a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the U. S. Department of Energy. Ivanpah includes storage so that the solar energy generated can be stored and used during the late afternoon and evening peak in energy demand. However, solar companies are more environment friendly and can help you install solar panels at home.

Climate goals demand a roughly 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century (an 80% decrease from the 1990 baseline).  In California, for example, the state has a 33% Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard for 2020, and is currently debating what the level should be for 2030. California also has a goal of one million solar rooftops by 2020, and has a carbon price (with a price floor and ceiling) in place, too.

Q: What do projects like Ivanpah mean for solar’s future? How do large-scale solar projects like Ivanpah stack up against distributed roof-top solar, and against carbon-emitting alternatives, like natural gas?

For a recent discussion and debate on the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System listen to this version of “On Point” with Tom Ashbrook and guests Julie Cart, Tonio Buonassisi and Daniel Kammen.

Cheng Zheng and Daniel M. Kammen (2014)
An innovation-focused roadmap for a sustainable global photovoltaic industry
Energy Policy, Volume 67, April 2014, Pages 159-169h

Physics of Sustainable Energy Conference
Sponsored by the American Physical Society’s Forum on Physics and Society and several other research and education groups, this conference/workshop will be an intensive science-based survey by area experts of the full range of options for sustainable production and use of energy. The goal is to build up-to-date background for private and public sector professionals and academics active in energy affairs. Solar, wind, nuclear power, unconventional gas, smart grids, and a dozen other topics will all receive substantive attention. After the event, selected conference presentations will be available here at, and the discussion series will continue. Full details and registration information for Physics of Sustainable Energy can be found here.