Ivanpah concentrated solar power plant passes its first functional test

The 377-megawatt Ivanpah solar thermal power plant achieved a milestone in its development recently, something called the “first flux.”

According to Mike Bobinecz, VP Construction Management, BrightSource Energy, “first flux” essentially demonstrates that the plant is ready for operation.

Bechtel Corporation, the company constructing the plant is finally at the last stage, where it starts up the equipment and systems.

The “first flux” test was the focus of heliostats (adjustable motorized mirrors) onto the boiler to slowly raise the boiler’s water temperature to just below the point of steam generation.


Heliostat systems operate by reflecting all of the sunlight received by each of the thousands of heliostats at a given solar power plant onto the same flat black surface, causing it to become extremely hot.

This is the equivalent of multiplying the sunshine hitting one spot thousands of times — the smaller the area it is focused onto, the hotter the area gets. (In the case of Ivanpah, over 300,000 mirrors are used.)

“We are now focused on reaching the point where we can place a full load of heliostats onto the boiler and push the project towards commercial operation.” Over the course of the next month, the team will place additional flux on the boiler and begin producing steam to test the steam pressure.

“When a certain level of pressure is reached, the system will be ready for steam blows to clear out any debris inside the pipes so that it does not damage the steam turbine once operational.”

If you haven’t been following this power plant over the past few years, you might like to also know that it is owned by Brightsource Energy, Google, NRG Energy.