sand-dune-crescent-nevada.jpgNV Energy signed an agreement today to use Crescent Dunes in Nye County, NV, near Tonopah, as a source for alternative power driven by the sun, sand and salt!

When completed, Tonopah Solar Energy’s facility will supply approximately 480,000 megawatt hours annually of clean, renewable electricity – enough to power up to 75,000 homes during peak electricity periods utilizing its innovative energy storage capabilities.

The project will utilize an advanced molten salt system technology from United Technologies Corp. of Connecticut that features efficient energy storage that can provide electricity reliably whether the sun is shining or not.

Sunlight heats the molten salt to a high temperature, which is then piped away, stored, and used when needed to produce steam to drive a turbine/generator that produces electricity. The system is capable of operating smoothly through intermittent clouds and can continue generating electricity long into the night.

Expected to break ground by the end of 2010, the 100-megawatt project will create as many as 450 construction jobs for Nevada during the two-year construction period. It will employ 45 permanent operations staff and will have an annual operating budget of more than $5.0 million, with the majority of that budget spent in the region. In addition, up to 4,000 indirect jobs would be created through the use of locally based suppliers and service providers. The project also supports more than 100 engineers working to further U.S. developed solar energy technology for potential export around the world.

“The Tonopah project is a significant step in the advancement of clean and reliable solar power for the United States and Nevada and will be a catalyst for new technology manufacturing in the region,” said Kevin Smith, the CEO of SolarReserve, a California-based developer of utility-scale solar power projects.

NV Energy’s President and CEO Michael Yackira said his company is taking major steps in continuing Nevada’s leadership in the development of renewable energy. “The energy storage characteristics were a key factor in our selection of the Tonopah Solar Energy project and provide a showcase for U.S. technology development in Nevada.”

The long-term agreement stems from NV Energy’s 2008 Request for Proposals for renewable energy. It requires the approval of the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada and will be included in the company’s Integrated Resource Filing slated for Feb. 1, 2010.

(Read the news report from the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

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