Monthly Archives: December 2013

Going Solar in 3 Acts

Act One: Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Facility

Possible Questions:

What percentage of California homes could be powered by this power plant?

How many of these would we need to power a third of California homes?

How about ½, or all?

How much area would that many power plants take up?

Could we fit them in the Mojave?

How much would it cost?

Act Two: What percentage of California homes could be powered by this plant?

What information do we need?

Homes powered by Ivanpah: 140,000

California Homes: 13,720,462 housing units

(source: Census 2010)

Extension question:

What percentage of US homes could this power?

US Housing Units: 132,312,404 (Census 2010)

Act Three: The Percentage of California Homes powered by Ivanpah

I allow students to choose to use the 2010 housing data, or estimate the number of housing units as 14,000,000. The Calculations would look like one of these:

140,000/13,720,462= 1.02 %

140,000/14,000,000= 1%

This usually leads naturally into several sequel questions. Below I have listed some of my favorites with the necessary information.

Sequel: The Implications

1. How many would we need to power all California homes?

2. How much land would we need to build that many Solar Facility?

Ivanpah area: 3500 acres or 5.469 square miles

3. How much would it cost to build that many Solar Facilities?

Cost of Ivanpah: $2.2 billion (One might expect price to go down as you scale up, so you could ask students to model the price going down in some way over time.)

4. If you were to place these side by side, what would a few possible rectangular dimensions for the facility be? What would the dimension of a square with that area be?

5. Is there enough space in the Mojave for such a facility?

I had the students look on google earth to find an area that is big enough for all those Heliostats. Here is a shot from google earth of the actual Ivanpah Facility. As a hint, I told them to start there, and look nearby.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 10.04.27 PM

6. Approximately what percent of California’s total electricity requirements will this supply?

Ivanpah projected to generate: 1,079,232 Megawatt-hour(MGh) per year or 1,079.232 gigawatt-hours (source: NREL)

In 2012, Total System Power for California: 302,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh)”

(Source: California Energy Commission)


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Filed under 3-Act, 6.RP, 7.G, 7.RP, Middle School