The “world’s first” hybrid solar, geothermal plant to land in Nevada

Nevada will be home to the “world’s first” hybrid solar, geothermal plant, according to the power companies involved in the project. The new, combined 24 MW solar photovoltaic and geothermal power plant was announced during a press conference by Senator Harry Reid, Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Enel Green Power North America President Francesco Venturini, at the fourth annual National Clean Energy Summit on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Venturini said that the first poles that will hold photovoltaic solar panels were installed yesterday, and that the project — to be built at Enel Green Power North America’s Stillwater Geothermal Plant in Churchill County, Nev. — will take about a year to build. Eventually, the site will have 7,000 poles to support solar panels, and 81,000 panels, which Venturini said would be produced by a Chinese supplier. The project is supposed to employee 150 Nevadans.

The idea behind combining solar and geothermal is that geothermal is a so-called baseload power source, so it can provide electricity 24/7. In contrast, solar and wind can only provide power when the sun shines and the wind blows. Variable clean power sources like solar and wind need to be combined with a baseload power source (like natural gas or geothermal) to be able to reliably supply power to communities.

The electricity from the hybrid plant will be sold to local utility NV Energy. Venturini said he thinks this type of hybrid plant will prove popular and will be built across the U.S.

The National Clean Energy Summit, which kicked off on Tuesday, is in its fourth year and is led by Senator Harry Reid. As Reid said in his opening remarks, a lot has changed over the four years that the summit has been running. The funding from the stimulus package is coming to an end, and at the same time, the DOE is facing potential budget cuts. We’ll bring you more on how Chu and the industry will fight for subsidies and if not successful, how the industry will survive without them.