Thanks to $40 million from the Department of Energy (DOE) via the Recovery Act, Nevada’s Stillwater geothermal plant has become the world’s first hybrid solar-geothermal plant.
Nearly 90,000 solar panels were added to the site, adding 26 megawatts to bring the facility’s total combined capacity to 59 megwatts–enough to power 50,000 homes with clean energy.
The DOE describes solar and geothermal as “a match made in heaven” since geothermal can act as a backup energy producer for solar when the sun isn’t generating electricity. By combining the two excellent sources of clean energy, the plant generates a consistent form of energy that is reliable during peak demand hours.
Traditionally, utilities had to rely on fossil fuel sources like coal or natural gas to fill in the gaps when a solar energy plant wasn’t producing power, either on cloudy days or at nighttime, in order to maintain a consistent flow of energy to the grid.
“As the first of its kind in the world, this project demonstrates how we can tap renewable energy sources to provide clean power for American families and businesses and deploy every available source of American energy,” said DOE Secretary Steven Chu in a statement.
One of 14 geothermal sites in Nevada and Utah to benefit from DOE investments, the Stillwater geothermal plant opened in 2009.