The Supply Chains of Clean Energy Generation Concentrated Solar Power

The Supply Side of Clean Energy Generation

by Alyssa Cauble

There is a lot of talk a lot about the jobs and the direct economic benefits that are created during the construction and operation of utility-scale solar thermal plants.  At our Ivanpah solar plant , for example:

  • The project has created over 2,100 hundred construction jobs since breaking ground in October 2010. These are family-wage paying jobs for carpenters, engineers, welders, surveyors, pipefitters and more.   
  • The total wages generated at this plant over its 30-year life will total $650 million, including $250 million in construction wages.

What is underappreciated is the “economic ripple effect” – those indirect benefits - felt all across the country as a result of the supply chains of projects like Ivanpah.   It turns out that a solar thermal project is a relatively high creator of indirect benefits compared to other generating resources. 

In fact, a recent study of the Spanish concentrating solar power market by Deloitte found that compared to other power generation sources, solar thermal plants are a strong generator of local jobs, during construction, and operation and maintenance, due largely to the plant’s high percentage of domestically-sourced components. Another study by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab found that a 100 megawatt solar thermal plant creates more than $600 million in impact to gross state output, ten times that of a combined cycle fossil plant due to the local content and job creation of a solar thermal plant.

 Utility-scale solar projects have deep supply chains that are greatly contributing to the resurgence of America’s manufacturing base and serving as engines for job creation.  Again, our Ivanpah project provides a good example, with the majority of materials and equipment used to build the $2.2 billion facility being domestically sourced from 18 states, keeping over half the total project value within the U.S. 

Ivanpah’s 173,500 heliostats alone serve as a small case study into the types of locally manufactured supplies that go into one of our projects:

  •  Guardian Industries supports nearly 300 manufacturing jobs in Galax, Virginia by supplying mirrors for projects like Ivanpah.  
  •   Saint Gobain Solar opened a new manufacturing facility in Goodyear to support the project and the state-of-the-art factory is now providing 50 new manufacturing jobs. 
  • Gestamp Renewables provides the steel support structures for Ivanpah’s heliostats.  As a direct result of the increased business, Gestamp build a new facility was built in Surprise, Arizona creating over 200 construction jobs and 130 new American manufacturing jobs.

The trickle-down impacts of just this one plant are powerful, and the positive economic benefits will only continue to grow as the utility-scale solar industry moves forward with additional projects, including our Hidden Hills and Rio Mesa plants.    

Solar thermal power plants represent a durable model for far-reaching employment and economic benefit, both locally and nationally.  At BrightSource, we’re proud to be delivering clean, reliable electricity for California, and new clean energy and manufacturing jobs for the country.  


Did you know the Ivanpah project shares a link in the supply chain with NASA’s Mars Rover, “Curiosity?” California based supplier Helical Products manufactures the flexible couplings used both in the heliostats at Ivanpah and on the Mars Rover, Curiosity