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The Largest Solar Thermal Plant is Now Online

Clean energy received a big boost this week as the world’s largest concentrating solar power plant, Ivanpah, was switched on and started generating energy for California’s electric grid, according to Inhabitat. 

The solar power plant is located southwest of Las Vegas. The massive solar facility can produce a whopping 392 megawatts of solar energy and can power 140,000 California homes with clean and renewable energy.

The plant is equivalent to removing 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air every year. Despite these great numbers, Ivanpah has been bogged down in controversy for its high operating costs and for reportedly killing and scorching alarming numbers of local wildlife.

The solar plant was a joint build between Google, NRG Energy Inc. and BrightSource Energy. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is the largest solar project of its kind and accounts for nearly 1/3 of all solar thermal energy produced in the US.

The plant stretches across five square miles in the Mojave Desert and consists of three 40-story tall towers and surrounded by 350,000 garage door-sized mirrors. Each reflective heliostat focuses solar energy onto the boilers at the top of the towers which boils water to create steam to power turbines and create electricity.

Although Ivanpah provides clean energy, the plant has come under fire from different critics. The Wall Street Journal stated that the clean energy generated by the Ivanpah plant will cost 4x more as compared to electricity generated by conventional gas-fired plants. Critics also stated that the plant will produce less electricity than conventional sources and requires more land to operate.

Animal activists have also been alarmed by the number of birds that have been killed or scorched around the solar plant towers, which can generate temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees F.

Click here to read full story on Inhabitat

Featured Image Credit: Pacific Southwest Region USFWS

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