World’s First Solar Thermal Plant is Now Live Near Las Vegas

350,000 oversized mirrors surrounding three 40-story towers are now producing clean energy for 140,000 California homes. Ivanpah, the world’s largest concentrating solar power plant, was switched on for the first time this week to produce 392 megawatts of energy for the state’s electric grid.

The facility is located on a five-mile plot southwest of Las Vegas, taking advantage of the searing Mohave desert sun to produce a significant amount of renewable energy. Each of the mirrors encircling those three towers is roughly the size of a garage door.

Ivanpah represents a major milestone for renewable energy in America, but it’s not without its controversies. A large number of birds have reportedly been scorched and killed flying near the solar plant towers, where temperatures can reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Wall Street Journal calls into question just how efficient this setup really is, reporting that the energy generated at the facility will cost up to four times as much as that created with conventional natural gas-fired plants.

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