What A Really Gigantic Solar Power Plant Looks Like

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Solar Field, Mojave Desert [Credit: ©2012 Jamey Stillings, courtesy of the Forward Thinking Museum]

Solar Field, Mojave Desert [Credit: ©2012 Jamey Stillings, courtesy of the Forward Thinking Museum]

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Viewed from hundreds of feet, individual elements of Solar Field One, part of the Ivanpah power plant in the Mojave Desert take on a hypnotizing, scale-like appearance.

The Californian solar plant and its thousands of heliostats are captured here by photographer Jamey Stillings as part of his Changing Perspectives project.

It's all too easy to appreciate the benefits of solar energy without giving too much thought to the impact of such installations. As even large carmakers like Volkswagen are adopting solar, such as the huge array at its Chattanooga plant, it becomes even more fascinating to study.

Sponsored by the non-profit Blue Earth Alliance and displayed by the Forward Thinking Museum, Stillings' work aims to foster a clearer understanding of large-scale renewable energy projects--and provide a constructive, pro-active voice for responsible energy development.

Forward Thinking Museum - Changing Perspectives Exhibit

Beautiful monochrome photography details the site's construction, from the first groundwork, to installation of each of the heliostats--pairs of mirrors on pylons, continually moving with the sun to reflect its energy into a central collector.

Changing Perspectives on Renewable Energy Development follows on from Stillings' previous project, The Evolution of Ivanpah Solar.

Aerial and ground-level photography provides a unique insight into construction of such a large scale project--one which will eventually produce 392 megawatts of electricity, enough for 140,000 American homes.

The plant is due to be completed this year, ready to provide power for electric car owners, homes and businesses alike. But as Stillings puts it, "long-term photographic studies have contemporary value and will provide historical perspective".

The energy is always easy to appreciate. The artistic value, perhaps even more so.

You can read more about the solar project and others, on Stillings' own website.


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Comments (4)
  1. Wow, a story about a straight-up environmental issue. Well done.

  2. Give credit where credit is due. This is all Israeli work. The initial helostat field proof of concept is in the Rotem Park, Israel, and the Brightsource is a name for Luz 2 Jerusalem Israel. This is real collaboration between Israel knowhow and American industrial might

  3. I never really appreciated solar until I had a system installed on my roof, and have been power bill free (minus the initial outlay of course) since.
    Small scale solar installations (eg on a customer's house) and amazing large scale installations like the one pictured makes me hopeful for an increasingly "renewables"-aided future.

  4. To be clear, the pictured power plant does not use solar cells. Instead, mirrors focus sunlight to heat a point on the tower. This heat is then used to make steam, which turns a turbine, like most other power plants.

    The solar power tower has 3 major benefits over solar cells:

    1) Mirrors are cheaper than solar cells, so costs are lower.

    2) The high temperature (thousands of degrees Fahrenheit) can be used to heat molten salt which can be stored in insulated underground tanks to be used later. No batteries required.

    3) If it's really cloudy, natural gas can also make steam to fill in the gaps. More than 95% of the power comes from sunlight, but there's also a backup when needed.

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