The Largest Solar Plant in the World
Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System
Located in California’s Mojave Desert, Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is the largest solar plant under construction in the world. Built on approximately 3,500 acres of desert land, Ivanpah Solar – which counts Google as one of its owners – will provide solar electricity to more than 140,000 homes when it’s completed.
Ivanpah Solar generates electricity the same way that most of the world’s electricity is made; by creating high-temperature steam to turn a turbine. Instead of burning fossil fuels to create the steam however, over 300,000 software-controlled mirrors track the sun and reflect sunlight to boilers which sit atop three 140-meter tall towers. When the focused sunlight hits the boilers’ tubes, it heats water inside to create high-temperature steam, which is piped from the boiler to a turbine to generate electricity.
Compared with conventional natural gas-fired power plants, Ivanpah Solar will avoid spewing millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide into the planet’s atmosphere. But despite its benefits, Ivanpah Solar is not without controversy. The plant sits in the habitat of the threatened desert tortoise; almost 200 have had to be relocated. In 2012, the United States’ National Parks Conservation Association issued a negative report of the project, with its California Desert Senior Program Manager calling it “a mistake.” Nobody said change was going to be easy.