After three years and £1.37 billion of construction, California has just flipped the switch for the planet's largest solar thermal plant, the 392 megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.
Ivanpah's 300,000 heliostatic mirrors (they reflect and concentrate light around a central molten salt filled tower, rather than convert light to electricity like photovoltaics) sit on 3,500 acres of federal land in Mojave, CA. The project has received major funding not only for the DoE but also Google, NRG Energy, BrightSource Energy, and Bechtel.
While only the first of the system's three central towers has begun operating, it's already feeding power back into the PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) grid. When the remaining two will be activated in the coming weeks, Ivanpah is expected to produce enough energy at peak to power 140,000 homes while reducing carbon emissions by some 400,000 tonnes per year over its 30 year service life. [Inhabitat]