Tower of Power

With the California desert as its testing ground, Ivanpah, set to be the biggest solar-thermal plant in the world, is out to prove that renewable energy can work on a massive scale

Jim West / Zuma Press

Ivanpah's three solar towers near the California-Nevada border are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of mirrors reflecting sunlight.

Don't look directly at the tower. It's tempting, but really--don't." Mike Bobinecz, vice president of construction management at BrightSource Energy, is just trying to preserve my eyesight--and presumably his company's safety record. Bobinecz is one of my guides at the Ivanpah solar-thermal plant, and as he walks me through this project on the edges of California's Mojave Desert, it's hard not to glance, at least through darkly shaded glasses, at the thousands of angled mirrors reflecting the morning sun. At the center of the circles, Ivanpah's nearly 500-ft.-high (150 m) Unit 1 solar tower glows with an incandescent white light that...

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