Have you heard about the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System? It's a totally innovative project backed by Google, NRG Energy, and Brightsource Energy, located across five square miles of desert on the California-Nevada border and consisting of three arrays of 100,000 mirrors each. Each 7-by-10-foot mirror is computer-controlled to reflect the sun's light throughout the day onto the top of three 450-foot towers. In the towers, water is turned into steam energy that's used to power turbines and provide enough clean energy for 140,000 California homes.
The plant began producing electricity today, and it's quite a sight to behold, as Gizmodo shows us.
The Wall Street Journal points out that we still don't know how much this electricity will cost the consumers who get it, but it's estimated to be twice as expensive as power from conventional sources. Also, those mirrors have a tendency to scorch birds flying near the towers, so there's that.
Naysayers like commenter Johan Powers are quick to point out that this project, while pretty, is awfully expensive. "Since the average american understands energy at the 1st grade earth-day level, I can understand your exuberance at a 2.5 billion dollar something which sits idle 16 hours a day." He adds that this plant was in planning stages for a decade and in construction for four years, while a nuclear plant can be built much faster and cheaper, and he calls a solution like this to our energy problems, "a shiny bandaid on a sucking chest wound."