Solar Magic in the Mojave: The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System
Every day the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System generates enough electricity to power a small American city. That’s quite a feat considering its location: The remote, sun-drenched Mojave Desert in Southern California.
From the sky, the structure actually looks more like an avant-garde sculpture. Shaping this unique aesthetic, however, are hundreds of thousands of mirrors, or heliostats. By tracking the sun, the heliostats capture enough energy to generate some 377 megawatts of carbon-free electricity. This well-calibrated system involves mirrors that capture solar energy, water that’s heated into steam, and turbines tapping the steam to generate electricity.
Building this first-of-a-kind plant in the middle of the desert was a challenge. But thanks to a well thought out construction plan, Bechtel was able to install 500 heliostats per day—increasing that number to 800 during peak construction. And it did all of this over a three-year period, delivering the plant to owner NRG Energy without recording a single lost-time incident.
Poetry in Motion
Below are a series of animated photos that capture the magic of Ivanpah, from construction to operation.