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Solar ambitions rise in Western US

The Ivanpah system’s 173,500 sets of mirrors reflect sunlight onto towers that hold water, creating steam for turbines.
The Ivanpah system’s 173,500 sets of mirrors reflect sunlight onto towers that hold water, creating steam for turbines.Isaac Brekken for the Washington Post

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IVANPAH VALLEY, Calif. — Tower One glows white, so bright against the pale, blue sky that even at mid-afternoon in the Mojave Desert it would be easy to conclude it is designed to illuminate the valley floor below.

In fact, hundreds of thousands of glittering mirrors, carefully arranged across a broad swath of desert, reflect sunlight upward onto the tower and two others like it, heating them to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and causing the glow. Water in big pipes atop the towers turns to steam, which generates electricity.

If all goes well, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System will send that power across the Golden State early this year. Such utility-sized solar plants are beginning to appear across the United States.

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