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Getting Reflective: Miles of Mirrors Power Thousands of Homes

Image: Massive Solar Electricity Plant Provides Power To California Homes
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is seen in an aerial view on Feb. 20, in the Mojave Desert in California near Primm, Nevada. The largest solar thermal power-tower system in the world, owned by NRG Energy, Google and BrightSource Energy, opened last week in the Ivanpah Dry Lake and uses 347,000 computer-controlled mirrors to focus sunlight onto boilers on top of three 459-foot towers, where water is heated to produce steam to power turbines providing power to more than 140,000 California homes.Ethan Miller / Getty Images

The bright lights seen above are hundreds of thousands of computer controlled mirrors focusing Mojave Desert sunlight onto boilers on top of three 459-foot towers. The focused solar energy heats up water to produce steam that powers turbines providing power to California homes.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, sprawling across roughly 5 square miles near the Nevada-California border, formally opened last week after years of regulatory and legal tangles.

The $2.2 billion complex of three generating units, owned by NRG Energy Inc., Google Inc. and BrightSource Energy, can produce nearly 400 megawatts, enough power for 140,000 homes.

Image: Massive Solar Electricity Plant Provides Power To California Homes
A solar receiver and boiler on top of a tower at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System on Feb. 20, in the Mojave Desert in California near Primm, Nev. Ethan Miller / Getty Images