March 4th, 2014
11:01 PM ET

America's solar power future?

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Take a look at the remarkable development in renewable energy in the video. It’s said to be the world's largest solar thermal power plant – 347,000 mirrors covering around 5.5 square miles, moves with the sun as it crosses the sky, reflecting solar heat to three towers, each taller than the Statute of Liberty.

The towers have boilers filled with water that turns to steam, spinning a turbine that then produces electricity. It’s a clean tech version of the Lord of the Rings as one reporter put it. What's notable here is that this contraption is not located in China or Germany or in any other traditional solar power house – the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating system, as it's called, sits in the Mojave Desert in California, and it's expected to power 140,000 American homes.

The economics of the installation have been questioned, but the project caps what many are calling a banner year for American solar power, 2013. The U.S. installed more solar capacity than Germany the world leader, marking the first time in over 15 years according to GTM research. More solar capacity has been installed in the last 18 months in America according to the industry than in the previous 30 years.

Of course, American solar power has still a long way to go – it still provides less than one percent of the nation's electricity according to the government.

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Topics: Last Look

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Zorkbirder

    A serious problem with thermal solar plants is the intense heat cooks birds that happen to fly over the mirrors. Bird deaths are being monitored at the Ivanpah facility and could lead to the facility being shut off during bird migrations or even turned off completely.
    Every technology has its issues.

    March 9, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Reply
  2. Rick McDaniel

    It isn't a question of what can be built......it is a question of whether it is economically.........and environmentally....... viable.

    Therein lies the problem...........it costs more to put into place, than it saves.

    March 10, 2014 at 11:09 am | Reply
    • FamilyDoc2

      All technology is expensive in the beginning, but once the economies of scale occur the cost usually becomes much less. You would rather count on oil remaining below $100 per barrel for the rest of your lifetime? Or wait until this technology needs to be deveolped in a hurry in order to keep our nation viable? If solar energy can be made less costly, it could become an export industry for the US, which Obama has said is our future. The most economic and environmentally viable option for our energy problems is not more supply, but less demand. Conservation is something that all of us can do: turn off lights, take your foot off the gas pedal and drive at or below the speed limit, etc. The status quo is not the future for our energy needs.

      March 12, 2014 at 8:45 pm | Reply
  3. Joseph

    I am leasing my solar panels in NYC. It was $0 downpayment, they took care of all the paperwork and provide full maintenance. My panels are producing more electricity than we are consuming. They provide a "performance guarantee", so if panels produce less than promised, they write a check for the difference. They provide a free quote without a site visit, they see your roof through Google Earth. If you move, they will move the panels for free or you can transfer the lease to the new owners. They panels are fully insured, free of charge. They also provide warranty for the roof against any leaks. They do everything, I just pay my lease. You can go to http://www.sungevity.com You can use referral code 94755 so that you get $500 gift card.

    March 13, 2014 at 11:06 pm | Reply
  4. Rick Sanchez

    See what happens after you turn "Solyndra" into a dirty word? It was made out to be a political scapegoat, solar was a complete and utter waste of taxpayer dollars... Now we see how the money has just flooded in and associated stocks are soaring. Illustrates how to play the market to get what you need.

    March 14, 2014 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  5. adoptedusa

    USA, the most innovative nation in the world could actually do almost anything if it really puts it's mind to it. A free country that still invites and accepts geniuses from around the globe. One will need to write a good size book to write down all American inventions. From airplane to internet, life saving medicines to quality of life enhancer movies, musics and fashions no nation even come close to it. This great nation will continue to contribute more than it's fair share for the betterment of humanity indefinitely, as long as she doesn't get tangled up with unnecessary wars. I am proud for making this great country my home almost 30 years ago. Go forward America!

    March 15, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Reply
    • Boomer in Mo

      We used to be innovative. Now we are taught not to think outside the box because we have to pass that mandated test. If American imaginations were freed of government clutter, we could probably develop hydrogen as a fuel in five years or less and have it be commercially feasible in a decade or less. But nay-sayer politicians, who successfully argue against science and scientific knowledge to a public that has had its education destroyed, will kill any effort to get off big oil and big coal.

      March 17, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  6. Eric Josephson

    Now what would happen if you covered that five acres with a green house and diverted that warmed air into that tower, would that generate enough energy to be useful ?

    March 18, 2014 at 7:45 am | Reply
  7. jonathanyoualreadyknowjoseph

    I think all of this solar stuff is going to help the world out in the long run. It will make us use less fossil fuels to heat and use for electricity. I wish solar panels was less expensive for the middle class so that more people will use less fossil fuels so we dont pollute the air more than it already is!

    April 7, 2014 at 11:14 am | Reply
    • big dick poppa

      you are so stupid you need to get off this sight

      April 7, 2014 at 11:17 am | Reply

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