Mar 8th 2014 - FORTY-FIVE minutes west of Las Vegas, dejected sinners may encounter a sight to lift their sunken hearts: a sea of 347,000 mirrors, reflecting the rays of the desert sun on to boilers mounted on three 460-foot towers. The Ivanpah solar-thermal plant (pictured), which opened in mid-February, is the largest of its kind in the world. Fully ramped up, it will deliver around 377 megawatts (MW) of power to 140,000 homes in southern California. Its backers compare it to the nearby Hoover Dam; an astronaut claims to have spotted it from the international space station. It is a striking sight, even if the heat from its heliostats has roasted dozens of unfortunate birds alive.
Solar power in America is growing rapidly, albeit from a small base (see chart). Last year it represented 29% of new electricity capacity, behind only natural gas at 46%. Solar output has more than doubled during Barack Obama’s time in office; read more>>>