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Crescent Dunes solar plant using unique technology

Reported by: Kelsey Thomas
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Updated: 4/29/2014 11:00 am
TONOPAH (KSNV — Hundreds of workers are building the most advanced solar-power plant in the world just a few hours north of Las Vegas.

The billion-dollar project is expected to power thousands of homes by the end of the year.

Crescent Dunes in Tonopah is the largest facility of its kind in the world, and it's different from the solar plants seen outside Primm.

A 600-foot tower just north of Tonopah is surrounded by 10,000 glittering mirrors, each the size of a billboard.

“Those mirrors kind of focus the sun's energy, a bit like a huge magnifying glass,” says Solar Reserve CEO Kevin Smith. Solar Reserve is the renewable energy company behind the Crescent Dunes Solar Plant.

The sun heats molten salt to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit inside an enormous tower.

“We're capturing that energy in as fluid, and utilizing it whenever we want,” Smith said.

It means electricity is produced even when it's dark outside. No other project in the nation uses this technology. Crescent Dunes expects to produce enough clean, renewable energy for 75,000 homes.

Despite dozens of OSHA safety violations since construction began in 2011, the plant is on track to open by the end of the year.

“There's really been only kind of one semi-significant accident out of about 2 million man hours on site,” Smith said. “There was one broken leg accident.”

Tonopah Town Manager Jason Eason says that not only has the area enjoyed the benefits of the construction workers’ economic bump short term, the plant will create about 45 long-term jobs.

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