“The first thing you see of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Facility, and you can be miles away, is a light so bright you can’t look directly at it. This sits atop a 640-foot cement tower, rising from the flat, empty Nevada desert around the halfway point on the highway from Reno to Las Vegas. The tower’s surrounded by a nearly two-mile-wide field of mirrors that send shimmering beams of light into the sky.
Travelers sometimes ask whether they’ve driven past something extraterrestrial, said Darby, the bartender at the century-old Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah, a dusty former silver mining town 15 miles from the plant. Such questions are accepted at face value around here. Area 51, the classified facility where the conspiracy-minded believe the U.S. Air Force hides evidence of space aliens, is just another hour or so down the road.
What people are actually seeing is a 110-megawatt concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, built and operated by SolarReserve of Santa Monica, California. It’s not from outer space, but there’s not yet anything quite like it of this size anywhere else on the planet…”