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Massive solar plant in Mojave Desert the first of its kind on federal land

October 23, 2010 |  2:47 pm

Work at Ivanpah solar plant site

Las Vegas-bound travelers nearing the Nevada border rarely take notice of the vast, empty stretch of the Mojave Desert surrounding them. But that may soon change.

On Wednesday, ground is to be broken for a massive solar thermal plant spanning about 3,600 acres and involving 346,000 mirrors, each about the size of a billboard.

Not only will the plant be highly visible to travelers on I-15, it also will be closely watched — and probably copied — by solar developers. Many developers are angling to start their solar projects by the end of the year, when a federal program that could cover up to 30% of the construction costs is due to expire.

The nearly $2-billion project is the first of its kind to be built on federal land and also the first to have slogged through myriad environmental, financial and technical issues that future solar projects are likely to face as well.

Read more: "Solar plant in Mojave Desert to start construction."

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Field biologist Colden McClurg monitors the path of a road grader at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System site in San Bernardino County on Oct. 6, 2010. Construction is expected to be done in 2013. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times