Mirrors blamed for fire at world's largest solar plant

2016-05-20 16:02
Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. (iStock)

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. (iStock)

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Primm - A small fire shut down a generating tower on Thursday at the world's largest solar power plant, leaving the sprawling facility on the California-Nevada border operating at only a third of its capacity, authorities said.

Firefighters had to climb almost 100m up a boiler tower at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California after fire was reported on an upper level around 09:30, fire officials said.

The plant works by using mirrors to focus sunlight on boilers at the top of three 140m towers, creating steam that drive turbines to produce electricity.

But some misaligned mirrors instead focused sunbeams on a different level of Unit 3, causing electrical cables to catch fire, San Bernardino County, California fire Captain Mike McClintock said.

David Knox, spokesperson for plant operator NRG Energy, said it was too early to comment on the cause, which was under investigation.

The fire was located about two-thirds of the way up the tower, said Jeff Buchanan of Nevada's Clark County Fire Department, which also responded to the blaze.

Plant personnel had the fire out by the time firefighters reached the spot, and it was officially declared out in about 20 minutes.

Photos showed melted and scorched steam ducts and water pipes.

It was the first fire at the plant, which opened two years ago on federal land in the Mojave Desert about 72km southwest of Las Vegas.

The $2.2bn complex has nearly 350 000 computer controlled mirrors - each roughly the size of a garage door - that sprawl over roughly five square miles of desert.

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