Solar Technology Heats Up in Nevada - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Solar Technology Heats Up in Nevada

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Anyone who has made the drive through the state of Nevada knows that once you leave the city it's sagebrush filled valleys and mountains stretching on for miles.

But now as you pass through Nye County, it's hard not to notice a 640-foot tower rising out of the desert - like something out of a sci-fi movie.

"What you're seeing behind me is the first of its size and kind in the world," says SolarReserve Site Manager Brian Painter.

This is the new Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project.

And while solar energy is nothing new for Nevada, we've never seen anything quite like this before.

Instead of standard photo-voltaic solar panels, the panels are actually automated mirrors called heliostats.

When the project is completed, more than 10,000 of these heliostats will fill the desert, directing the sun's rays at that tower.

The black part at the top of the tower uses the heat from the sun to superheat a molten salt solution that carries energy down the tower and through a turbine to create electricity.

"All the salt does is come from the cold tank to the hot tank through the heat exchangers..."

The project is taking 600 workers more than two years and more than $1 billion to build.

That sounds like a high price, but once it's built, the operating cost is about as cheap as it gets. That's because you won't find any fossil fuels on site.

"The only energy source out here is the sun."

SolarReserve, the company behind the plant, secured a loan from the U.S. Department of Energy to fund about 75% of the project.

It's expected to pay for its building costs within 25 years by selling electricity to NV Energy's power grid.

It can produce enough energy every day to power 75,000 homes.

"These plants can be tuned to do anything that a utility needs."

Of course with any new, expensive technology...comes some risk.

But what more fitting place than Nevada for a little gamble.

"This is a whole game changer for me. This is exciting. This is something totally different."

Painter says this project should be completed by the end of the year - and generating power by next spring.

And although this is the first of its kind, there is a long line of similar projects planned for other parts of the country and around the world all hoping to follow the Silver State's lead.

And as you can imagine, the project is having an impact on the area's economy and culture.

Friday at 5pm, we'll take a closer look at how this space-age technology is changing the face of the old mining town.

Written by Arianna Bennett

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