Thursday morning I backtracked from where I had spent the night in Barstow, CA about 45 minutes west to Kramer Junction (basically just the intersection of Highway 395 and Highway 58). Not much to see there except a gas station on each of the four corners of the intersection. Oh, and part of the second largest solar electric generating system in the world.
(Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management)
This facility, along with two others in nearby towns, combine to generate 354 megawatts of electricity. It is a secure facility so I wasn’t able to get inside to take better pictures, but here are a few I took from the road and the fenceline.
These curved mirrors (actually glass, which reflects 94% of the sun’s rays compared to a mirror which only reflects 71%) focus the sun’s rays on a tube which is filled with synthetic oil.
(Photo credit: Caddell Construction, LLC)
The oil heats up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit, which then heats water which creates steam which turns a series of turbines. The focused area of the sun’s rays is 70-80% more intense than ordinary sunlight.
These reflectors track the sun across the sky, which is why I came back here in the morning. When I drove past this facility the afternoon before they were pointing away from the highway.
On all three campuses where these are located (combined), there are over 936,000 parabolic mirrors which cover 1,600 acres. If put end-to-end they would stretch 229 miles. They employ an automatic cleaning system to remove dust and dirt from the glass surface.
And if you think this is pretty cool, you should see where I went next….