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Ivanpah solar plant starts delivering electricity (pictures)

A solar thermal plant -- owned by NRG Energy, Google, and BrightSource Energy -- is pumping power to California's electric grid.

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Carrie Mihalcik
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Ivanpah solar thermal plant

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System -- jointly owned by NRG Energy, Google, and BrightSource Energy -- started delivering power to California's electric grid on Thursday. The solar thermal plant, which covers approximately 3,500 acres in Southern California, creates high-temperature steam to drive power generators.

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Three towers

The plant has three 450-foot high towers that can produce a gross total of 392 megawatts of solar power, according to plant operator NRG Energy.
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Many, many mirrors

Surrounding the towers are more than 300,000 software-controlled mirrors.
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'Power tower' tech

The mirrors reflect the sunlight to boilers at the top of the towers, which creates high-temperature steam that then turns a turbine, according to BrightSource.
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Pumping electricity

The Ivanpah plant generates enough electricity to supply 140,000 homes, said NRG Energy.
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Pipes

The plant accounts for nearly 30 percent of all solar thermal energy in the US and is the largest solar project of its kind in the world, according to NRG Energy.
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Reflecting the sun

Construction on the plant, which sits on federal land, started in October 2010 and cost $2.2 billion.
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Mirror, mirror in the desert

An up-close look at the plant's garage-door size mirrors.
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Waiting for rays

Ivanpah is the first plant to use BrightSource's "power tower" technology to produce electricity, said NRG Energy.
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Mountain backdrop

Located in Ivanpah Dry Lake, Calif., the plant sits on public desert land.

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