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Mirrors in the desert
BrightSource Energy, based in Oakland, plans to build massive solar thermal plants in the Mojave desert to turn the sun's heat into electricity.

The company, which has raised $160 million from backers including BP, Google.org, and VantagePoint Venture Partners, just completed a pilot plant in Israel. Its full-scale facility in the Mojave is scheduled to open in 2010. Thousands of cheap, flat, sun-tracking mirrors direct heat at the top of 300-foot towers. The sun, reflected off the mirrors, heats the water in the boxes on the top of the tower to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, turning it into high-pressure steam that travels to a nearby power plant to turn a generator and create electricity.

BrightSource has won a contract with PG&E to generate as much as 900 MW of solar power in California, at a cost of $2 billion to $3 billion. That's roughly the equivalent of a nuclear power plant.

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LAST UPDATE: Jul 01 2008 | 1:08 PM ET
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