Just a five miles south of Primm in California lies the massive Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) solar power facility.
The power plant is a pretty remarkable, fascinating sight and worth a stop off the freeway to view on your trip to or from Primm.
The plant opened in February 2014 with a construction cost of $2.2 billion. The facility is one of the world’s largest solar power stations and is a marvel of clean energy.
It delivers power to more than 140,000 homes through PG&E and Southern California Edison.
The solar complex uses mirrors to focus the sun’s energy on solar receivers on the power towers. This enhances not only it’s power output but the bright lights and enormous size make it an an attraction.
The Ivanpah system has a total of three thermal plants spanning 4,000 acres, about six square miles. It’s massive in size and lies on public land from the Bureau of Land Management.
Ivanpah solar power facility is easily visible from Interstate 15. It’s on the west side of the freeway below the Clark Mountains as the terrain slopes down to the Ivanpah Dry Lake bed.
The plant has three large towers and an impressive, vast expanse of solar panels. ISEGS has a Nipton, California address.
There are two exits on Interstate 15 that provide good viewing of the solar facility. The best access is from Exit 291 from Yates Well Road.
From there you can head west near the Primm Valley Golf Club and then take Colosseum Road, which turns into a dirt road.
This provides a more interesting, close up view as opposed to taking in the solar plant from the freeway. There are no public tours or public access to the facility.
Wearing sunglasses is recommended as the heliostat mirrors are very bright.
You can also view the solar facility from Exit 286 on I-15, the Nipton Road exit. However, the view is farther away than access at Exit 291.
Viewing the solar facility from the air is also a great way to take in this sheer expanse of renewal energy. Below is a video of a drone flight near the Ivanpah solar power facility.
The solar facility is adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve. The major environmental concern for the project was for the Mojave Desert tortoise.
Many desert tortoises found on project site were relocated to other parts of the desert. However, there was concern over this by environmentalists as the stress of relocation can be fatal for tortoises.
The Ivanpah dry lake bed is east of the facility.
The solar power facility is fenced off to keep out some terrestrial wildlife. Wildlife still faces significant risks. Birds can collide with the heliostat mirrors, or burn in the solar flux created by the mirror field.
Even though the project is massive in size, the project was scaled back from its original plans to avoid further disturbing the habit of the endangered Mojave desert tortoise.
As of 2014, hundreds of birds, including peregrine falcon and barn owl, were reportedly killed due to the intense heat/radiation of the solar heliostat mirrors. Bat deaths have also been incurred.
Air temperatures can reach 1,000 degrees in parts of the solar installment. To conserve scarce desert water, the facility uses air-cooling to convert steam back into water.
Another potential issue is the effect of intense mirror glare on airplane pilots.
However, after several years in operation, after improvements, the plant was meeting electric output requirements, and is connected to the electrical grid.