Aerial Construction Photos of Huge, Google-Backed Solar Power Plant

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Everything about Brightsource's Ivanpah solar plant is big, from Google's investment to its land footprint

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Basin and Range Watch, a desert conservation group, has posted a series of photos of the construction site at Brightsource's Ivanpah power plant in the Mojave.

Yesterday, Google announced that the company would invest $168 million in the Brightsource plant, making the solar thermal project the largest investment Google's ever made.

I've argued before that the global challenge of climate change may require changes to the way we think about environmentalism, particularly the protection of what we call wilderness.

But whatever one may think about the role of big solar plants in the desert, it's clear from these photos that plants like Ivanpah will cause massive alteration of the land, with all the attendant negative effects for the ecosystem that would imply.

In the photo below, you can see the Molycorp rare earth metal mine with the Brightsource plant in the distance. They appear to be of comparable size.

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Images: Basin and Range Watch/Erin Whitfield.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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