Another big solar plant goes online in California desert

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One of the biggest solar energy projects in the country will get an official dedication ceremony today in the Riverside County desert.

The 3,800-acre Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is expected to generate electricty for more than 150,000 homes. Pasadena-based First Solar is building and operating the plant.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is expected to join state and local officials for the dedication today.

The biggest solar plant in the country opened last year in the California Mojave desert, near Nevada.The Ivanpah Solar Facility covers more than six miles of land uses more than 300,000 mirrors to focus solar rays on boilers located on three, 450-foot towers.

That plant has generated controversy in addition to power. Environmentalists say the operation threatens the endangered desert tortoise and has caused the deaths of dozens of birds, including some that were incinerated.Ivanpah_Solar_Power_Facility_Online

The new plant will use photovoltaic cells to generate power. Backers say it will reduce carbon emission in the state by 300,000 tons a year – the equivalent of taking about 60,000 cars off the road.

It’s also not without controversy, though. Opponents say it will mar desert views and use precious groundwater . It could also have an impact on the desert tortoise, as well as other animals such as big horn sheep and burro deer.