Sunshine state

The 1.2 million mirrors in the Mojave Desert won’t be a mirage. If everything goes as planned, the 6,000-acre Mojave Solar Park plant will use solar-thermal technology to turn desert-sun power into renewable energy, generating the same amount of electricity as a large coal-fired power plant.

That’s what Pacific Gas and Electric Company hopes to do. The energy company recently signed a five-year contract with Israel-based Solel Solar Systems to buy 553 megawatts of the park’s solar power—enough to power 400,000 homes in Northern and Central California.

The park’s mirrors will harness sun power to heat fluid and produce steam, powering turbines that generate electricity for PG&E’s electric grid. This will help PG&E meet a California law that electric utilities must use at least 20 percent renewable energy by 2010. Pending approval from a few local and state agencies, construction will likely begin in 2009.