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Environment & Energy Report

A $1 Billion Solar Plant Was Obsolete Before It Ever Went Online

Jan. 6, 2020, 9:00 AM

The Crescent Dunes solar plant looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. Ten thousand mirrors form a spiral almost 2 miles wide that winds around a skyscraper rising above the desert between Las Vegas and Reno. The operation soaks up enough heat from the sun’s rays to spin steam turbines and store energy in the form of molten salt.

In 2011 the $1 billion project was to be the biggest solar plant of its kind, and it looked like the future of renewable power. Citigroup Inc. and other financiers invested $140 million with its developer, SolarReserve Inc. Steven Chu,...

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