A SMALL fire has shut down a generating tower at the world’s largest solar plant in California, US, leaving the facility operating at a third of its capacity.
Fire officials told local reporters that misaligned mirrors, used to focus sunlight onto boilers at the top of three 140 m towers that create steam to drive electric turbines, instead focussed the light onto electrical cabling, causing them to catch fire.
Personnel at the NRG Energy-owned plant had put the fire out by the time fire fighters reached the site, and it was officially declared out in around 20 minutes, according to the Associated Press. There have been no reports of casualties or injuries.
Photographs taken by the San Bernardino County fire department showed melting and scorching damage to the steam ducts and water pipes.
David Knox, spokesperson for NRG Energy, said the tower will remain offline until crews have assessed the damage. He did not say when the damaged tower would restart. Another tower at the plant is currently shut down for maintenance, leaving one operational.
The US$2.2bn complex has approximately 350,000 computer-controlled mirrors that spread over around 13 km2 in the California desert. At capacity, the plant produces enough electricity for 140,000 homes.
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