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Changing Perspectives: Crescent Dunes Solar

Jamey Stillings | United States

Crescent Dunes Solar, a 110MW concentrated solar power plant near Tonopah, Nevada

Crescent Dunes Solar, a 110MW concentrated solar power plant near Tonopah, Nevada uses a 2800 meter diameter field with over 10,000 large tracking mirrors, called heliostats, to concentrate the thermal energy of the sun to the top of a 640 foot (195 meter) tower. Each 115 square meter heliostat consists of a 35 mirror grid. Two molten salt storage tanks at the base of the tower are used to store the collected thermal energy. Salt from the "cold tank" at 550ºF (288ºC) is pumped up the tower, heated to 1050ºF (566ºC), then returned to a "hot tank." The hot salt is used to super heat water creating steam which drives a turbine to generate electricity.

Crescent Dunes has a ten hour molten salt storage capacity that allows the plant to collect the thermal energy of the sun during the day, then create electricity as the grid demands it. The plant's power purchase agreement with NV Energy has it producing electricity until midnight.

I am fascinated by the visual energy and tension created at the intersections of nature and human activity. Uniquely as a species, we consciously modify and use the environment for our perceived needs or enjoyment. Sometimes we consider the future consequences of our actions. More often, we focus myopically on the short-term utility of land and resource use. We are now at a critical juncture in the evolution of our species. How we choose to live on Earth in the next few decades, with a rapidly growing human population and expanding consumption patterns, may determine not only our prospects for survival, but also the ultimate viability of the global ecosystem.

CHANGING PERSPECTIVES: RENEWABLE ENERGY & THE SHIFTING HUMAN LANDSCAPE is a long-term aerial and ground-based photography project documenting global renewable energy development.

New renewable energy capacity is being built around the world at a remarkable pace. Innovative ventures, in many countries, on several continents, reflect a growing international commitment to transform our cultures and economies away from dependence on fossil fuels toward a future that taps the amazing and sustainable potential of sun, wind, hydro and geothermal resources.

I am working to document a select group of these projects, while striving to reveal the challenges and compromises such transformations often entail. Since 2011, I have photographed extensively over the American West, Uruguay, Japan and Chile. The most recent body of work examines the growing nexus between renewable energy development and mining in the Atacama Desert of Chile. Imagery from this project will see initial publication and exhibition over the next few months.

By documenting significant developments in the global energy landscape, I seek to create imagery relevant both to our present-day collective conversation and to an eventual historical perspective of this era on Earth. I continually pursue opportunities to share this imagery with diverse national and international audiences through editorial print and online publications, exhibitions, interviews, public presentations, and books.

To see additional work from Changing Perspectives, please visit: jameystillingsprojects.com

Jamey Stillings

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