Since the dawn of civilisation, the sun has been relied upon to bring us light and warmth. Today, its energy is being harnessed to generate clean, limitless power that, along with other "renewable" sources, could eventually see us reduce our reliance on fossil fuels such as coal and oil.
At the end of March, a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned of the imminent dangers of climate change. "We live in an era of man-made climate change," Vicente Barros, who co-chaired the report, told journalists at the report's launch.
"In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face. Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future," Barros added.
In the arid Mojave Desert, California, temperatures can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It is here that Ivanpah, the world's largest solar power thermal system, is breaking new ground when it comes to solar energy.
Situated on a 3,500 acre site and with more than 300,000 mirrors, Ivanpah is built on a staggering scale.
Costing $2.2 billion to build and owned by Google, NRG Energy and BrightSource Energy, Ivanpah generates enough energy to power 140,000 Californian homes. It will also reduce CO2 emissions by 400,000 tons a year.
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Three "power towers" – developed by BrightSource Energy – dominate the site, standing over 450 feet tall and topped by huge boilers. These boilers generate 'superheated steam' when Ivanpah's solar mirrors reflect sunlight onto their pipes. It is this steam that is funneled to a turbine, generating electricity.
"I believe Ivanpah is destined to be the most iconic solar power plant in probably the whole world," Randall Hickok, Senior Vice President, NRG Solar, told Episode 4 of CNBC's Industrial Revolutions.
"If you're land-constrained, the power tower design is a great way to try to get more megawatts out of a limited amount of land," he added.
As well as generating electricity during daylight hours, Ivanpah is capable of generating power when the sun sets, too. "Concentrated solar power is very stable… with concentrated solar you can store that energy in liquefied salts and use that latent heat to generate steam after the sun has gone down and get several more hours of production, which adds a lot of value," Hickok said.
While the plant has earned plaudits for its sheer ambition and clean electricity, there have been reports of birds flying in and around Ivanpah being burnt by the heat generated by its mirrors and towers.
"We are in the first year of operation and it was always anticipated that there would be some avian impact and this first year is all about monitoring what those impacts are," Hickok told CNBC.