A generating tower at the world’s largest solar energy plant was shut down Thursday after a mirror misalignment caused sunlight to burn through electrical wiring and start a small fire, according to officials.
The blaze at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert broke out around 9:30 a.m., according to the San Bernardino County Fire Department. In a Facebook post, officials said that flames could be seen near the ninth floor of the Unit 3 tower, but that they had apparently died out by the time firefighters arrived.
The plant is located near Interstate 15, just inside the California border southwest of Primm, Nev. It uses enormous mirrors to reflect sunlight to boilers atop three towers. The sun’s energy heats the water to more than 1,000 degrees, creating steam that spins electricity-generating turbines.
Some misaligned mirrors instead focused sunlight on a different spot, which caused the electrical cables to catch fire, San Bernardino County Fire Capt. Mike McClintock told the Associated Press.
William Dusenbury, general manager of Ivanpah, said a plant worker used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire.
“It wasn’t a big fire at all,” he said.
Workers are still repairing some of the damaged cables, and there was no estimate on when the tower would be back online, he said.
Clark County Fire Rescue 87 from Jean, Nev., also assisted in the response.
Only one of three towers is currently operating, with the fire shutting down one and another undergoing maintenance, Dusenbury said.
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Times staff writer Julie Cart contributed to this report.