The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, which began operations in early 2014 in the Mojave Desert of California, is making a compelling physical statement about our collective ability to shift from a society based on fossil fuels to one that embraces renewable energy production. The world’s largest concentrated solar thermal power plant, Ivanpah Solar uses 173,500 heliostats (347,000 mirrors) to focus the sun’s energy toward three towers, creating enough electricity to power 140,000 U.S. homes.
In our quest for energy to meet the growing demands of a consumption dependent culture, we are transforming our landscapes at an accelerating pace. The need to examine such transformations with an aesthetic and critical eye is compelling. As an artist, I use aerial photography to explore perspectives distinct from those found on Earth’s surface, revealing information and insight otherwise concealed.
Renewable energy projects such as Ivanpah Solar raise challenging questions about land and resource use, exposing contradictions within the environmental movement, local communities, the energy industry and the public. While Ivanpah Solar is located in the American West, the issues encountered during its planning and construction are global ones and relevant to future environmentally responsible energy projects.
In October 2010 I initiated The Evolution of Ivanpah Solar. The completed project will become both a book and a museum exhibition. I intend for my photography on renewable and fossil fuel energy production to continue over the next several years, with a goal of building this work into a project of global scale.
Editor’s note: The Evolution of Ivanpah Solar is made possible by the generous support of individuals, corporations and foundations. Learn more about Stillings’ work at jameystillingsprojects.com.