There are few who would disagree that solar energy is an amazing thing. It's not really "free" energy per se, in the grand scheme of things, given that absorbing solar rays requires expensive equipment to harvest energy from the sun. However, beyond that little barrier to entry, solar is becoming more practical as an alternative energy source and the future looks, well, bright.
One of the perks of solar energy is that it's also usually safer than providing power through other means (like nuclear, for example), but that doesn't mean that flukes can't happen. Remember when you were young and your mother told you to be careful where you aimed that magnifying glass on a sunny day? Well, that's a lesson from mamma that some folks at the world's largest solar energy plant have just been reminded of.
The world's largest solar energy plant in Ivanpah, California
The plant operates by harnessing the sun's thermal energy and directing it towards boilers that sit atop three 459-foot towers. This creates steam that then allows turbines to spin and create energy. The 377-megawatt solar thermal facility provides electricity to roughly 140,000 homes and is located on about 3,500 acres of federally-owned land in California's Mojave Desert.
To point the sun's energy towards the boilers, massive fields of mirrors are used. However, if those mirrors are misconfigured, disaster can ensue.
While complete disaster didn't occur in this particular case (there thankfully was no loss of life), it did cause the plant to suddenly drop to a third of its regular output. It also required firefighters to climb north of 300 feet just to be able to combat the blaze.
There's no word on when the facility will be back up and running at full capacity, but until then, remember, be careful where you point those mirrors son.