California builds up solar capacity in Mojave Desert

In the Mojave Desert there is an array of 170,000 mirrors called heliostats. This project, based on solar thermal energy, will be another big step in the state of California reaching its goal of one third of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

"The total project will power 140,000 California homes, so one way to look at it is one heliostat powers one home," says Tom Doyle, the CEO of NRG, the company heading this massive solar project.

"In fact, this is the largest concentrated solar thermal project in the world," Doyle said.

Doyle says the project is displacing 400,000 tons per year of C02 by using solar energy in lieu of fossil fuel capacity.

The project is funded privately, though it is backed by a federal loan guarantee to the tune of $1.6 billion and they are leasing land from the federal government.'s not cheap - this project cost $2.2 billion. It's privately funded by several companies including Google, which invested $168 million. The project is backed by a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee and they lease the land from the government.

The hope for this project is that it will be usable in many other desert locale, including the American Southwest and the Middle East.

Read more about the heliostat project at CBS News.