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Crescent Dunes Solar Plant hits the big time

The central Nevada SolarReserve energy project has been taken to Broadway — or at least the Lincoln Center in New York City.

The solar project northwest of Tonopah is the subject of a “virtual and living digitalized rendition of our Crescent Dunes solar energy project,” according to SolarReserve Chief Executive Officer Kevin Smith.

“The project was based on submittals by various artists of large scale infrastructure projects, but we really had no idea that we were being considered for this until the Lincoln Center notified us for approvals, which we approved,” Smith said.

The CEO and his wife attended the opening with some of the company’s board members on Thursday, Oct. 2.

The 28-foot by 24-foot LED wall showing Crescent Dunes is the work of Irish artist John Gerrard. The artwork is situated in the Lincoln Center, one of the world’s premier public art centers between Koch Theater and Avery Fisher Hall and framed by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts building.

Smith said, “While watching it, ‘Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada)’ gradually moves back and forth from a ground view to an overhead one, recreating the movement of the mirrors as they pivot to follow the sun as well as the orbit of the sun and moon.

“The views move from daytime with sun blazing to nighttime with the mirrors stowed, the power block lighted and the red FAA lighting blinking slowly,” Smith recounted.

“Despite our suggestions, the artist named it ‘Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada),’ with a space, rather than SolarReserve. I guess that is the artist’s prerogative,” Smith said.

Smith also passed along excerpts from a Wall Street Journal story about the display in a press release.

“On a sunny day last week, John Gerrard was wondering how the solar power plant he was installing at Josie Robertson Plaza in Lincoln Center would look to passersby.

“The Ireland-based artist was staring at the towering, 28-by-24-foot LED wall situated between David Koch Theater and Avery Fisher Hall and framed by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts building, that will show his work.

“New York is this extraordinary energetic city, and what I love about this site is that it’s these three exquisite, monochrome buildings,” Gerrard, 40, said. “It’s quite intimidating to intervene at Lincoln Center.”

Gerrard was quoted as saying, “Solar Reserve bears resemblance to other film or video-based art, but it has more in common with a realistic videogame, showing computer-generated images of a solar thermal power plant’s tower, surrounded by mirrors, in central Nevada.

“From above, the plant’s 10,000 mirrors form a perfect disc, mimicking the layout of a sunflower,” Gerrard said. “And from the front it looks like a lighthouse, with this illuminated tower.

“Every hour, ‘Solar Reserve’ will gradually move back and forth from a ground view to an overhead one, recreating the movement of the mirrors as they pivot to follow the sun as well as the orbits of the sun and moon.”

“The work is ‘a sophisticated use of visual technology that urges you to engage with it over some period of time,’” said Jed Bernstein, Lincoln Center president. “The presence of the object will be different at different times of the day.’

“Gerrard estimates that it usually takes over 10,000 photographs to construct this simulated landscape. Such virtual technology is standard in the videogames industry as well as in the military for simulation exercises, yet it rarely crosses over into the arts.

“When people hear that this is created within a gaming engine, there is the sense that there is an automation, that we just press a button,” Gerrard said. “But this is as handmade as painting or sculpture. We had to build the entire terrain; the mountains and the desert, the rocks, plants, pebbles.”

The display will be on view at Lincoln Center’s Josie Robertson Plaza through Dec. 1.

“I would highly recommend anyone heading near New York to take a detour to see this between now and Dec. 1,” Smith said.

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