On View: Solar Boom: Sun-Powered Electrical Plants in the USA, Center for Land Use Interpretation

Photograph by the Center for Land Use Interpretation

By Matthew Fluharty

On the heels of their recent Refrigerated Nation: The Landscape of Perishable Food in America, The Center for Land Use Interpretation offers yet another provocative exhibit that both illuminates spatial connections between rural and urban America and also reveals an emerging industry across the country.

Since 1994, The Center for Land Use Interpretation has produced an array of digital and printed material, as well as a network of on-the-ground exhibit and residency sites, that consider how, though “the intentional and incidental forms that we individually and collectively create,” our engagement with the land opens up a pathway toward understanding our deepest, most systemic, sense of ourselves as a nation. As the CLUI mission so eloquently states, “we believe that the manmade landscape is a cultural inscription, that can be read to better understand who we are, and what we are doing.”

Solar Boom: Sun-Powered Electrical Plants in the USA is currently on view both online and at CLUI’s Los Angeles headquarters:

This year more energy will enter the grid from solar power plants than ever before. Propelled by federal government incentives and California’s legislated decrease in dependence of fossil fuels, construction started on several $1-2 billion power plants in 2011, with most of them coming online in 2014.

With so many proposed projects, and so many stalled in the complicated political and regulatory process, it’s hard to know where things are really at. Over the past few weeks, photographers from the CLUI were dispatched to ground truth the current state of solar.

All the major solar plants in the southwest were visited, and the largest ones were photographed from the air, using aircraft and remote control camera platforms.

The resulting exhibit is a snapshot of large-scale solar power in the USA at this moment, including the 15 largest plants in the nation that are under construction, partially online, or complete, as of March 1, 2014.

Folks can follow the link to also uncover an in-depth digital map of these facilities across the country. There’s a wealth of writing, exhibits, and maps to explore on the website, enough to provide days of exploration for newcomers to CLUI’s work.