In 1980, Natural Bridges National Monument launched the largest solar power plant in the world, and it’s still going.
June 7, 2024

The Salt Lake Tribune reports on the making of, at the time in the 1980s, the world's largest solar photovoltaic power plant. The system was a pathfinder for solar power technology developed in the decades to come. Tim Fitzpatrick writes:

In the late 1970s — after the world had been shocked by a jump in oil prices — the U.S. government wanted a large demonstration of photovoltaics on the ground.

So it turned to the engineers at the Lincoln Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lincoln Lab was launched in 1951 to develop the nation’s first air defense system to counter the threat of Soviet nuclear strikes, and it has led out on multiple defense and non-defense technologies in the years since.

“We were working with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and national laboratories that had built solar power systems for satellites,” said Ed Kern, who was part of the Lincoln Lab project team that took on the Natural Bridges solar project. “We said, ‘OK, what can we do with them on Earth?”