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Staff photo by Jessica Cejnar
The central tower for the Solar Two solar project in Daggett came crashing to the ground Tuesday after personnel from Southern California Edison and CST Environmental demolished it.

Going out with a bang

Edison demolishes Daggett solar tower

DAGGETT • A myriad of solar power projects are sprouting up all over the Mojave Desert, but on Tuesday one came tumbling down.

The central tower for the Solar One and Solar Two demonstration projects stood near Daggett for almost 30 years — a landmark that defined the desert landscape. The projects themselves paved the way for similar technology to be used on a larger scale and foretold the current solar power gold rush.

But for about 10 years it hasn’t produced any solar energy. It has been empty for about four years, according to Paul Phelan, manager for Edison’s Power Production Engineering Department. In June Southern California Edison and CST Environmental, a Brea-based demolition firm, began dismantling it. On Tuesday, Edison and CST personnel strapped explosives to two of the tower’s four legs and brought the structure to the ground.

“It’s always sad to see a facility like this torn down,” Phelan said. “Newer companies are building on the (project’s) research and development. From that standpoint it paved the way for newer technologies considered today.”

Solar One generated electricity from 1981 to 1988. According to Phelan, the project used solar energy to heat water and generate steam, but it couldn’t store energy. Solar Two, which generated energy from 1996 to 1999, used molten salt to store energy for nighttime hours or when it was cloudy. Solar Two also included upgrades and improvements to the tracking system that moved the mirrors at the plant. At its peak operation, Solar Two put 10 megawatts — enough to power an estimated 7,500 homes — back into the power grid, Phelan said.

Lynn Thornton, who worked as a secretary for the Stearns-Roger Corporation, the company that designed the tower, came to the Daggett area from Orange County in 1980 and currently lives in Newberry Springs. Even though she only worked on the Solar One project for two years, Thornton, said she could see the tower from her home in Newberry.

“I spent two of the best years of my life working here,” she said, adding that her former husband, Walt Thornton also worked for Edison. “My life changed for the better from this job on.”

Phelan said it should take until the end of the year to finish clearing the site. What the land will be used for after it’s cleared remains is currently being looked into by Edison’s corporate real estate department, Phelan said, but it’s possible another solar project could take Solar Two’s place. The steel from the tower will be salvaged and recycled. The concrete from the facility will also be recycled, Phelan said.

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