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The project, a 110 megawatt concentrating solar power generating facility, will be the first of its kind in the U.S., using molten salt as the primary heat transfer and storage, according to the Energy Department. At 640 feet, it will be the tallest molten salt tower in the world, and more than 80 feet taller than the Washington Monument.

“Everybody’s talking about solar like it’s one thing,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s a completely different animal than the Solyndra story.”