Public Art Meets Solar

By Maureen MCINTYRE

Photo credit: Inaki Vinaixa
Photo credit: Inaki Vinaixa

Irish artist John Gerrard’s Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada) 2014 is a computer simulation in New York City of a solar power tower in Tonopah, Nevada. Ten thousand mirrors surround and focus sunlight on a central tower to heat molten salts at this solar power plant. The heat is then used to generate electricity.

Wver the course of a 365-day year, this 28- by 24-foot frameless led installation on Lincoln Center’s Josie Robertson Plaza in New York City simulates the movements of the sun, moon, and stars as they would appear at the Nevada site. It also replicates the movement of the thousands of mirrors as they adjust their positions in real time according to the position of the sun.

Tonopah
Photo credit: Inaki Vinaixa

The artist and a team of modelers and programmers meticulously constructed this astonishingly real virtual world using a sophisticated video game engine. Over a 24-hour period, the point of view cycles from ground level to a satellite view every 60 minutes, creating an elaborate choreography among perspectives, 10,000 turning mirrors, and a dramatic interplay of light and shadow.

Commuters on their way to work can see the sun charging the power plant as it rises in Pacific Standard Time. Visitors to evening performances might view a sunset before local Nevada constellations emerge and floodlights illuminate the solar tower for the night.

This digital commission, presented by Lincoln Center in association with Public Art Fund, was on display until Dec. 1. For more information, visit lincolncenter.org/solarreserve.