Large Scale Solar Power Installations May Be the Future of Sustainability
Solar power and solar manufacturers and installers have made great strides in recent years, positioning solar at the forefront of sustainable energy policy. And, as residential and business solar installation prices have come down and efficiency has gone up, solar has become more and more reliably linked with the sustainable energy future that we all need to be invested in.
But solar has always had an inherent drawback; it is by nature intermittent, given the fact that the sun doesn’t shine twenty-four hours a day. Furthermore, solar drops off at the precise moment in any given day when consumption demand peaks, just as the sun is going down.
Engineers have been working on a solution to this problem for some time, and large scale solar power installations that are designed to store the sun’s heat are close to producing sustainable power around the clock and on the cloudiest of days.
Spain Leads the Way
In the desert of Southern Spain, near the city of Seville, a European energy company has built a large scale solar plant that can store enough of the sun’s heat to operate at full capacity for eighteen hours without any additional energy from the sun.
What this means is that this plant, with more than twenty-five hundred heliostats (mirrors), covering almost five hundred acres, focusing the sun’s energy at a central tower filled with molten salt, can produce energy twenty-four hours a day in all but the worst weather.
The plant has been in operation for more than three years, proving the long-term sustainability of a plant that can provide the energy needs of roughly twenty-five thousand homes.
A Worldwide Effort
The plant in Spain is one of more than one-hundred similar installations around the world. Though the technology varies a bit from plant to plant, the general concept doesn’t. A large field of mirrors works to concentrate the energy of the sun on a central tower filled with molten salt, or another heat storing medium.
One of the plants, in the desert of Southern California, has been in operation for more than thirty years. There are many newer plants in the deserts of the Western U.S., and many more either recently brought online or under construction across the nations of the Middle East.
The Future of Solar Power?
Many of the engineers and manufacturing companies involved in the design and construction of large solar concentrating plants believe this technology to be the future of sustainable energy. Efforts are underway to scale up the current technology, with the eventual aim to power the massive cities of the world from deserts hundreds of miles away.
Every advance in the efficiency of the technology brings the future of solar energy for the grid into clearer focus.
[Photo via: Wikipedia]