Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Feb 16

Solar Energy “Power Towers” for California

Posted in Energy Inventions | Future Technology | Solar Power

Solar Power Towers California We mostly talk about solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity. But we can utilize sunlight by using another technology known as concentrating solar technology. In this technology reflective mirrors are used to concentrate light onto a liquid to make steam. This steam then converts energy into electricity with the help of conventional turbines. Deserts are best places to avail this technology. One important aspect is, its air-cooling process conserves water, an important consideration for desert projects. Concentrating solar technology is to be utilized in California which has a directive to generate 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Utility Southern California Edison announced an ambitious plan, which on successful completion, could power 845,000 homes with solar energy. They are collaborating with BrightSource Energy. They are undertaking series of seven projects. SCE (Southern California Edison) is aspiring to purchase up to 1,300 megawatts of electricity from BrightSource Energy’s solar towers that use heat to produce electricity. BrightSource Energy has already erected a ‘power tower’ in Israel’s Negev Desert. In this desert they have installed an assortment of heliostats or moving mirrors to concentrate light onto a tower to make steam. The first project will be completed in 2013. They will produce 100-megawatt of power in Ivanpah, California. This is supposed to light up 65,000 homes by supplying 286,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year.

Though the companies are not disclosing the financial side of the contract but it is one of the biggest solar power contracts in America and a substantiation of solar power technology. This project still needs approval by regulators and financers. Kroizer, the chief operating officer, and president of BrightSource in Israel tells, “It’s the biggest solar energy project ever signed.” This will also create more green jobs in the region.

Towering Sun Stations

BrightSource technique is simple. Still last year they had generated a media sensation by initiating its pilot plant in Israel’s Negev Desert. They have set up thousands of tiny mirrors known as heliostats. These mirrors reflect sunlight from the heliostats onto a boiler atop a tower. This concentrated heat produces steam which is piped to a turbine to generate electricity. But they are not throwing water conserving principles to wind by using concentrating solar technology. On the contrary, this method conserves water by cooling steam back to water. The environmentally friendly closed cycle solution is offering the highest operating efficiencies and lowest costs in the industry.

  • Doug

    Until we know the cost per kilowatt hour it is impossible to know how promising this tech is. I am a huge fan of solar power, but the tech is still to expensive.

  • Steven

    The design is economically questionable. Building a high presser water tower that has a high heat tolerance and many mirrors that all have solar tracking is a huge financial undertaking. Why not just have a long, wide flat black tube that the water flows through with a straight line of mirrors along side it to heat the tube. You would only have one control surface (the line of mirrors.) Water turns to steam at 212.00 degrees Fahrenheit so you would most likely need more then one line of mirrors or maybe convex shaped surface for the mirrors. The main point here would be Keep it simple.

  • Brian

    How about putting solar panels on roof tops throughout the city, state, country? Imagine the possibilities and sq ft that can be covered, put those roof tops to good use.

  • Kristo


    You have an interesting point of view. However, I would like to point out first that the system propably has either a preprogrammed moving cycle or just one sun-tracker which sets the mirrors. They would then only need the motors on every mirror.

    I figure I do not have a very wide understanding on the subject, but then again there is the point that with several mirrors pointing at the same spot you can get to extreme temperatures. I do not know if slow-forming and -moving steam or water is better than a fast one (fast is fast but slow means more of it.), but this one system sure relies on the fast one.


  • Katie

    This has great potential. Looks like we’ll have to wait until 2013 to see if this works out!

  • Jos Conil

    The idea is great and is a simple method to tap the vast solar energy in a desert. But it is doubtful whether producing steam is an efficient option.

    I feel it is better to concentrate the heat on a chamber of pressurized air, which expands immediately and is let out through a narrow outlet, to power a flywheel to generate power. This air can be redirected to the heating chamber, thereby minimising the energy loss.

    This can be acheived by using suitable valves and piping with pressure sensors. Compressing the air initially and the operation of valves is the only energy input needed.

    In any case, compressed air will expand faster than a liquid which has to reach boiling temperature and then produce steam. Also, since it is recycled back into the system, the energy loss is minimal compared to the heat loss ocurring in the process of steam condensation.

  • Jay Turnquist

    I believe this idea will be our future. Its an limitless resource of energy, clean, pollutionless, and most of all, when the technology for this has been mastered, low cost method of collecting, using and storing energy, globally

  • Ben G

    I’d like to know the efficiencies of these beasts and therefore be able to work out if it’s better to just build solar panels in a decentralised manner.

  • Jesse S

    What about effects on the desert environment like diversion of sunlight and water, disruption of animal habitat, and sight pollution? Additionally, remote locations of generating station will require mining of significant amounts of steel, aluminum and copper. The only real solution to human environmental impact is to consume less material and space.

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