Solar Power on a Grand Scale

September 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

The plant, called Ivanpah, is funded by Google, NRG, and BrightSource, a company that specializes in what’s called concentrated solar power, or CSP, a method of using focused sunlight to turn a steam generator. The technology isn’t new: a small test plant that uses mirrored troughs to heat oil-filled tubes has been running in California for 20 years. Going back further, you could point to the French inventor Agustin Mouchot, who experimented with solar powered steam engines in the 19th century, thinking we were about to run out of coal. The current batch of plants are huge—thousands of acres—and use computer-controlled mirrors to heat boilers that sit on top of towers. (You can take a virtual tour of Ivanpah’s triple-tower array here.) Three giant CSP plants are scheduled to go online in the next few months, and the companies that have spent years and billions of dollars building them hope they’ll provide a valuable new source of renewable energy.

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