Around-The-Clock Solar Power
By James Donahue
is no longer any excuse for us to be using carbon fuels to heat our homes, run our factories and generate electricity. A Spanish
based company has found a way to capture the energy of the sun and store enough away to keep the lights on around the clock
all year long.
A Gemasolar plant designed by Torresol Energy at Seville,
Spain, has been found capable of storing enough solar heat to operate at full capacity for 18 hours and operate for 24 hours
a day for most months of the year.
The plant, small by power station standards, uses 2,650 mirrors
all training the Sun’s rays toward a central tower filled with molten salt. The solar rays heat the salt to double the
boiling point of water. So much heat is produced that a large surplus can be stored in molten salt tanks for use during cloudy
periods and during night hours.
Despite its size, the little plant produces enough juice to
power 25,000 homes. The energy it produces alone is estimated to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30,000 tons a year.
Several other solar power systems have been designed and built throughout the world, but
the Seville facility has gained the attention of DESERTEC, an organization of researchers working to find better ways to store
solar power for non-stop production of electricity. The Gemasolar plant has been listed as “a pioneer for future power
Spain is considered a world leader in the quest to utilize
solar power with molten salt storage. Several companies have been building large solar plants in the deserts, where the sun
always shines, and transferring electricity via super-conducting cables to nearby cities, sometimes hundreds of miles away.
But there has always been that constant problem of storing excess energy to keep the lights
on when the sun does not shine.
Alternative sources of green energy have been a priority among
European researchers as concern over carbon emissions and their effect on the weather builds. In addition to solar energy,
research is being conducted on wind and biogas systems.
has been exploring a large solar generating facility in the Sahara desert to provide clean power to an area where the weather
is very changeable.
Solar power has been gaining the most attention now that the
reduced cost of solar panels and the quality of the panels in size and appearance has made them far cheaper and safer than
nuclear power and competitive with coal.
Yet another bonus from solar power: nuclear and coal powered
plants demand a heavy use of water for cooling towers, at a time when quality potable water also is in short supply.