Solar Power Wins Enthusiasts but Not Money

The trade association for the nuclear power industry recently asked 1,000 Americans what energy source they thought would be used most for generating electricity in 15 years. The top choice? Not nuclear plants, or coal or natural gas. The winner was the sun, cited by 27 percent of those polled.

It is no wonder solar power has captured the public imagination. Panels that convert sunlight to electricity are winning supporters around the world — from Europe, where gleaming arrays cloak skyscrapers and farmers’ fields, to Wall Street, where stock offerings for panel makers have had a great ride, to California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Million Solar Roofs” initiative is promoted as building a homegrown industry and fighting global warming.

But for all the enthusiasm about harvesting sunlight, some of the most ardent experts and investors say that moving this energy source from niche to mainstream — last year it provided less than 0.01 percent of the country’s electricity supply — is unlikely without significant technological breakthroughs. And given the current scale of research in private and government laboratories, that is not expected to happen anytime soon.

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The Awesome Solar Tower of Seville

Located in the Andalusian countryside of Southern Spain, near Seville, is a giant 115 meter high concrete tower surrounded by a field of 624 huge mirrors. These mirrors collect the sunlight and focus it at the top of the concrete tower, where it heats water passing through pipes, converting it into steam. This steam drives a series of turbines that produce electricity. Simple, efficient, environment friendly and spectacular!

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These 624 parabolic mirrors each having a surface area of 120m² are heliostats, that track the sun throughout the year, precisely focusing the sunlight to the top of the tower at all times. The temperature at the top rises to over 400'C (750'F).

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The current capacity of the Solar Tower is 11MW. The plant when completed in 2013, will produce around 300MW – energy enough for 180,000 homes, equivalent to the needs of the city of Seville, and saving 600,000 tonnes of annual carbon dioxide emissions. We urgently need more of these. - Original Source