Solar power plants have, thus far, been fairly gigantic or extremely tiny. It could be a few square feet on your roof, or a few thousand acres in Nevada. Not really much in between.
But the marvelous thing about solar, is that it produces energy at times of peak demand. The sun is beating down full strength as the world switches on its air conditioners at mid-day in the summer. This is the time when electricity demand is highest, when you can charge the most for it, and when brownouts are most likely.
Generally, this excess demand is quenched by small expensive and inefficient "peaker" plants, generally burning natural gas or fuel oil. But PG&E, on of California's monster power companies, is installing solar peaker plants designed to produce up to five megawatts during the hottest part of the day.
The plants, which are being produced by GreenVolts are a new design. They're composed of tons of small mirrors. Each mirror concentrates the sun's light on a small, ultra-efficient photovoltaic cell. Using less photovoltaic material means cheaper power, and less need for polysilicon, which isn't the most environmentally friendly chemical to produce.
Now, this isn't a huge amount of power, it's not going to replace any coal plants. But using solar to produce power during peak demand is just a damn good idea, and I'm glad to see folks utilizing the technology where it's already economically appropriate.
Via Green Wombat
written by David Anderson, July 04, 2007
written by Nick, July 06, 2007
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