The planets may be aligned to finally make solar competitive with coal, according to an article in Bloomberg.com by Greg Chang. Rising natural gas prices, the extension of tax credits for solar investment, and the near-certainty that carbon emissions caps will be imposed by the next U.S. administration, will make it happen. A concentrated solar thermal plant in California’s Mojave Desert, run by FPL, Inc., uses 550,000 mirrors to concentrate solar power.
“At noon on a typical workday, technicians in a two-story control room monitor a dozen screens showing the heat generated by each array of mirrors. As temperatures creep past 700 degrees, icons blink to red from green, indicating the center is ready to feed electricity to the California grid.”
The resulting steam turns turbines that generate electricity — enough to power 112,55 L.A.-area homes. Concentrated solar thermal’s potential has not escaped the attention of forward-thinking investors with big money:
“Chevron, Goldman Sachs, FPL, PG&E and other companies have filed more than 50 applications with the Bureau of Land Management to lease government-owned desert property for solar power systems. Google’s philantropic division put $10 million into eSolar, a start-up in Pasadena, California.” –Greg Chang, Bloomberg.com
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