Katie Moyer/Mother Earth NewsSuper Hot Solar Energy
A new solar plant in Nevada shows the potential of the southwestern United States’ deserts to provide a significant amount of clean, renewable energy from concentrating solar power (CSP). Though most people are more familiar with photovoltaic (PV) systems, CSP is one of the most promising large-scale energy technologies.
The combination of intense sun and large areas of flat land make the Southwest an ideal location for CSP systems. One type of CSP is parabolic trough technology, in which fields of curved mirrors focus solar radiation onto collector tubes. The collected 750 degree thermal energy creates steam that powers electric generators. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), CSP plants covering 9 percent of Nevada could generate enough electricity to meet the needs of the entire United States
According to Mark Mehos, CSP program manager at the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, parabolic trough technology currently is the most cost-effective solar option because it uses inexpensive materials — gears, turbines, glass, steel and aluminum — instead of more expensive silicon.