With rapidly rising oil prices and advances in solar technology, solar power generators are becoming an increasingly desirable option for nations’ energy needs, and Spain is showing the rest of the world how to make the most of it.
Earlier this year the Sol10 Solar Tower became the world’s first commercial solar plant to provide electricity for the national grid. 624 solar mirrors, known as heliostats, concentrate the sun at the top of a 35 storey tower, where water is heated to around 250 degrees centigrade. The steam produced drives the tower’s turbines, which create enough electricity to power a town with a population of 10,000.
The tower, which is located west of Seville, costs around three times more than a coal fired plant to build, but saves thousands of tons of CO2 each year – and now five more similar plants are planned for the same area in the next five years.
The Solar Tower isn’t the only high-yield method of harnessing the suns energy. Another method, which was trialed on a small scale in Spain in the 1980’s, makes use simple physics – heat rises, to produce electricity.
With this method the sun heats the air beneath a vast network of greenhouse style canopies, The laws of physics will make this hot air move at 15 metres per second towards the cold air at the top of the Tower located in centre of the canopy, The powerful updraft will force the rising air to pass through large turbines positioned at the base of the Tower.
Plans are currently underway to build the world’s first commercial Solar Tower of this type in Australia, and it will be a massive project, with a canopy field stretching three miles and a tower hundreds of meters high. The 200MW power station will be capable of providing enough electricity to power around 200,000 typical Australian households and will abate over 900,000 tonnes of greenhouse producing gases from entering the environment annually.