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The Biggest Solar Collector Project In The World.

 

 

Image source: Wired.com

Construction has begun on the world's largest solar collector facility. Using mirror arrays to focus the sun's energy on a central collector, which in turn produces steam to generate electricity, the California plant will generate an amazing 1.3 Gigawatts when completed in 2013. This equals roughly the output of one nuclear power plant, without any of the waste. The firm responsible for this mega project, BrightSource, is based out of Israel.

Brightsource is currently in the process of developing over 4 Gigawatts of solar projects throughout the southwest. BrightSource  has more than 2.6 gigawatts of power under contract, including the two largest solar power agreements ever. It has contracted 1.3 Gigawatts with Southern California Edison and 1.32 Gigawatts with Pacific Gas & Electric Company BrightSource uses a closed loop process to recycle precious water that is used in the conventional turbine system. The company reports that the highly efficient system is able to produce electricity on a competitive basis with that made by burning fossil fuels.

This mega solar power plant will eventually generate enough power to supply almost a million homes. The annual power generation from the world's largest solar energy facility will total approximately 3.7 billion kilowatt hours a year. This power will be sold to PG&E and Southern California Edison, which will re-sell it as clean energy at a premium. When all seven installations in the California desert are completed it will stretch across 10,500 acres of land. While this area might seem huge it is much less than is taken up by Disneyland. 

More Desert Solar Projects To Come

Eventually solar projects in the west could take up an area the size of Rhode Island. This has some environmentalists concerned about the potential habitat loss to species such as the burrowing owl and desert tortoise.

Sahara Desert Solar Project May Dwarf BrighSource

There have been many grandiose schemes proposed for northern Africa over the years, including draining the Mediterranean Sea and building a bridge from Europe to Africa. A potentially more feasible project has been proposed by the Desertec Foundation. The project has the support of several European governments and solar industry leaders. The proposal is to create a solar collection system 80 times larger than the Brightsource project in California to supply much of Europe's needs and transform the region. Below is an illustration of the concept.

world's largest solar project proposed in Sahara Source: Desertec.org

Other Massive Solar Projects

The Solucar Solar Tower Outside Seville

 

The tower shown above, built by Solucar, can power 6000 homes in it's current form. Additional mirrors can be installed to boost the capacity. The giant solar collecting tower stands over forty storeys high and is surrounded by six hundred highly polished mirrors which focus solar energy on the tower to create steam, which turns power generating turbines. Plans are to expand the capacity of the plant to eventually power the entire city of Seville.

Spain has taken the lead as Europe's largest manufacturer of solar power equipment, including solar hot water heaters. Spain has passed legislation requiring all new homes to have solar hot water heaters.

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