Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tower of Power

A friend of mine thinks this would be a good idea for Memphis: concentrated solar power towers.

From the Guardian:

"Concentrated solar power (CSP) technology, as it is known, is seen by many as a simpler, cheaper and more efficient way to harness the sun's energy than other methods such as photovoltaic (PV) panels. But CSP only works in places with clear skies and strong sunshine."

In a Spanish project that's on the verge of completion, more than 1,000 mirrors are positioned to reflect sunlight at a central, 160-meter tower. Water in the tower is heated to 260 degrees Celsius, which produces steam that turns an electricity generating turbine.

Once it's completed, the CSP project near Seville will power 11,000 homes.

"John Loughhead, executive director of the UK Energy Research Council, said that [Spanish Energy company] Abenoga's tower approach at the new plant was relatively efficient 'because what you're doing is concentrating a very large area of sunlight on top of a very small area so you can get very high temperatures.'"

The EU plans to generate 20 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020.

My friend thinks it would be a good idea for Memphis to build a similar tower here, as well as a factory to manufacture the mirrors (which could then be sold to other cities). Memphis could then become a center for clean energy production.

The tower costs about $100 million, but as my friend points out, we spent $250 million on the FedExForum. And what kind of economic return are we getting on that right about now?


Naomi Van Tol said...

We could test the idea by converting that crazy sculpture/bench/oven apparatus in front of the Cook Convention Center...

MLGW said...

The article starts with: "In the desert of southern Spain..." That would be my main concern--finding an area big enough with enough sunlight.

One reason solar panels are tricky here is b/c of all of our trees.