Hot Technology for Solar Power

Reader Contribution by Jaime Netzer

While harnessing the sun’s power is clearly a bright alternative energy solution, not all solar power technologies are created equal. While photovoltaic panels are great for meeting small-scale energy needs (like those of individual homes or businesses), perhaps a more viable large-scale option is concentrated solar power (CSP) technology. CSP uses the sun’s heat–as opposed to PV technology, which uses its light–and is already in use in abundantly sunny areas of the United States (like the Southwest.)

One type of CSP called parabolic trough technology uses curved mirrors to reflect solar radiation onto collector tubes. This energy then creates steam which powers a turbine, generating electricity. This kind of system is in place at the Nevada Solar One project in Boulder City, Nevada.

Another kind of CSP aims grounded mirrors at the top of a tower where the energy is collected, and again creates steam to power a turbine. In March of 2007, Europe’s first commercial CSP tower opened in Seville, Spain. The tower is part of a planned set that will eventually meet the needs of around 180,000 homes–or the entire city of Seville.