Largest Solar Power Plant and Other Solar News

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Photo by Fotolia/soleilc1
Arrays of parabolic mirrors that superheated a fluid to 500°F formed the backbone of what at the time was the world's largest solar power plant.

From a major installation in the American southwest to new applications in developing countries to a state court ruling on access rights, this selection of recent solar news stories shows our favorite form of renewable energy is gaining ground year by year. 

World’s Largest Solar Power Plant

The next “World’s Largest” solar electric generating facility is under construction in the Mojave Desert, virtually right next door to “Solar One,” the 10-megawatt plant that currently holds that title. When it’s completed, the new giant will use 1.2 million square feet of parabolic trough collectors to heat fluid to 500°F. The hot liquid will, in turn, power turbines to produce a full l5 megawatts for Southern California Edison. Meanwhile, we’ve heard that SCE is seeking proposals from private industry to build yet another plant — to be called “Solar 100” — that would turn out an impressive 100 megawatts!

Solar Bank Holdup

The Reagan administration had fired the staff of the Solar Bank and attempted to withhold the $21 million allocated by Congress for the project (which was created to provide low-interest loans to families that install solar systems or take energy-conserving measures in their homes). Now, thanks to a federal judge, the administration has been ordered to start making those funds available.

Solar Rights Ruling

A landmark judicial decision regarding “sun rights” has been handed down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which recently recognized the right of a solar-home owner to seek relief from the obstruction of sunlight by a building newly erected on a neighbor’s lot. The court said that in earlier years “sunlight was valued only for aesthetic enjoyment or as illumination. Since artificial light could be used, loss of sunlight was at most a personal annoyance.” But these days, states the ruling, “Access to sunlight as an energy source is of significance to both the landowner who invests in solar collectors and to a society which has an interest in developing alternative sources of energy.” The judgment has no direct effect on other states’ laws, but is likely at least to influence decisions in similar cases.

In Brief

  • A $1.1 million photovoltaic system is now heating water and providing electricity at the Dallas-Fort Worth International airport.
  • Pakistan has launched a $5 million program designed to bring low-technology solar applications — primarily water distillers, heaters, and cookers — to some 20,000 villages.