desert solar power
in the last post we discussed a newly planned and currently under construction offshore windfarm near galveston, texas, this time the story is about a new solar power plant outside of tuscon, arizona. the plant, currently in the planning stages, will generate 250 megawatts of power, enough to power160,000 to 200,000 homes in the southwest united states. the plan is a result of discussions between arizona public service, salt river project, and tuscon electric power and they are currently seeking approval from the necessary boards. most likely this solar farm will use a new type of architecture, something called solar parabolic trough technology rather than the more expensive photovoltaic cells (pv cells are still pricey because of the delicate nature of growing the required high grade silicon wafers used in capturing the light energy of the sun). rather the solar parabolic trough method uses parabolic mirrors that efficiently track the course of the sun throughout the daytime hours and concentrate the light on steel tubes coated with phase changing materials (pcms). these tubes absorb the heat into oil that runs through them creating heated oil at over 600 degrees fahrenheit. as this heated oil passes through a heat exchanger it is transformed into steam that turns a turbine generator. companies like solargenix are already manufacturing this new technology. just like the offshore windfarm i’m glad to see renewables actually catching on; i can’t wait until this sort of power generation becomes common place.