As countries around the world grapple with the ever-increasing gap between the demand and supply, there is always a need to look for alternate sources of energy. While thermal, hydro, and nuclear power continue to be the major sources of energy even today the use of solar power technology is becoming quite common. In fact, China being a huge consumer of power from the conventional sources, is now turning to solar power because of its ever increasing need for newer, cleaner and greener source of energy. Additionally, the conventional power sources as mentioned above are unable to meet the growing demand. We thought it would be interesting to look at a real life situation where a struggling technology in the USA has become a super hit for a huge country like China.
How Does The Technology Work?
This technology was developed by BrightSource Energy, which is an organization based in Oakland, California. The company has signed an agreement by which it will be selling its solar farm technology to a Chinese state-owned energy company. The technology is the same as that which is being used on a farm in Las Vegas. It works by using thousands of mirrors. The mirrors are used to focus sunlight on a boiler which has water filled in it. This particular technique involves heating the water in the boiler which in turn will help run a steam turbine that then produces electricity. This is different from conventional solar panels which use a semiconductor for converting sunlight into electricity directly. This new technology is referred to as solar concentrating farms. They are capable of producing energy equivalent to hundreds of megawatts.
What Does The Future Hold?
The immediate future of this form of solar power technology could be termed as mixed. This is because of the drastic drop in natural gas and crude oil prices. Many companies have put on hold their plans to go in on thermal farms because of the above reason. However, there are many places where large amounts of energy are needed and where availability of land is not a problem. A typical example is the use of this technology for generating close to 580 MW of solar thermal power which could meet the power needs of 100,000 American homes.
There are many thermal companies including the likes of BrightSource Energy which is also coming up with a system by which it might be possible to store solar energy during the day. The same can be used at night. They are also mastering a process by which steam could be used to heat up big chunks of molten salt.
It is not surprising when we see China becoming quite aggressive in its efforts to invest heavily in solar thermal farms. China has ambitious plans to generate around 10 gigawatts of solar thermal power by 2020. Will China beat the U.S. at developing and utilizing this energy system? We’ll have to wait and see.
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