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Solar Power Plant Idea for Review

  1. Apr 5, 2007 #1
    Hi to everyone,

    For a while (which is only a few weeks) I have been thinking about a solar power plant with additional features. Here is a brief outline.

    Take an arid area close to the sea (Sahara, Saudia Arabia, parts of Australia etc.) Focus sunlight via computer controlled mirrors to a steam boiler on a tower. Generate high temperature steam and run steam turbines to produce electricity. As far as I know this technology was already discussed over 30 years ago and even prototypes plants may have been built. Perhaps it never took off because other types of power plant were more economical or due to the fact that electricity can only be generated for a few hours every day.

    However there are other beneficial features which can be added to such a power plant.

    This plant could be used to desalinate sea water. This could be achieved by either feeding the boiler with sea water, if the corrosion problems can be solved or alternatively using the waste heat to distil the sea water. Like with any other thermal power plants the waste heat accounts for over 60% of the energy input. And fresh water is a valuable resource in many arid countries.

    The mirrors also provide partial shade from the sun. This shade could shelter plantations. Use the treated sewage from a nearby city as fertilizer and with the fresh water you probably can turn the desert into productive agricultural land. If the toxins in the sewage prohibit the use for food production then use the land for the production of biomass or bio fuels.

    I am still not sure how the economic side stacks up. Therefore please point out any shortcomings of this idea and possible solutions.

    with greetings from New Zealand
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 5, 2007 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    The concept is called a Solar Power Tower, and Solar One, Solar Two and Solar Tres are the main experimental plants using this technology. Solar One and Two are in the US, and Solar Tres is being built in Spain.


    Perhaps from some of the links at wikipedia, you can find some economic analysis information. I think your ideas of using some of the generated power for desalination and water treatment merit further work on your part. Best of luck!
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