Thursday, February 12, 2009
Mirrors in the Mojave
This article was posted on the APES blog recently and is interesting for several reasons. In our discussions surrounding The Inconvenient Truth and climate change, we focused on the problem, but not the solution. The article discusses one part of the solution - more reliance on alternative energies, in this case, solar thermal (as opposed to photovoltaic solar panels) power. The particular installation discussed here was designed by an Oakland company called Brightsource Energy. Here is a very cool little video explaining solar thermal technology. Essentially, solar thermal involves using many mirrors to collect sunlight and focus the rays all towards a large container of fluid (water, for example) - in the simplest case, the water turns to steam, which is then used to turn turbines and thus generate electricity.
The other interesting point that comes up in this article is the role of governmental policies in implementing alternative energy technologies once they are developed. To quote the article, "there’s a debate out there about the merits of mandates in driving expansion of non-polluting energy options. Advocates for such standards say that the expanded market will drive down the production costs of panels, turbines and other clean power sources. Some say that pursuing efficiency is far cheaper. Others say that any state or federal requirements for non-polluting power should include nuclear reactors, which also produce no greenhouse gases when generating electricity. What do you think"?