Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Getting Energy From a Star 93 Million Miles From Earth

KCET, Public TV in LA ran this story last summer about two concentrated solar power farms to be constructed in California's Imperial Valley and the Mojave desert by Stirling Energy Systems.




This system uses mirrored solar concentrators and a tracking system to focus the sun's rays to heat a Stirling Engine which turns an electric generator.

The Stirling engine was invented by the Scottish minister (and part time engineer/inventor) Robert Stirling in 1816. It was intended as a safer alternative to steam engines.

In the video the CEO of Stirling Energy Systems says the two future Southern California solar farms will be capable of providing the energy for 1 million homes, which is equivalent to the power produced by Hoover Dam. He also states a "100 mile square" solar farm would provide all the U.S. energy needs.

This article in Wired from November 2005 is talking about the plan for Huge Solar Plants to Bloom in Desert.

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As technologically exciting as this project sounded from the admittedly somewhat dated Wired article and the relatively recent July 2007 video from KCET, this blogger's story from yesterday Stirling Takes the Fifth brings a different perspective on the current state of this project - which may or may not be moving forward.

The author Elizabeth McCarthy states, "We do know that the CPUC okayed these projects, although Stirling lacked site control of the many thousands of acres required to build out its projects in the Mojave Desert and in Imperial County. We also know the technology has not been applied on a commercial scale to date."

I thought it was odd that there wasn't more information available on how things were progressing, but maybe it's just a matter of getting siting permits and starting to build the farm.

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