This Solar Power Plant Can Run All Night

by Aug 30, 2016Climate Change, Energy, Green Building0 comments

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Crescent Dunes looks and sounds a bit like an invention lifted from a science fiction novel. Deep in the Nevada desert more than 10,000 mirrors—each the size of a highway billboard—neatly encircle a giant 640-foot tower. It looks like it might be used to communicate with aliens in deep space.

But the engineers and financiers behind the facility, located in the desert about halfway between Las Vegas and Reno, say the power plant’s promise is anything but fiction. The solar power facility built and operated by the company SolarReserve can power 75,000 homes. What sets it apart from other big solar projects is that this plant can store power for use when it is most needed, including cloudy days and after dark—a major advance for renewable energy technology.

“This is the first utility-scale facility in the world with this technology,” says SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith. “Our technology can truly replace conventional generation.”

Most solar power plants, which use photovoltaic technology, capture energy through the solar panels themselves, converting the sun’s light straight to electricity and then routing it onto the grid for immediate use. That’s great when the sun is shining, but a few clouds can render the plants useless. And if it’s sunny when the power isn’t needed, the electricity will be wasted.

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