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Solar Power Tower Technologies Could Solve the World's Energy Needs

written by: Charles M Bowen•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/30/2011

Someone did the math on solar power tower technology and realized that a 100 mile by 100 mile chunk of desert could supply the entire United States with electricity.

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    The Amazing Potential of Solar Power Towers

    What if the entire United States could be powered by a 100 mile by 100 mile patch of desert? It might sound too good to be true, but it’s not, it is very much a reality.

    The technology behind this bold claim is called a solar power tower. Imagine a tower surrounded by special mirrors called heliostats, which all reflect their sunlight at one point on the central tower. The result of all this sunlight being concentrated on one spot is extreme heat, which is used to generate power.

    Originally the concentrated heat was used to boil water in to steam, whereupon it was used to power steam engines. Like many solar technologies being developed, however, progress is swift and engineers have already found a new means of storing the heat which allows energy to be stored more efficiently and used even when the sun isn’t shinning.

    Recent improvements on the technology aside though, solar power towers are not particularly new. What is new is the sheer size of what is called for is. 100 miles by 100 miles is not all that small, it would take a great many towers and even more mirrors to fill that space.

    The magnitude of what is being discussed is not small either though, because an installation this size really could supply 100% of the United State’s electrical power needs. And amazingly, another five plants of similar size spaced out across various deserts of the world could supply 100% of the entire world’s electrical energy needs.

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    Existing Solar Towers and Planned Projects

    The technology is already in use at six plants in various countries across the world, including three in the United States. The United States also has one plant under construction and another thirteen that are announced to be starting construction in the future.

    Spain, however, is far outdistancing everyone else in developing solar power tower technology. They already have two plants in operation, another nine under construction, and a staggering 36 that they plan to build in the near future.

    Clearly, solar power towers are here to stay, and will be providing more and more of our electrical needs as it becomes apparent just how powerful this form of solar power is.