I just read about the The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Nevada which, when complete, will be the world’s largest commercial concentrated solar power (CSP) plant. CSP plants use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect the sun’s heat and transfer it to a fluid that holds heat well. This fluid is then used to heat water, creating steam, which is used to generate electricity. By incorporating thermal storage, concentrating solar power technologies can provide power during periods (up to 15 hours) when the sun isn’t shining. There are three main types of concentrating solar power systems: linear concentrator, dish/engine, and power tower systems. The American Southwest, with its abundant sunlight and warm daytime temperatures is ideal for these systems.
A milestone in the The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, a power tower system, was reached earlier this month when construction of the 540 foot tower was completed. A short, 1 and 1/2 minute time-lapse video highlighting the tower’s construction is available.