Solar power towers have proven to be a fairly efficient way of converting solar energy into electricity. In a solar power tower, energy from a large array of mirrors focused onto a tower that captures the heat in some way, and then converts that heat to electricity using a boiler and turbine. It's a great system, but building that heat-resistant tower and pumping all of those fluids up and down can be pretty expensive.
Which is why researchers at the Masdar Institute, the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Cosmo Oil are working together on "beam down" solar. Instead of having the heat-capturing system up on that big tower, a second set of mirrors directs the light back down at the ground where it can be captured by a system that doesn't have to be suspended many stories in the air.
It's certainly cheaper than a traditional solar power tower. The bad news is that the extra set of mirrors lowers the efficiency of the system by about 20%. If that can be made up for with reduced capital costs, however, they could be in business. In the end, creating cheap ways of capturing solar energy is probably going to be more important than creating efficient ways.
Of course, the project is still in the early phases...they haven't even hooked it up to a boiler yet. But the initial prototype seems promising.
written by Jess @ Openly Balanced, January 19, 2010
written by Me, January 27, 2010
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