April 15, 2008
Solel on Solar Energy
I know very little about solar energy, partly because I have my head buried in Internet stuff and partly because I live in a country that doesn't understand the urgency of alternative energy solutions. So, while the Googles of the world and wealthy visionaries pay attention to this issue, its not a topic of discussion in small towns throughout America.
We remain a wasteful country and have never been hit hard by rations, whether its energy, gas or water in the same way others have experienced around the world. Prices go up but we continue to overuse our natural resources.
Living in South Africa in the 80s, two and sometimes three children would use the same bath water, and then we'd use the same water to feed our gardens. People were always conscious about electricity since they had so many power outages and it was expensive.
Spain is doing the right thing by investing in solar infrastructure. It's not rocket science. Solar thermal power is inherently local, is a free and secure resource, is widely available and its highly predictable. Most people understand that solar essentially uses reflectors to concentrate the sun's energy and create heat.
After these tubes cool down however, its tricky to keep things warm for long, even though you can store some of this heat using molt and salt, which takes the heat from the oil and then stores it for 5-6 hours so it can be usable in the evening.
Let's look at the facts and what our options are. Coal is expensive. Once you pay off the loans from solar, its free. Those who think about the long term picture and benefits that can be derived will win in the end.
I went to Solel's plant today, a world leader in the development and implementation of solar thermal technology in northern Israel. Solel's technology converts sunshine into useful thermal energy and subsequently into electricity by way of parabolic mirrors that concentrate solar energy onto solar thermal receivers containing a heat transfer fluid.
The heat transfer fluid is circulated and heated through receivers, which is then released to a series of heat exchangers to generate super-heated steam. From the moment the sun rises until it dips over the horizon, all of its rays are captured and converted into usable energy. Solel is doing remarkable things and attempting to change the way we think about energy.
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