One could only hope that our entire energy future will look as whimsical as the solar power station in Sanlúcar la Mayor near Seville.
This power plant consists of a pair of “concentrated solar power systems,” which function in an unusual way. A mirror array on the ground consisting of 624 mirrors moves throughout the day, tracking the sun and focusing its beams onto the tip of a 160-meter-tall tower. The focused light heats up a tank of water at the tip of the tower, which in turn powers the steam turbine of an electrical generator. This simple process can generate up to 20 megawatts of energy.
The first of the pair of solar towers in the Sanlúcar la Mayor plant, the PS-10, began operation in the spring of 2007. When the entire complex is completed in the 2013, the plant will produce enough energy for 180,000 homes, equivalent to the needs of the city of Seville. The tower will prevent the emission of more than 600,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases each year.
Unfortunately, the price of electricity produced by this power station is still three times higher than energy produced by conventional means. That price is expected to continue to fall, however.