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Solar Turbines: The Future Of Clean Energy Production?

One of the most exciting developments in the field of solar energy is the solar turbine, which is capable of running an entire solar power plant. These plants work through the use of concentrated solar power - when sunlight is reflected and concentrated into a smaller area. Concentrated solar power can be used in many different applications- from cooking food, to heating water for your home, and also for commercial or household energy production.

Solar turbines consist of a large array of mirrors, a heating unit where the light is concentrated, and a turbine. The mirrors concentrate the sun’s rays onto a storage tank holding a transmission fluid. This concentrated light is used to heat the transmission fluid, which is then used to boil water and the resulting steam spins and powers a turbine, thus converting the sun’s thermal energy into kinetic energy. 

These turbines are nearly identical to any other turbine, with the only major difference being where the energy to spin the turbine comes from. Steam turbines are used all over the world in many different types of power plants, including coal plants that are well-known for the pollution they produce.

Most power plants burn fossil fuels to boil water and create steam to power their turbines. The difference is that by using the sun’s thermal energy to produce the steam allows a power plant to produce entirely emission free and thus environmentally friendly energy. The other main type of solar power plant uses PV cells in huge arrays of solar power to produce energy and these plants require much more space to than a solar plant taking advantage of the energy production capacity of steam turbines. 

One of the major criticisms of concentrated solar power plants is in their efficiency. The turbines only spin when steam is being forced through them, which means that these turbines are directly influenced by the amount of sunlight being concentrated to heat the water. 

 
When the sunlight isn’t strong enough to boil the water or not boil it hard enough, then the turbines will stop spinning. This makes concentrated solar power plants only cost-effective in areas closer to the equator that experience a large amount of sunlight, such as the deserts of northern Africa and the southwestern United States.
 

Producing Emission Free Power on a Large Scale

The biggest advantage of using the sun’s rays to power a steam turbine is that the resulting energy is produced completely cleanly. Solar power plants would allow us to finally end the need for fossil fuels. The majority of power plants burn fossil fuels to power their steam generators, which results in huge amounts of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. 

However, this isn’t the only drastic impact that fossil fuels have on the planet. Every step from the initial drilling or mining of fossil fuels pollutes the environment and is causing long term damage to the planet. Solar power plants could be a major part of the solution to the fossil fuel problem.

Facts about Solar Turbines

  • Low Maintenance Costs
  • Require Less Space than Traditional Solar Panel Arrays
  • Large Upstart Costs
  • Require More Space than Traditional Fossil Fuel Burning Power Plants
  • Produce Completely Emission Free Energy

Solar power plants have long been criticized for many reasons, but mainly due to cost and efficiency. However, as the technology progresses, new solar plants using steam turbines are being built that are becoming more and more efficient at producing emission free energy. One of the biggest advantages to modern turbines is that they require very little money or manpower to function once built. 

Of course the drawback to these plants is that they are hugely expensive to build, with a price tag sometime more than double that of traditional power plants which burn fossil fuels to spin their turbines. This price is offset in the long run by the low maintenance costs.

One of the other major criticisms of solar energy in general is that it requires a large amount of space to produce energy. Of course the amount of space required is constantly shrinking due to technological breakthroughs, but it’s still true that solar energy requires more space than other types of energy production and power plants are no different. 

However, the additional space is only required for the mirror array which redirects and concentrates the sun’s rays, and this space is minimal compared to other types of environmentally friendly energy sources such as traditional solar panel arrays and the huge fields of wind turbines which have been springing up rapidly in some places recently. 

While it is true that these power plants take up more space, it is also true that the places where they would function the best are some of the lesser inhabited places on the planet. The deserts of northern Africa, Asia, and the southwest United States have the conditions which are ideal for solar power plants, and most of the solar plants in existence are located in these areas.

Future of Solar Turbines and Power Plants

solar turbineThe number of solar power plants around the world is steadily increasing. This will allow for increased energy production without any of the negative environmental aspects normally associated with traditional power plants. With fossil fuel reserves dwindling and environmental pollution becoming an ever growing problem, the need for solar and other forms of environmentally friendly energy is ever increasing.

One of the most promising breakthroughs in the field of solar energy is solar updraft technology. This technology can be used to combine solar and wind energy to very effectively and efficiently produce large amounts of clean energy. 

The technology works by using mirrors to concentrate light on the middle of a giant chimney. This then draws in cold air from the ends of the chimney which spins the turbines inside it. Plans have been developed to start building several of this type of plant, and if these work well, then they may well be the future of all energy production.


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