This week in glass news, a new type of solar plant is powering 75,000 homes in Nevada. Crescent Dunes, which is located northwest of Las Vegas, is a 1.5-mile-wide solar farm that uses glass panes to concentrate sunlight toward a tower in the center that harnesses and stores heat energy with a mixture of potassium and sodium nitrate. The mixture flows down the tower through tubing, heating from 288-560°C as it travels to a large tank at the bottom of the tower. The liquid maintains the temperature and is used to power a conventional steam turbine, which produces energy.
The advantage to this concentrated solar power (CSP) over traditional photovoltaics is that it can continue to produce energy as needed, even after the sun sets. Crescent Dunes has zero emissions, uses less water than a traditional coal or nuclear plant, and takes up less acreage than a coal plant would. However, CSP can only work in places with strong and uninterrupted sunlight, and the concentrated light is so intense it can hurt or kill birds that fly through the beams. The plant is run by parent company SoalrReserve, which is hoping to build similar solar farms in other high-concentrated sunlit areas such as South Africa, Chile, and China. The company believes CSP is a future competitor with fossil fuel.
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