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Scope Series 4 RTÉ Two, Thursday, 7.00pm

Solar Power Plant

Nevada Solar One

Nevada Solar One, the largest solar electric power plant to be built globally in the past 14 years and the third largest solar power plant in the world.

The 65 megawatt concentrating solar thermal installation will use parabolic trough technology by the company, Solargenix.

Trough solar systems use parabolic curved, trough shaped reflectors to focus the sun's energy onto a receiver pipe running at the focus of the reflector. Because of their parabolic shape, troughs can focus at the sun at 30-60 times its normal intensity on the receiver pipe.  The concentrated energy heats a heat transfer fluid (HTF), usually oil, flowing through the pipe. 

This fluid is then used to generate steam which powers a turbine that drives an electric generator. The collectors are aligned on an east-west axis and the trough is rotated to follow the sun to maximise the suns energy input to the receiver tube. The current cost of electricity from these plants is $0.10 to $0.12 per kWh. The goal is to reduce the cost to $0.035 to $0.043 per kWh by 2020.

This project will make Nevada one of the largest generators of solar energy in the US. The Solargenix plant could help Nevada Power meet state requirements that it get 9% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2007.

The US Dept of the Environment has issued a report that identifies suitable land and solar resources in Nevada that could produce over 600,000 megawatts of power generation using concentrating solar technologies. Less than one tenth of 1% of Nevada’s land could generate all of the state’s current electricity needs.

There are enormous benefits to the environment from this type of power generation including a reduction in air pollutants, improved air quality, a reduction in haze and an increase in tourism in addition to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

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