Future bright for solar energy

January 30, 2008, 6:11 AM PST | Length: 178

At a Churchill Club event in Menlo Park, Calif., CNET News.com editor-at-large Michael Kanellos talks to John Woolard, CEO of BrightSource Energy, about building 100- to 200-megawatt solar-energy plants to power 100,000 to 200,000 homes. Woolard also discusses how the company is targeting solar as a competitive energy alternative to natural gas.


The Solar Tower was tested out in the California Desert years ago. They found that boiling water directly in the tower led to lots of problems, so they went to heating a salt mixture and boiling the water in a steam generator on the ground. That plant is still operating in the California Desert, even though the power company wanted to tear it down a few years ago. Somehow a plant that produced 6 MWatts of energy from sunlight was something that someone in govenment recognized as a good thing. Just go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Two for a lead to begin your own investigations. I was fortunate enough to be driving across the California desert one cloudy Saturday afternoon and had the audacity to stop, push the button at the gate and ask for a tour. The on duty operators were kind enough, one they established that I was not an idiot, to give me a tour of the Control Room and the tower. I still have a sample of the salt that was leaking from a pipe. I often ask myself why these are not being built across the southern half of the United States. Their only input is sunlight, and some manpower, and they produce electricity when the sun is shining and we need it the most. I was told that during the Summer months, the Solar II plant can generate full time due to the high insolation. During the winter, they can only generate every other day since the insolation is so low. More towers would equate to more even generation. Building a bunch of these in some of those desolate areas that are so common on a drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles could produce enough power to eliminate the need for coal fired plants.