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It is no secret that there is a “green” movement in America and as time goes on saving our environment is becoming more and more necessary. This movement stems from how we produce energy, which is done through the burning of fossil fuels. When we burn fossil fuels we release vast amounts of CO2 and sulfur, which in turn is damaging our environment and polluting our air. In addition to the negative environmental impacts, fossil fuels are not renewable, meaning they will eventually run out. In the search for a renewable energy source, concentrated solar power, or CSP, has been receiving more attention.
CSP systems are thermal systems that concentrate solar energy in order to achieve high temperatures. Once the sunlight is focused, the energy is converted into heat and kept hot in oil, since oil holds heat well. There are three different systems that create concentrated solar power. The first are parabolic trough systems, which use curved mirrors to focus the sunlight to heat the oil to a very high temperature so that it will pump into a boiler where it heats water to make steam. The steam then, “drives a conventional steam turbine power system to generate electricity” (Solar Energy Industries Association). The second is a power tower, which generally, works in a similar way as the trough system but uses computer-controlled flat mirrors (heliostats) to focus the sunlight. Unlike regular solar power both of these systems involve thermal storage, which allows energy, generated during the day, to be used at night to produce steam to generate electricity. The third system is a dish-engine system. Unlike the previously mentioned systems, this system “uses a working fluid such as hydrogen that is heated up to 1,200° F in the receiver to drive an engine such as the Stirling engine. Each dish rotates along two axes to track the sun” (Solar Energy Industries Association).
Like I stated earlier, the burning of fossil fuels emits CO2, causes pollution and is not renewable. CSP technology provides a way to create energy without CO2 emissions or pollution and since, the fuel (sunlight) is always, and will always be attainable everywhere for free, it is renewable. Also, not only is sunlight anywhere, thanks to thermal storage, you can use it anytime. With this being said there are a few drawbacks, one being the concern of certain places having limited sunlight. I do not think this should hold back production because if we utilize places like the desert southwest to build CSP systems, which “has potential for much higher electricity production,” then we can transfer that energy to a grid. Building these structures in the desert also cancel out the fear of aesthetic pollution because nobody will be able to see them there. The last drawback listed was the expense for development of these systems infrastructure. Considering the size of these structures it is no shock that they would be expensive to build, however since the fuel (sunlight) is free I feel that it will be worth the initial investment. In comparison to the current detrimental impacts on our environment, these disadvantages are minor and will not be hard to overcome.
Throughout this course we have studied a plethora of options for generating additional electricity including, building more coal plants, natural gas power plants, and nuclear power plants, constructing more wind farms, etc. All these definitely have their advantages but they are accompanied by many disadvantages. Out of all the options I truly feel that generating more electricity with concentrated solar power plants is the best option available when it comes to creating a healthier living environment.
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