The Solar Power Towers of Southern Spain

These are the towers of a solar power plant in southern Spain. We are located in one of the sunniest parts of Europe and these two towers were the first of their kind. Nearly 2,000 heliostats, moving mirrors, they constantly reflect the sun's rays on these towers, transforming water into steam, driving a turbine that generates electricity. And if you look at the internet, you will see quite a few documents mapping this area, people who were incredibly impressed by this technology and sold it, what would the future of electricity generation.

And these towers are impressive. Not only in appearance, but also the technology behind this project is very smart and very simple: It's like bothering your teacher with sun reflections from your cell phone, only on a much larger scale. But it has a catch. When this project was built, Spain was booming and heavily subsidized solar energy. Investors liked it and invested piles of money themselves, companies and researchers were happy to be able to build various buildings like these and suddenly, the Spanish government had much more solar energy than it had planned … having to subsidize all these projects. Then came the economic crisis. The Spanish government has stopped the subsidy program. Not only for future projects, not only for power plants that have already been under construction, but even for all power plants that have already been built believing that the cessation of the subsidy program would balance its budget. It shook the solar industry: Spain changed the original agreement and all solar companies could only pray that the government would not change these agreements again in the future.

Or bankrupt, one of them. This project could still be viable, perhaps, together with further research and development and that is exactly what he is trying to do now. But beware, the price of ordinary, ordinary solar panels is still declining. No mirrors like these, Simply ordinary solar panels, just like the ones you can attach to your house or such as those used on large solar farms, directly converting sunlight into electricity. Whether the price of these panels will fall it depends on which team of scientists you trust, but they are already cheaper than building giant towers, filled with high pressure water or molten salt to be heated and to deal with a thousand moving parts, all of which must copy the position of the sun, perfectly, and which may exceptionally bake a bird in flight.

Don't get me wrong. On paper, this is a great technology. Combines renewables with storage: if you heat, for example, molten salt, you can store this energy for several hours and use it during the night. And other power plants like these are under construction: one, almost done, in the Atakama Desert, South America. But right now, this technology is expensive. Maybe she didn't have to be if history were moving in a different direction, if the development dealt with these towers instead of conventional solar panels: But so far, it seems that the future will not be so bright..

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