• Short Summary

    The European Economic Community is promoting the first European power project based on the solar tower principle.

  • Description

    The European Economic Community is promoting the first European power project based on the solar tower principle. A functioning solar power station will go into operation in southern Italy in early 1981 and, as an experimental facility, will supply one megawatt of electrical energy. The EEC is providing half of the total of some 130 million U.S. dollars that will be needed to finance the project.

    SYNOPSIS: Energy for planet earth from outer space is one idea. West German engineer Dr. Krafft-Ehrike figured out a method of using solar power stations in space that could supply the earth with power. Hollow mirrors concentrate the rays of the sun, heating a gas. The gas drives generators which produce electric power, which is then beamed to earth via microwaves.

    Operating according to the seme principle of concentrating solar radiation, but far more realistic is the so-called "solar tower". Solar radiation is reflected to a water boiler at the top of the tower by highly-concentrating tracking mirrors.

    Hundreds of these mirrors are grouped around the base of the tower. The steam that is generated at the top reaches 500 degrees centigrade. In a power station at the base of the tower the steam drives turbines, which in turn produce electrical energy in the conventional way. Many experts believe this is the most efficient and economical way to exploit solar energy in countries that receive a lot of sunlight.

    This solar tower station was built in the United States to experiment with this method of harnessing the free power of the sun. In Europe the construction of two similar projects is now underway. The one is southern Italy will be the first to go into operation, with another in southern Spain being developed by the German Society for Aerospace Flight under contract to the International Energy Agency.

    Europe's first solar power station will be 70 metres tall and surrounded by 7,000 square metres of tracking reflectors. The effectiveness of the chosen method is powerfully demonstrated at this project in the United States.

    Concentrated solar radiation is focused on a sheet of steel at the top of the tower -- and at 2,000 degrees centigrade melts the steel like butter. Even the most hardened traditionalists could not fail to be impressed by this experiment, which marks the beginning of a whole new era in energy production.

    If only a tiny fraction of the solar radiation that bombards the earth could be converted into electricity the planet would never again have to worry about power shortages.

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