A Bright Spot for Energy Production | AIChE

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A Bright Spot for Energy Production

July
2017

Recently, I had the opportunity to view a great swath of the U.S. in less than six hours. Flying west from New York to California, I spotted major cities and snow-capped mountain ranges, but what stood out to me the most was an enormous circular arrangement of mirrors all facing one central point. From my aerial vantage, I recognized it as a concentrating solar power (CSP) plant, and later learned it was likely the Crescent Dunes CSP plant in Nevada.

The shiny field looked alien to my eyes. Hailing from Pittsburgh, PA — a city that regularly ranks as one of the cloudiest in the U.S. — I’m more accustomed to seeing traditional methods of power production that predominate on the East Coast. I’ve climbed to platforms on stacks at coal and natural gas power plants, but none of those dusty gray places looked like this bright spot in the desert.

Crescent Dunes produces enough electricity to power 75,000 homes. It is not the largest CSP plant in the...

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