It will take more than a little sun to get one of the world’s biggest solar power plants up and running: it will also require 1,600 workers to build it and a lot of cash. On Saturday, President Obama announced that the U.S. Department of Energy will use last year’s stimulus bill to issue $1.85 billion in loan guarantees to two solar power companies, one of which plans to build one of the planet’s largest solar power plant in Arizona.
Solana, the big solar power plant planned by Abengoa Solar Inc., will cover an area of around 1,900 acres near Gila Bend, Arizona. As detailed in a White House press release, the company claims that the plant will be one of the first in the United States able to store its own power. According to the release, it will also be able to generate 280 megawatts of power—enough energy to run more than 70,000 homes–and will prevent the emission of 475,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. After construction, the plant will support 85 some permanent jobs, the company claims.
Michael Gratzel has come clean and revealed that he stole his award-winning design for a new kind of solar cell–stole it from a leaf, that is. The Swiss inventor and first prize-winner of the $960,000 Millennium Technology Prize believes he has a cheap way to power everything from cell phones to street lamps, copying plants’ power to harness sunlight and turn it into energy.
“I was always intrigued with natural photosynthesis,” Gratzel says in a Millennium Technology Prize video (see below), “the way the plant uses molecules to generate charges.”
His solar cells aren’t as efficient as the current silicon photovoltaic panels, but they do use cheaper manufacturing materials.
“Gratzel’s innovation is likely to have an important role in low-cost, large-scale solutions for renewable energy,” Ainomaija Haarla, president of Finland’s Technology Academy, says in a prepared news release on the group’s website. [CNN]
Gratzel can also make his solar cells transparent or flexible. This means that designers might integrate them into existing structures, for example windows or even furniture.
“You can imagine using those cells as electricity producing windows…. What’s very exciting is that you collect light from all sides, so can capture electricity from the inside as well as the outside…. You could think that the glass of all high-rises in New York would be electricity generating panels,” he said. [BBC]