Coal Plant Goes Solar

In Australia a pilot project is underway that pairs solar power and traditional coal burning power generation. Adding solar power into the energy production greatly lessens the amount of coal needed to keep the plants generation at a stable level. Hybrid power plants are a great transition to a system based on renewable energy.

Mirrors, called fresnal reflectors capture the sun’s rays and heat water in the tube above. Steam lines deliver the solar energy to the adjacent coal power plant where existing coal turbines are used to produce an electric current.

The ideal situation for retrofitting a coal power plant with solar includes:

  • A large amount of land adjacent to the plant is neededfor solar collectors. Ausra’s fresnal reflector technology requires 2-2.5 acres of land per megawatt compared with 5 acres per megawatt for solar trough systems or 7 acres per megawatt for solar dish engine systems.
  • High quantities of solar radiation, such as the American Southwest or the Saharan Desert in Northern Africa, give the solar system a higher return on investment and increase the consistency of the solar energy output.
  • Coal power plants that are located in areas with a carbon tax or cap and trade system in place will have a higher return on investment from a solar retrofit.
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