August 5th, 2009 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.
There are many different ways that you can extract usable energy from sunlight, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Historically, the biggest disadvantage has been cost when compared to more traditional sources of energy, such as coal-fired power plants. For if solar power was an economical and practical alternative to other forms of energy generation today, it would already be deployed on a wide scale.
I think it is only a matter of time before renewable energy sources become more cost competitive. The question is which methods make the most sense. My favorite idea is the ‘Solar Tower’ (or ‘solar updraft tower’, or ‘solar chimney’), an artists rendering of which is shown below.
While most people have never heard about it, the Solar Tower design was implemented on a small scale in Spain years ago to test the concept. More recently, a privately-funded company called EnviroMission has been working toward the construction of one or more 200 megawatt power plants in the Australian Outback. The company has also been actively pursuing plans to build power plants in China and Nevada.
Balance of article: Roy Spencer, PhD