Senator Jon Kyl and “Understanding Solar Power”

This past week, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl issued an article discussing some compelling issues regarding the solar power industry in Arizona.  To sum up the article in a few words: Arizona does not have the water supply to support solar farms that utilize the concentrated solar power (CSP) technology.  CSP is solar technology that uses large trough shaped mirrors that focus light onto a tube filled with an oil.  The oil heats up and is either stored in large thermal storage tanks or used to boil water and create steam engine based electricity.

Concentrated Solar Power

As Senator Kyl explains, the large scale solar farms using this technology often create a wasteful byproduct of the water they use in their process.  Shockingly, these “renewable energy” plants produce more waste water than conventional coal plants, often as much as two times the amount.  Senator Kyl also goes on to advocate for new methods emerging in the technology that use a “dry cooling” method which appears to produce less waste water than their first generation counterparts:

Senator Jon Kyl

“Arizona, however, can still be the solar capital of the world if we focus on more responsible solar technologies that use far less water and develop advanced utility-scale technologies that will be cost-competitive with fossil fuels. Some companies are already deploying CSP in California and Nevada using a “dry-cooling” process – and could do the same in Arizona. Our universities – the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory Mirror Lab and Arizona State’s Global Institute of Sustainability – are also pioneering new, promising technological alternatives; but, unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Energy has yet to recognize or provide the critical support needed to help make these alternatives a reality,” says Senator Kyl.

One promising solar power alternative being carefully watched by Echo Energies is the innovative spin off manufactured by Nanosolar with a thin film technology known as CIGS (copper indium gallium diselenide).  Nanosolar has patented a process by which a solar “ink” can be printed onto a conductive sheet metal in a process very similar to printing newspapers.  Best part of all, the ink is based on cutting edge nano technology (hence the name Nanosolar).  Imagine the possibility of having solar power so affordable and bountiful that it could be painted onto cars, onto buildings and potentially even sidewalks or walls.  Whereas these types of applications are in the hopefully not-too-distant future, current application could solve the specific problems that Senator Kyl brings our attention to.  By dramatically reducing the cost of manufacturing photovoltaics, Nanosolar and others similar to them (First Solar, DuPont Photovoltaics, etc) make large scale utility solar power farms a reality in Arizona, while maintaining the delicate environmental balance with the state’s water supply.

The Echo Energies Team are excited to help tackle these challenges that the Arizona Solar Industry faces, whereas innovation is often times born out of frustration.  The fact that we now realize what limitations solar power faces is truly an opportunity for the technology, along with the greater benefit for all mankind, to grow.

Read Senator Jon Kyl’s Article: Understanding Solar Power

If you find this fascinating, you should check out the 7 Secret Tips to Going Solar and learn how to safely choose a great solar installer.

10 Responses to Senator Jon Kyl and “Understanding Solar Power”
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