Saturday, July 10, 2010

Nevada Site Larger Than Manhattan to Test Solar Technology

Part of the Nevada desert previously used to test nuclear weapons is to be used to test solar power technology, the federal government said today.

An area larger than Manhattan will be used to try out cutting-edge concentrating solar power (CSP) systems that might one day power US military bases.

The 25-square-mile Solar Demonstration Zone is to be established on federal land in the southwest corner of the Nevada Test Site.

The Department of Energy is working with the Department of the Interior on the project, which should help with the commercialization of CSP technologies.

Plans are now underway to set up a funding program to attract demonstration projects to the Nevada Test Site.

The Departments hope to see site preparation and construction starting by this time next year, with construction beginning on the solar power plants by September 2011.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said: “The Nevada Test Site is about to play a new role in securing America’s future – but instead of testing nuclear weapons, we will test new solar technologies that will help put America on a sustainable energy path.”


Concentrating solar power systems use curved mirrors and/or optical lenses to focus sunlight collected from a large area on a small point, where it can be strengthened to hundreds of times normal sunlight.

The concentrated sunlight is then used to heat a transfer fluid that can then be put through a heat exchanger, with the heat used to drive a steam turbine to generate electricity.

The Nevada Test Site can and should be a proving ground for new ideas” - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

The new Nevada Solar Demonstration Zone will test out CSP technologies along with 24 Solar Energy Study Areas set up on public lands across the Southwest region.

Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, said: “The Nevada Test Site can and should be a proving ground for new ideas and for attracting new clean energy industries that will help our state and country compete globally.”

The Department of Energy reviewed 26 possible locations before selecting the Nevada Test Site for the demonstration program.

Working with the Bureau of Land Management, which manages 23 million acres of federal land in the Southwest, the Department has been working with the US Air Force to identify and address potential difficulties from locating the Solar Demonstration Zone on an old nuclear test site.


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