“An array of sun trackers on an area measuring about seven by seven miles (11 x 11 km) would generate 10 GW of power during sunshine hours – as much as a big nuclear power plant.”
One nuke doesn’t have a 50 mi2 footprint and produces power even when it’s dark (a really good time to have lights working, no?). The maintenance involved in all these tracking arrays and cooling fans plus mirror cleaning, etc. suggests economy may not be all that brilliant either.
Researchers at the University of Arizona have developed a new method for turning solar energy into useable electricity. They have designed a solar module which works rather like a telescope. It uses a curved mirror to focus sunlight onto a small glass ball which then spreads the light evenly across a solar panel made up of high efficiency solar cells, normally only used in space. The whole module can provide twice the power output of a normal solar panel.
The solar panel is mounted on a frame which tracks the sun during the day. Blak Coughenour, a graduate student at the University’s College of Optical Sciences, explained that “the tracker is fully automated. The system wakes itself up in the morning and turns to the East. It knows where the sun will rise even while it’s still below the horizon. It tracks the sun’s path during the day all the way to sunset, then parks itself for the night.”
Mirrors are already used in solar thermal plants, but this mirror had to be specially designed. Normally mirrors are used to focus the heat from the sun onto a specific point, such as a pipe, but this mirror was designed to concentrate the sunlight.