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Giant Mirrors Tap Sun, Subsidies needed in Europe's Clean Power

Post Time:Sep 25,2008Classify:Industry NewsView:502

Sept. 24 (Bloomberg) -- As the sun rises over Seville in southern Spain, its blinding light bounces on a field of 624 mirrors surrounded by sunflowers.

The moving mirrors reflect sunbeams onto a 115-meter-high white tower that uses the concentrated heat to boil water, making steam that spins an electric turbine 97 times a second. This is Europe's first commercial solar-thermal-electricity plant, at the forefront of a growing movement for green power. On hot, clear days, the 37 million-euro plant ($55 million) can generate 11 megawatts, enough power for 5,500 homes.

“Close but not quite'' is a phrase that could be applied to solar power in general. Soaring oil and gas prices, concerns about the security of foreign supplies, and a system of subsidies in Spain and Germany are making solar energy more competitive now than it's ever been.

Those conditions have spurred European companies such as Seville-based Abengoa SA, which built the plant, in the race to harness the sun's rays for energy. Solar power, properly harnessed, could solve the world's energy problems.

"It's a wonderful project,'' says Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. "They're not yet at the level of commercial technology,'' he says, "but I am confident that they could get there.'' Sachs says public financing will be a key to success.

Public awareness that being green is good -- and political backing for subsidies -- is also boosting solar projects. Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth,'' which won two Oscars in 2007, increased acceptance among governments and ordinary citizens that burning fossil fuels is causing global warming.

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Source: BloombergAuthor: shangyi

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