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Solar Two

Gaze deeply into a mirror and you might just see the future of energy. Mirrors make the difference in a technology that utilizes the sun’s energy for power production. Unlike photovoltaic cells which absorb sunlight to produce power, solar thermal power reflects sunlight off mirrors.

Solar Two is a large power plant in the Mojave Desert that uses this technology to produce 10 MW of energy (enough to supply about 10,000 homes). Built by a partnership between private industry and the Department of Energy, Solar Two uses salt to capture and store the sun’s heat.

The solar plant operates by using large, sun-tracking mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a receiver that sits atop a tower. The concentrated sunlight heats the molten (melted) salt as it flows through the receiver. The very hot salt is then piped away, stored, and used when needed to produce steam to drive a turbine/generator that produces electricity. The system is capable of operating smoothly even on cloudy days and can continue generating electricity long into the night.