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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ras al Khaimah funds this Clean Energy project

Creating cheap, clean energy is a huge problem.

So, how's this for a big solution: Swiss researcher Thomas Hinderling wants to build solar islands several miles across that he claims can produce hundreds of megawatts of relatively inexpensive power.

He's the CEO of the Centre Suisse d'Electronique et de Microtechnique, a privately held R&D company, and he's already received $5 million from the Ras al Khaimah emirate of the United Arab Emirates to start construction on a prototype facility in that country.

While limited information is available on the solar islands website, Hinderling laid out his scheme at The Oil Drum, a well-known blog about energy. Hinderling estimates that an island a mere mile across could generate 190 megawatts of power with a breakeven price point of $0.15 a kilowatt hour, or about twice current electricity prices in the United States.

The islands will consist of a plastic membrane loaded up with solar concentrating mirrors floating above the water. The mirrors are used to heat liquid to turn it into steam, which drives a turbine that generates energy.

On land, this type of electricity generation is fairly well known. So-called solar thermal plants are emerging as a leading alternative to fossil fuel power plants for future energy generation, with two of Google's three alt-energy investments coming in solar thermal companies.


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