Photo: Ken (Flickr)
One of the hottest technologies in solar energy today is concentrated solar power.
What Is Concentrated Solar Power?
CSP, as it’s called, involves using mirrors to concentrate sunlight on photovoltaic panels to make electricity. It’s also used to boil water and generate steam to run electric turbines.
In many ways, CSP is on the cutting edge of new energy technology. But concentrated solar power is hardly a recent invention. In fact, it’s been around since the 1860s, when Abraham Lincoln was president and coal fired steam engines drove the Industrial Revolution.
Auguste Mouchot And Solar Energy
Industrialized countries were using so much coal that some thinkers worried that coal supplies would soon run out. One such worrier was Auguste Mouchot a French mathematician and solar energy enthusiast.
Around 1860 he began experimenting with ways to drive steam engines using only sunlight. Mouchot’s big breakthrough came when he combined two technologies–box like solar collectors and mirrors used to concentrate the sun’s rays on the collectors.
Running On Sunbeams
The combination worked, allowing Mouchot to generate temperatures high enough to boil water to power a good sized steam engine.
Crowds at the Paris World’s Fair in 1878 were amazed by Mouchot’s solar motor. Running on nothing more than sunbeams, it generated enough power to pump thousands of gallons of water and run an ice maker. Mouchot had invented a way to make ice using the heat of the sun.
In the end, Mouchot’s solar machine couldn’t compete with coal powered engines. But it paved the way for the high tech solar technologies of today.
Read More: Mouchot, Auguste (The Energy Library)