I don’t know if you’ve already heard about it, but the first commercial solar energy plant, (located near Seville, Spain) was inaugurated a while ago (30th March). It is an 11 Megawatt plant, called PS10 and:
Each of the mirrors has a surface measuring 120 square meters (1,290 square feet) that concentrates the Sun’s rays to the top of a 115 meter (377 foot) high tower where a solar receiver and a steam turbine are located. The turbine drives a generator, producing electricity.
I got that quote from an excellent article here. You can read a lot more there about some of the future plans of the EU for solar power there. Go directly to the website of the company that built it, Solucar, for more information and images of the plant.
The 625 mirrors with the central tower, all glowing from the reflected sunlight, is quite an other-worldly sight apparently. I learned this from a nice report by David Shukman on the BBC website*. He visits it, and describes it in detail for you there. Quoting:
From a distance, as we rounded a bend and first caught sight of it, I couldn’t believe the strange structure ahead of me was actually real.
A concrete tower – 40 storeys high – stood bathed in intense white light, a totally bizarre image in the depths of the Andalusian countryside.
The tower looked like it was being hosed with giant sprays of water or was somehow being squirted with jets of pale gas. I had trouble working it out.
In fact, as we found out when we got closer, the rays of sunlight reflected by a field of 600 huge mirrors are so intense they illuminate the water vapour and dust hanging in the air.
The effect is to give the whole place a glow – even an aura – and if you’re concerned about climate change that may well be deserved.
There’s also a video of his visit, which is worth watching