Solar puzzle

South African team may have solved solar puzzle even Google couldn’t crack

Pioneering technology to deliver the cheapest, small-scale concentrated solar power plants in the world could revolutionise the renewable energy market

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These heliostats, or mirrors to concentrate the sun, in a field near Stellenbosch in South Africa could become the most affordable, small, plug-and play solar solutions in the world. Photograph: Jeffrey Barbee/jeffbarbee.com

It is a problem that has so far stumped even Google’s brainy engineers – how to generate cheap solar electricity using a small-scale array of mirrors to concentrate the sun’s energy.

Now a team at a South African university – led by a former Intel strategic planner – believes they have cracked it. Once they have completed a prototype system in October they have big plans for rolling out the technology.

The idea behind the design – so-called Concentrated Solar Power or CSP – is simple. A field of mirrors on the ground tracks the sun and concentrates its rays on to a central point which heats up. That heat is converted into electricity. Read more.