The well-tuned geometry of the florets on the face of the sunflower head has inspired an improved layout for mirrors used to concentrate sunlight and generate electricity, according to new research.
The sunflower-inspired layout could reduce the footprint of concentrating solar power (CSP) plants by about 20 percent, which could be a boon for a technology that's limited, in part, by its massive land requirements.
CSP plants employ arrays of giant mirrors, each the size of half a tennis court, to beam the sun's rays up to heat a tube of fluid in the top of a tower. This hot fluid drives steam turbines that generate electricity.
In the traditional layout, the mirrors are arranged in rows of circles that ripple out from the central tower. Some, such as the Spain's Gemsolar power-generating array, take up 185 acres. That plant, when complete in 2013, will provide power for about 25,000 homes...
A commercial satellite picture from GeoEye shows the Gemasolar power-generating array in Seville, Spain.
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