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Bell Building Concentrated Solar Plant with Thermal Storage System, First of its Kind

bellBell Independent Power Corporation is building a concentrated solar plant that will also store energy in the form of heat. Bell says the plant will be 50 percent more efficient than others.

The plant will be the anchor tenant of the new Solar Zone at the The Tech Park in Tucson, Ariz.

Bell, which is based in Rochester, NY, is building the five megawatt concentrated solar power plant with a thermal storage system, which it says will be the first in the world.

The plant will cost $32 million and it will use 45 acres of parabolic solar mirrors. It is expected to offset more than 16,000 tons of carbon dioxide.

The proprietary thermal storage system will allow the plant to continue generating electricity on cloudy days and after sunset. Concentrated solar power gathers the sun’s heat, rather than its light.

The impetus for the project was a request for proposal from Tucson Electric Power, which has asked the Arizona Corporation Commission to approve an agreement to purchase power from the plant for 20 years, starting in May 2011.

The so-called “Solar Zone” at the University of Arizona Science & Technology Park integrates research and development, manufacturing, green job training, education and public awareness.

About 200 of the UA Tech Park’s 1,345 acres have been designated for the Solar Zone.

Tucson has 350 days of sunshine each year.

Other companies are trying to find ways to take advantage of the sun exposure in the West, which is not without its challenges.

For instance, many desert-based solar thermal power plants increasingly are being criticized for the amount of water they use. But a new dry-cooling technology may help make desert solar more feasible.

Solar Millenium LLC plans to use new dry-cooling technology at two plants outside Las Vegas.

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