Tonopah’s town manager, James Eason, agrees that there has to be a mix of economic and environmental benefits, but believes in solar as a longterm solution. “If people’s energy prices stay relatively flat, I think they’ll be happy,” Eason told “TechKnow.”
“We know solar is the more expensive power. But, over time there is not a market on rays of the sun. The one thing that’s a little bit different about this project is that their raw material—it’s not subject to an Enron, or somebody like that, that is manipulating the fuel price.”
In markets like India and Africa, solar energy is more affordable than diesel-based energy production. As we enter into the evaluation period of significant investments in solar energy, the industry is closely watching Solar Reserve’s Crescent Dunes project—which is just months away from being able to provide power to 70,000 Nevada homes. It’s the first commercial application of molten salt technology in the U.S., and when construction is done, it will be the largest molten salt power tower in the world. It could present a new—and more cost-efficient—model for solar energy providers, and by one estimate would only raise rates by about 1 percent.
Solar Reserve CEO Kevin Smith predicts that this facility will leapfrog the U.S. into a leadership position in terms of solar technology, and that in years to come, the energy market will reflect that—especially if the federal and state governments continue to make it a priority.
“We shouldn’t just let the markets decide,” Smith says. “This is critical to life. It’s critical to advancement of society. It’s critical to everything that we do. And so there’s every reason in the world for government to be involved in our energy future, to make sure that we’re doing the right things.”