An often overlooked component of the growing number of solar power plants popping up in Egypt, the United States, Spain, and elsewhere is that someone was responsible for their design. Bright Source Energy recently solicited proposals from international firms for the Ivanpah solar plant in California that is currently undergoing construction. In particular, they are seeking the next generation of super sustainable concentrating solar power towers which we recently reported will be taller than earlier models to enable more efficient space management on new sites. RAFAA Architecture & Design from Zurich believe they have just the solution.
RAFAA submitted two options to Bright Source Energy. The first is a modular precast concrete tower that would be assembled on site. It resembles light waves wrapped in a helix, which is both beautiful and provides superior structural support. But since concrete has a high embodied energy footprint, it is not considered the eco-friendliest material.
The second option is significantly better for the environment, and the option that RAFAA supports. This square tower uses lightweight steel (which could technically be recycled and is therefore more economical and more sustainable than concrete) and has a twist in the middle. Option B would be pre-fabricated, and could easily be dismantled and used elsewhere if it outlives its usefulness at the solar power plant.
When complete, the Ivanpah plant will produce 392MW of electricity, a goal that hinges a great deal on the effective design of its towers. They have to be efficient and clever, but they should not be a blight on the natural environment. Other companies have submitted their proposals as well, and we hope that Bright Source will choose the most sensible and sustainable option!
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images via RAFAA