It's small by US standards, but the 250 kilowatt solar thermal array just inaugurated in Shiraz, Iran marks another important step in that country's move to wean itself off of its own very large fossil fuel reserve. I recently blogged about a large wind project in Iran that was put on hold due to international funding sanctions. But its clear the country is committed to moving into renewables with or without the support of foreign money.
The system uses approximately 6,000 parabolic mirrors to concentrate heat onto a tube that runs the length of each mirror. The tube contains a liquid that transfers the heat (insulated by a vacuum) to a standard steam engine, which converts it to electricity. Up until now, Iran has seen only small, residential solar installations, mostly solar hot water heaters (though apparently Iran has one PV-powered village of 40 homes). So the the Shiraz plant could be considered a major turning point for a country which has vast solar potential.
Iran's Energy Minister, Parviz Fattah says the Shiraz plant is the first step in the government's commitment to solar energy technology. And he suggests more government resources will now be directed into developing a broader solar power infrastructure. This should come as a relief to NATO and Israel who have ben concerned over Iran's once active nuclear program.
One more reason why I love solar energy. It offers the world a way to meet its energy needs without ever calling into question the security of another nation.