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Mobile Solar Power Initiative
A Project of the Collins Educational Foundation

Off-grid electric power has traditionally relied on diesel-powered generators, but as fuel costs have increased, solar power produced from flat-panel arrays has become increasingly competitive. Concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) power systems—an alternative to flat panel solar power systems—use mirrors to concentrate sunlight by a factor of 500 or more on just a few more expensive but highly efficient triple-junction solar cells. CPV systems track the sun, and this increases their efficiency as sunlight always strikes the units straight on. In typical CPV systems only 1/4 of the solar energy is converted into electricity, while the other 3/4 is dissipated as waste heat. This heat, however, can be used to purify brackish or contaminated water.

Solar electric power/clean water systems could be highly competitive with diesel systems in off-grid situations. Ownership of mobile solar systems could be decoupled from property ownership. Thus they could be rented or leased out by small business entrepreneurs, governments and NGOs could loan mobile units to off-grid villages to provide both electric power and clean water, and families could purchase units for their own use and take with them should they relocate.

It is conceivable that mobile off-grid CPV solar electric power and water purification systems could become a major source of electric power and clean water for the planet. This could avoid the cost of building and maintaining new and vulnerable distribution systems. By avoiding centralization, two of humanity’s most pressing needs—electrical power and clean water—could become more democratic.

 

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