Solar -> Light into Energy

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Sunlight can be converted into electricity using photovoltaics (PV), concentrating solar power (CSP), and various experimental technologies. PV has mainly been used to power small and medium-sized applications, from the calculator powered by a single solar cell to off-grid homes powered by a photovoltaic array.

For large-scale generation, CSP plants like SEGS have been the norm but recently multi-megawatt PV plants are becoming common. Completed in 2007, the 14 MW power station in Clark County, Nevada, United States and the 20 MW site in Beneixama, Spain are characteristic of the trend toward larger photovoltaic power stations in the United States and Europe.

As an intermittent power source, solar power requires a backup supply, which can partially be complemented with wind power. Local backup usually is done with batteries, while utilities normally use pumped-hydro storage. The Institute for Solar Energy Supply Technology of the University of Kassel in Germany pilot-tested a combined power plant linking solar, wind, biogas and hydrostorage to provide load-following power around the clock, entirely from renewable sources.


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