May 13th, 2012


Betting on the Sun

This dates back to 1913. Almost a century ago, a solar power plant was built near Cairo. It had parabolic solar reflectors, heating tubes full of water, creating steam that powered a generator, which in turn pushed a pump that would supply water from the Nile for irrigation.

The installation was designed by Frank Schuman and had a capacity of 60 horsepower. It was abandoned soon. But it was the first attempt at harnessing solar power for electricity production. An Egyptian newspaper came with an enthusiastic headline, heralding a new era for the Tropics, promising that they would become the Horn of Plenty in energy production, and "the power plant of the whole world".

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