The Azimuth Project
Solar power (Rev #20)



Solar power is a general term for mechanisms that convert solar radiation into electrical power. Solar radiation can also be used for other purposes, e.g. heating household water, or smelting metals. For these other uses see solar energy.

(The use of the terms “power” and “energy” here is purely traditional, unrelated to the scientific meaning of “power” as energy per time.)


Concentrated solar thermal power

Concentrated solar thermal power, or concentrated solar power uses mirrors to concentrate solar energy in order to heat up a fluid from which electricity can be generated, typically using a steam turbine. For more, see our article:

Photovoltaic solar power

Photovoltaic solar power converts solar radiation directly into electrical power. For more, see:

Solar updraft tower

A solar updraft tower uses solar energy to heat air, which rises and turns a kind of windmill, generating electrical power. For more, see:

Solar breeder

While solar power theoretically has the potential to replacing significant quantities of fossil fuel power and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, building solar power plants takes a lot of energy, and currently most of this energy comes from fossil fuels. This can lead to energy cannibalism.

The solar breeder is intended to overcome this problem. This is a solar power plant that builds solar power plants. For more, see Solar breeder.


Solar radiation available for solar power

The firm has a map of the United States produced by the NREL Resource Assessment Program showing average solar power available in various locations:

Note that while the page is titled ‘average daily solar radiation per month’, it actually lists the average solar radiation in units of kWh/m2/day: that is, kilowatt hours per meter2 per day. One kWh/m2/day is equal to 1/24 of a kilowatt, or roughly 41.67 watts. This map shows the power per square meter that could be collected by north-south axis tracking tilted flat plate at an angle equal to the latitude plus 15°. Note that this figure is a daily average, including nighttime. Values range from 3-5 kWh/m2/day (125-208 w/m2) in Alaska to 10-14 kWh/m2/day (416-583 w/m2) in southern Arizona.

See also solar radiation for more information on worldwide averages of the power of solar radiation.

Potential of solar power provides an analysis of the amount of solar energy production required to replace nuclear and fossil energy.


  • Electricity market and policy group: Tracking the Sun IX: The installed price of residential and non-residential photovoltaic systems in the United States (2016 report) html, Utility-scale solar 2015: An empirical analysis of project cost, performance, and pricing trends in the United States html

  • OpenPV project database

  • Robert Fares, The price of solar is declining to unprecedented lows, Scientific American 2016

  • SunShot initiative

category: energy