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The generation of energy with solar power plants in the desert is a highly controversial issue. In this activity students consider the questions: Which arguments do the opponents and the proponents put forward? To what extent do solar power plants have the potential to contribute to meeting Europe’s energy needs? What are the advantages and disadvantages of different means of energy production? Can we produce clean energy from the Sun in the desert? Solar power plants are regarded as one possible solution for future energy supply problems. While dealing with this question, students will be exploring mathematical and physical principles and problems concerning solar power plants in the desert. In this activity student answer: How can electrical power be generated? Which type of mirror is suitable for solar power plants? How many power plants are necessary in order to meet Europe’s energy demand? How can this energy be brought to Europe? And discuss possible ways of implementing the project “Desertec”. The mathematical topics used in this activity are: parabola, quadratic functions, proportional reasoning, reflection and modelling. The science topics covered are: the laws of physics for spherical concave mirrors and parabolic reflectors, the fundamental physics of solar thermal energy and power generation in power plants and energy transport via overhead power lines.

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