World's largest (at that time) solar
energy project at
Carrisa Plains, California, as shown on the cover of
Scientific American magazine in April, 1987.
The original photograph that
Scientific American borrowed to create their cover. My
software controlled and monitored all 880 mirror-enhanced
photovoltaic trackers, covering much of a square mile of
The Carrisa Plains solar power
production facility trackers shown in their stowed
position, for minimum wind load and interesting
My software controlled each of the 880
trackers independently to face the sun accurately. The
mirrors folded extra sunlight onto the photovoltaic
panels to increase power output.
Popular Science magazine also covered
the Carrisa Plains project in a very supportive feature
John's boss (now his father-in-law)
met John at 4am one morning to arrive at the Sandia Labs
site before sunrise. This picture was worth the effort!
Our heliostats were used as part of Sandia Lab's solar
research and development efforts.
The solar research and development
site at Sandia Labs was a fun place to do research. John
created similar control software for heliostats and
photovoltaic trackers at many other sites, including the
Weizmann Institute, Tennessee Valley Authority, sites in
Texas and California, and for a site in
The central receiver tower at Sandia
Labs as viewed from a different angle.
Thirty heliostats created steam to
thin underground oil in an EOR (Enchanced Oil Recovery)
experimental site near Taft, California.
The central receiver used solar energy
to create steam to be pumped underground to warm and thin
the oil for easier recovery.
In this photo, each of the 30 EOR
heliostats is aimed to focus the sun at a standby
position in the open air. The atmospheric conditions
allowed the beams to be more visible than usual the day
this photo was taken.
The pictures along the left highlight some of the
interesting solar energy projects I've been fortunate
enough to be able to program for, including the world's
largest solar power production field (at the time) in the
high desert region of California near Carrisa Plains, the
Solar Energy Research and Development site at Sandia Labs
near Albuquerque, New Mexico, and at several other
fascinating sites around the world. My high accuracy sun
position algorithms were critical to the proper design of
several of these sites.
Interested in high accuracy sun position
algorithms? Please check out my latest book,
available both in paperback and Kindle editions.
Autographed, direct from the
In addition to solar energy, my passion is the
Visual Basic programming language. You
can see a list of my Microsoft Press, O'Reilly, and other
books at johnclarkcraig.com
Here are my recent solar energy entries in the GE
Ecomagination contest. For certain applications they can
be very cost effective and much simpler to implement than
current techniques. (Ever try to calculate the tilt angle
for a fixed panel on the roof of a house that is sitting
at a skewed angle to the world? And, how much does it
cost to install and maintain a central control computer,
with trenching for control cables, etc.?)
Solar Panel Efficiency
Adjustment Made Easy
Tracking Made 100% Automatic