The global demand for electricity will increase substantially in the coming decades (below). To meet that demand, thousands of new power plants must be built. One of the most significant factors in determining what kind of facilities are built will be the estimated cost of the electricity produced (right). Nuclear plants will not be built in large numbers if they are not economically competitive with coal- and gas-powered plants. If nuclear plants can be made competitive, global nuclear power production might triple from 2000 to 2050, a scenario evaluated by an M.I.T. study (bottom).
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The solar Stirling engine is progressively becoming a viable alternative to solar panels for its higher efficiency. Stirling engines might be the best way to harvest the power provided by the sun. This is an easy-to-understand explanation of how Stirling engines work, the different types, and why they are more efficient than steam engines.