By viewing the potential of and the problems with places we would most like to see concentrated solar power plants work (PHYSICS TODAY, July 2011, page 21, and December 2011, page 10), we can overlook areas that may have greater chances of success and of providing real benefits. Large inland deserts are tempting as “wasted space” waiting to be put to use, but they have neither the needed process water nor a ready demand for the power produced.

Many tropical locations have days of sunlight comparable to desert areas; ready access to ocean water; and a population that would benefit from cheaper energy, fresh water, or both. (With abundant solar thermal energy, we can obtain from ocean water all the fresh water that is needed for the power plants and for other uses.)

Islands in particular should be considered. In many cases, consumers might be happy to have cheap but interruptible power if the alternative is unaffordable power.