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A map of the planned 250 MW solar power plant, showing preserved land (green) and installation area (blue).  (Source: NRG Solar/SunPower)

The plant will be located roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, just south of California's Bay Area.  (Source: Wikipedia)
Plant would take around 15-20 years to break even if electricity was sold at coal power rates

If there's one thing critics and proponents of solar power alike can agree upon, it's that solar power, like any commodity, will go down in price when it is produced at a greater volume.  Recently announced plants, like a 280 mega-watt (MW) installation in the Arizona desert go a long way towards achieving that sort of volume increase.

As does a new 250 MW installation in San Luis Obispo County, California which was formally announced this week.  Construction on the new plant will commence next year and is expected to create 350 construction jobs.

San Luis Obispo is a coastal county that is relatively rural and lightly populated by Californian standards.  It's roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, two of the state's biggest cities.

The new plant will be a joint venture between NRG Solar, Inc. and SunPower Corp. -- two veteran solar power firms (SunPower, alone, will have installed over 1.5 GW of solar power by the year's end).  NRG Solar is expected to pitch in $450M USD over the four year launch period.  NRG will own the plant, it is basically contracting SunPower to design, build, and operate the plant.

The plant will begin producing electricity in late 2011.  By 2012 to 2013 it is expected to reach full capacity, as construction completes.  The plant is expected to provide enough power for 100,000 households.

The new plant is named the "California Valley Solar Ranch". 

NRG Solar is seeking government loans from the U.S. Department of Energy to initially finance the construction.  While U.S. President Barack Obama recently handed out $1.85B USD in grants to solar power projects, the new installation likely will not receive any of this money.

Securing a government loan is critical to the NRG and SunPower's plan.  States Howard Wenger, president of the utility and power plants business group at SunPower, "The DOE is playing a critical leadership role in supporting renewable energy that provides economic and environmental benefits, as well as a secure, stable energy supply in the U.S."

The project has been in the works for the last two years.  It is expected to be operational for at least 25 years.

Challenges to the plant's success remain.  Currently environmental activists in California are vigorously resisting large solar and wind installations, which they fear will damage fragile ecosystems.  They have filed lawsuits to try to block similar projects.

The California Valley Solar Ranch project may placate these critics, thanks to the 2,399 acres it sets aside as a wildlife habitat.  The plant and associated facilities are expected to occupy 1,966 acres of land.

Another challenge is the underlying economics.  While the California Public Utilities Commission has agreed to buy 25 years worth of power from the installation, likely at an inflated price, it remains to be seen exactly how much money the plant will make.  Coal power costs around $0.06-$0.08 USD per kilowatt-hour, so if the solar plant's power was sold at an equivalent rate, it would take around 15 to 20 years for the plant to break even.  Thanks to large markups to alternative energy power, though, it should break even much sooner, boosting NRG Solar and SunPower.  Nonetheless, some consumers may be unhappy with paying this kind of markup so that their power can be "greener".

Still, it's common knowledge that you have to invest up front to gain access to new technology.  And with large scale installations like this new one in California and the currently developing one in Arizona, the cost per kilowatt hour of solar power in the U.S. should fall over the next few years.


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Massive is all relative.
By namechamps on 12/1/2010 11:53:18 AM , Rating: 5
250MW sounds like a lot but it really isn't.

To put it into perspective a nuclear reactor is usually around 1000MW. So 4 of these equals a nuclear power plant? Nope. Virtually all nuclear power plants have a pair of reactors.

So 8 of these equal a nuclear power plant? Nope.

The 250MW is peak power which by itself is a meaningless metric. We consumer energy (power over time). Capacity factor is a measure of energy output from a given peak power. If a theoretical plant output peak power 100% of the time (never shuts down, never dips below peak) it would have a capacity factor of 100%.

Such a plant doesn't exist (sometimes plant is offline, sometimes plant is at less than full capacity). US nuclear reactors are pushing capacity factor of 90%. In southern CA with 0% downtime due to maintenance max capacity factor is about 20%.

So it is more like 36 (2000MW / 250MW * 0.9/0.2) of these "massive" solar plants would equal the annual output as a single nuclear power plant.




RE: Massive is all relative.
By muIIet on 12/1/10, Rating: -1
RE: Massive is all relative.
By namechamps on 12/1/2010 12:12:04 PM , Rating: 5
Still not getting it. 1000MW is a measure of peak power. We consume energy.

Power * time * capacity factor (uptime) = Energy.

Nuclear power plant ~ 0.90 capacity factor (90% uptime @ peak power)
PV Solar (in Southern CA) ~ 0.15 to 0.20 capacity factor (15% to 20% uptime @ peak power).

Thus 2000MW nuclear plant (pair of reactors) is equivelent to not 1000MW of solar but 12,000MW

This plant cost roughly $2 mill per MW. So to produce solar plants (either a lot of smaller ones or one giant one) that has the output of a SINGLE nuclear reactor would require ~ $2 mil per MW * 12,000 MW (peak) = $24 billion.

The question isn't can you build this one plant cheaper or faster than a nuclear plant. The question is can you build 36 to 48 of them cheaper and faster and the reality is no. At wholesale power prices this plant wouldn't produce enough revenue to cover capital + interest. It is only being built because CA utility in a willingness to be "green" is paying $0.20 per kWh instead of market wholesale rate of $0.07.

To put it in another perspective. A single nuclear power plant is 2GW * 0.90 * 24 * 365 * 80 lifespan = 1200 TWh lifetime power. At the absurd $0.20 per kWh rate it would produce $252 billion in revenue. Of course nobody is going to pay $0.20 per kWh for nuclear power. Without massive subsidies (in form of sweetheart pricing deals) solar is simply not viable.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By muIIet on 12/1/2010 12:30:31 PM , Rating: 2
Ok, thanks. So is solar better used on a house instead of a power plant?


RE: Massive is all relative.
By kattanna on 12/1/2010 1:21:20 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
So is solar better used on a house instead of a power plant


solar panels, or PV solar, yes.

solar thermal systems that use large arrays of mirrors to heat a primary fluid, usually water, to generate steam to turn a turbine is more of industrial generation thing. It also has the added feature of when they heat salts, they can use the heat to continue power generation even after sunset.

they are also systems that use a large mirror to produce heat that a stirling engine can use to generate power. also more of an industrial size generation thing.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By Solandri on 12/1/2010 8:20:48 PM , Rating: 3
Solar thermal systems are actually really efficient. They can typically pay for themselves in 1-3 years. The problem is the energy they provide is almost exclusively water-heat. That's great if you're in a cold climate and need to heat up the water from the main a bit before pumping it into your water heater. But it's very, very difficult to do other things with that energy. While stirling engines can get a lot of the latent heat energy out, they're very slow and take a lot of time to do it. You're better off just finding ways to use the heat directly.

PV solar is best in remote sites and low-power applications where it's disproportionately costly to hook up to the power grid. Those emergency phone boxes on the side of the freeway? Solar. A pump to bring up groundwater for drinking at a desert rest area? Solar. The weather station mounted on the side of a mountain in the middle of a national park that needs to radio out its readings? Solar.

For home applications, the ~20 year payback time is really crippling since most people only stay in a home for about 7-10 years. So the best application for large-scale PV solar is actually commercial plants like this one. You just have to make sure they're in a sunny locale, remote location so bringing in electricity from elsewhere is relatively expensive, and accept that it's only going to provide supplemental power to take some of the load off the mains during peak hours. San Luis Obispo fits those requirements almost perfectly. Sure nuclear would be better, but I'm not sure there's enough people living in the area to warrant construction of a full 3- or 4-reactor nuclear plant. You typically need a population of 0.5-1 million to justify the cost of building something that large.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By hyvonen on 12/1/2010 8:30:38 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
For home applications, the ~20 year payback time is really crippling since most people only stay in a home for about 7-10 years.


Mine pays itself off in about 7 years - that's for the tax break goodness. And since they are productive for some 20 years or so, I'd like to think that they also increase the value of the house a bit.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By kattanna on 12/2/2010 10:58:12 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
that's for the tax break goodness


glad I could help you buy them


RE: Massive is all relative.
By mcnabney on 12/1/2010 12:32:31 PM , Rating: 1
You do realize that you are factoring the uptime/efficiency TWICE in your calculations.

This plant produces 250MW @25% efficiency (6 hours on average sunlight everyday over a year) = 1.5GWh per day.
The dual-core reactor produces 2000MW @90% efficiency (scheduled maintenance and refuelling takes plant offline for extended periods) = 43.2GWh per day.

Now the nuclear plant makes 28.8 times as much power, but also cost 18 times as much to build. Once the very high costs of operating the nuclear plant and providing tight security are factored, as are the tax incentives for solar, they are really not that far off in dollar efficiency.

I would also point out that the solar panels are 100% recycled at EOL and there is no reason to believe that a solar farm would ever need to be decomissioned. Nuclear reactors are decomissioned - at great cost.

Now there are two things that would alter the math. Scale in panel manufacture and common reactor design which would both significantly drop the fabriaction/design/construction costs of the associated technology. I honestly think that we should be doing BOTH and creating a massive electricity generation surplus so we can ditch imported OIL - a cause we should all get behind. Energy independence FTW!


RE: Massive is all relative.
By rvd2008 on 12/1/10, Rating: -1
RE: Massive is all relative.
By SPOOFE on 12/1/2010 7:10:05 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
there is a need in peak power plants during the day. And solar will provide that nicely.

No, it won't. It will provide that power sporadically, unreliably. "Rolling blackouts" is the phrase that should be running through your head.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By Nfarce on 12/1/2010 9:19:59 PM , Rating: 3
Nukers? Nukers? Are you talking about nuclear energy or nuclear bombs there, sport? You got a windmill and solar power running that PC you just posted on? Didn't think so.

You know what amazes me? Probably the vast majority of you anti-nuclear energy bed wetters would like the US to be more like Europe, especially in socialist agendas (hell even some of the more extremist wingnut wackos even want Europeans to be allowed to VOTE in American elections).

But when it comes to joining European nations like France in nuclear energy output per capita, suddenly it's oh hell no! The very least you pie-in-the-sky solar/wind dreamers can do is be consistent.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By SandmanWN on 12/1/2010 11:37:00 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
28.8 times as much power, but also cost 18 times

29x the power at only 18x the cost, hmm....

If you were actually pitching solar panels to me as a business proposition, I would have totally thanked you for convincing me to go nuclear.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By Strunf on 12/2/10, Rating: 0
RE: Massive is all relative.
By SPOOFE on 12/3/2010 1:04:14 AM , Rating: 2
Operating cost offset by reliable predictability. Problem solved.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By dirtyfoot on 12/1/2010 12:13:08 PM , Rating: 3
the cost difference is massive even when decommissioning and waste storage is factored in. this 250mw plant will cost over 1billion to build while a 1,700mw nuke will cost about 5 to 6 billion and the nuke will run at about 90% efficiency for 60 years. while this solar plant will run at about 25%(at best)efficiency for only 25 years. so when u factor all that in these solar plants r a waste of time, space and money.

the nuke also takes up a lot less space even when u factor in waste.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By FITCamaro on 12/1/2010 12:18:28 PM , Rating: 4
Waste is only an issue because our government makes it to be one by refusing to allow reprocessing.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By aegisofrime on 12/1/2010 12:34:49 PM , Rating: 2
I have always wondered why the US Government won't allow reprocessing. On a related note, why was the Integral Fast Reactor project canceled ? It seemed like such an awesome piece of tech.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By Chemical Chris on 12/1/2010 12:42:01 PM , Rating: 4
You should also consider Thorium based plants: They would be cheaper, safer, and produce less than 1% of the waste on conventional light-water reators (the waste is 'safe' in 200 vs 1 million years, also).
http://energyfromthorium.com/
Or just run around wiki :)

ChemC


RE: Massive is all relative.
By ekv on 12/1/2010 4:18:50 PM , Rating: 2
Thorium base reactors actually benefit from current LWR designs, since, if I'm not mistaken, spent fuel can be used to jump-start thorium reactors.

There is also Travelling Wave Reactors (TWR). Sure, the technology is paper only at this point, and you have somebody like Bill Gates (partially) bank-rolling the hype. But it wasn't too long ago the "best" microprocessor was an 8086.

http://www.powermag.com/blog/index.php/2010/03/27/...

[read the article, but then read the comments!]


RE: Massive is all relative.
By Rasterman on 12/1/2010 12:36:44 PM , Rating: 4
Lasting for 25 years is false, first of all the solar technology used in these panels hasn't even been around for 20 years to test. The only reason most people state that time frame is that what they are warrantied for. Further more some of the very first solar cells manufactured (of a much inferior design) are still running at 95% efficiency with no problems after 21 years (source below)! Given that there are no moving parts there is no reason to believe that solar panels won't last 50-100 years, or indefinitely for that matter. Sure diodes and inverters may come and go which are easily replaced.

http://www.otherpower.com/otherpower_solar_used.ht...


RE: Massive is all relative.
By Solandri on 12/1/2010 8:02:28 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Further more some of the very first solar cells manufactured (of a much inferior design) are still running at 95% efficiency with no problems after 21 years (source below)!

That's a very deceptive and dishonest way to phrase it. Your source says it was rated at 22 W when brand new, and produces 19 W after 21 years. That's a 14% drop in efficiency, which is pretty much par for the course, maybe a bit better than you'd expect. (Numbers I've seen say a 25%-30% drop after 30 years.)

The only way you get the 95% figure is by noting that the system was original rated at 20 W. So initially it operated at 110% the rated power, and now it operates at 95% the rated power. The way you phrased it makes it sound like there was only 5% degradation after 21 years, when that's clearly not the case.

The problem with degradation of solar panel efficiency is that the panels take up space which is often limited (e.g. rooftop). If the efficiency drops too much, you are actually better off scrapping them and installing new panels. Which is probably exactly what happened and why your source managed to get these used panels for so cheap.

The same problem crops up due to the technology improving. Output efficiencies have climbed from about 12% to 15% for commercial-grade panels over the last 20 years. If you figure the 12% panels have degraded to 85% original output, they're putting out ~10% now. So scrapping them and replacing them with 15% panels will give you a 50% boost in power generation for the exact same amount of area covered by the panels.


By biohazard420420 on 12/3/2010 1:47:31 AM , Rating: 2
Not to push hard for solar power as I think its best as an ADDITION to nuclear coal and wind power but there is a great vid of "solar power" at probably its most efficient the link is below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0_nuvPKIi8

Until you get that kind of efficiency solar power will never become a primary power source nor will in my opinion any "alternative" power sources become the primary power source for the US.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By mcnabney on 12/1/10, Rating: -1
RE: Massive is all relative.
By FITCamaro on 12/1/2010 12:21:48 PM , Rating: 2
Yes because these plants don't have security protecting them either. And solar panels never fail right? Never get dirty.

A nuclear plant also provides far more power ALL the time at a still far cheaper price.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By kattanna on 12/1/2010 12:23:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
waste management costs.


and it would not be nearly as much if the nuclear industry here was allowed to GASP.. *RECYCLE* its fuel like they do in france.

quote:
plus massive operating, security

quote:
All this thing does is sit there and a tech comes by if a motor gets jammed.


well, glad to see you can see past the fallacy of all those 1,000's of "green jobs" that will be created with renewables

LOL


RE: Massive is all relative.
By mcnabney on 12/1/2010 12:53:14 PM , Rating: 2
I guess you don't know anything about reactors.

Operating reactors (and even closed ones) store exhausted fuel onsite. We can reprocess it any time they want to. When a plant refuels the spent rods are just moved into an adjacent pool. The 'waste' doesn't add the costs until a reactor shuts down and storage costs must continue.

Now if we DID reprocess that fuel it would have to be transported, probably in a truck driven right down your street, to a specialized facility. Because there are 308 million NIMBYs in this country that is obviously never going to happen. At least blame the real cause of our refusal to reprocess spent fuel.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By Spivonious on 12/1/2010 1:11:14 PM , Rating: 5
They can drive it down my street if they want to. Just make sure the truck is properly shielded.

I would love to see the country move off of coal and onto nuclear.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By TSS on 12/2/2010 9:06:12 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Just make sure the truck is properly shielded.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mHtOW-OBO4

I don't know about radiation shielding but i doubt it's much of an issue as long as the truck isn't kept at the same spot for hours because of a bunch of protestors.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By Spivonious on 12/2/2010 11:08:34 AM , Rating: 2
Wow, that's intense testing! I really don't understand why the U.S. has such a fear of nuclear power. The waste amounts are small, and aside from a very minor incident at TMI (about 30 minutes from my house, although I wasn't born yet when it happened), there have been no safety issues.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By SPOOFE on 12/3/2010 1:07:12 AM , Rating: 2
Even Three Mile Island was overblown.

It's worse than you describe: People are afraid of nuclear reactors because of freakin' Chernobyl. Nevermind that the circumstances behind that disaster are so ludicrous that it could easily be the script for a lost Marx Bros. film...


RE: Massive is all relative.
By kattanna on 12/1/2010 1:14:06 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Now if we DID reprocess that fuel it would have to be transported, probably in a truck driven right down your street, to a specialized facility


correct. and im still not seeing the issue. france has an awesome safety record of doing just that.

quote:
At least blame the real cause of our refusal to reprocess spent fuel.


you mean politicians who have no backbone to stand up to a very vocal minority, over riding the majority? I do.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By namechamps on 12/1/2010 5:08:26 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
Now if we DID reprocess that fuel it would have to be transported, probably in a truck driven right down your street, to a specialized facility.


Fear monger much?

Here is a riddle for you. Nuclear plants rotate out roughly 1/3 of the core every 24 months. How does the fuel get TO the 133 nucelar reactors in operation around the country for the last 50 years?

Thats right on specialized trucks. Strangely they don't have to drive through residential areas Why? Oh yeah because both nuclear plants AND the fuel fabrication plants are both outside residential areas.

Every year trucks drive nuclear fuel from fabrication plants to nuclear reactors using highway system. Every year for 5 decades now. Rather routine and safe.

Now imagine you built the reprocessing plant at the same location as the fabrication plant. Truck brings new fuel to reactor, brings back spent fuel*. Closed loop. The same truck which is delivery new fuel will simply have cargo on the return trip.

* Now it isn't spent fuel straight from reactor. Fuel will spend two decades or so in a cooling pond until the vast majority of high radioactive material has burned off. So in essence truck is delivering new fuel and picking up fuel that was used 20 years ago. Still a closed loop though.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By ekv on 12/1/2010 4:43:29 PM , Rating: 2
I believe the plant will be built in the Carrisa Plains area. This is considered an ecologically sensitive area. Not sure why, but it is. One of the proposed plants has already been shot down, as it were, by environmentalists. There is no guarantee this one won't be either, since there are serious concerns ... at the County planning level.

http://www.planetizen.com/node/38017

see also
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,188...


RE: Massive is all relative.
By Rasterman on 12/1/2010 12:15:25 PM , Rating: 1
I agree but you got to start somewhere. We really just need to reduce the power distribution infrastructure by putting as much solar on buildings as possible. Since once you have the system online your maintenance costs are very small. Reducing the complexity, ugliness, and power losses in the millions of power lines, transformers, and substations would be great. It would also eliminate a single point of failure for an entire areas power and not use any extra land.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By FITCamaro on 12/1/2010 12:19:47 PM , Rating: 2
No one is against a building putting solar panels on its roof. As long as its whoever owns the building paying for them. Not the rest of us.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By Rasterman on 12/1/2010 12:28:35 PM , Rating: 1
What you and others probably don't realize is you have been paying TRILLIONS for coal, oil, and gas subsidies for 80 years, so why in the hell wouldn't you want to pay for solar subsidies instead? Rather than sending our gas tax subsidies to fat cat politicians and Saudi Arabia, we could use them to eliminate our dependence on the power system and oil.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6103RM201002...


RE: Massive is all relative.
By kattanna on 12/1/2010 12:53:19 PM , Rating: 4
please learn to do some basic math

quote:
save $36.5 billion over 10 years


thats $3.65 billion a year

and even if i was to use that number to go back 80 years, which is simply not in line with reality, it still only adds up to

$292 billion a FAR cry from TRILLIONS!!!


RE: Massive is all relative.
By ebakke on 12/1/2010 1:26:11 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
What you and others probably don't realize is you have been paying TRILLIONS for coal, oil, and gas subsidies for 80 years, so why in the hell wouldn't you want to pay for solar subsidies instead?
Really? As if those are my two choices? Subsidize this, or subsidize that? Here's a crazy idea... STOP THE SUBSIDIES! Let me pick what I want to spend my money on.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By SPOOFE on 12/1/2010 7:21:05 PM , Rating: 3
Moreso, we recognize how difficult it is to eliminate a subsidy or entitlement once it's enacted; that should make us very wary of enacting even more of 'em!


RE: Massive is all relative.
By ekv on 12/1/2010 4:25:03 PM , Rating: 2
Rick Santelli, not exactly a conservative (read "Democrat"), said it best ...

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2010/06/28/...

Stop spending. Or at least slow down (a lot).

And btw, there are companies that WANT to build nuclear reactors. Why not streamline, i.e. fast-track, the approval process.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By FITCamaro on 12/2/2010 8:45:39 AM , Rating: 2
Tax breaks for the businesses R&D, setup, etc (which every other business gets) does not equal subsidies. Giving money to a business for the use of one product over another does.

And the amount of money earned for the federal government FAR exceeds the money "spent". This is not the case with solar and likely never will be. Where's your hatred for the fact that the federal government makes more off a gallon of gas than the oil companies themselves.

What you want is to treat the oil, gas, and coal companies different than other businesses. Those tax breaks and credits are the same as any other business gets for research, set up costs, etc.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By namechamps on 12/1/2010 12:25:34 PM , Rating: 2
I agree but two important issues:

1) Giant solar arrays miles away from usage does nothing to reduce or improve infrastructure challenge.

2) No problem with people putting solar on thier homes but a subsidy is simply a transfer of wealth. It is green welfare. Without subsidy a PV array on your home will never break even.

So we are merely talking wealth from one group of people (those who don't want or can't afford solar) and giving it to another group of people generally high income home owners. It is welfare. No different than someone collecting a welfare check.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By mcnabney on 12/1/2010 12:44:54 PM , Rating: 2
And this is different from the following in what way?

Child tax credit
Earned Income tax credit
Mortgage interest deductions
Charitable contribution deductions
Education credits and deductions
Disability credit


RE: Massive is all relative.
By SPOOFE on 12/1/2010 7:24:34 PM , Rating: 2
None of those are heavily supported by baseless propaganda revolving around a creative doomsday scenario in which Mother Nature exacts her bloody vengeance on an ungrateful populace?


RE: Massive is all relative.
By FITCamaro on 12/1/2010 10:03:49 PM , Rating: 2
None of those other credits promotes the purchase of one type of product over another.

And the disability credit and charitable contribution deduction? Really? I look forward to your argument as to why these things should end.

But I for one would love the lack of earned income credit to end.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By rcc on 12/1/2010 5:23:54 PM , Rating: 2
So, how does that reduce the power distribution infrastucture? Since the building still needs to run during storms, or occassionally at night, you still need all the same power distribution. It will just be under utilized during peak solar production hours.

However, you are correct, while the solar is producing, the distribution loss for that portion of the power use would be less.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By priusone on 12/2/2010 10:11:31 AM , Rating: 2
I love coming to Dailytech and running into comments such as the one posted by namechamps which lay out the information and makes it easier to put into perspective. Thanks.

Sure, it would be great to get some more nuclear reactors online, but considering the insane amount of whining and crying that would cause in this country, at least a solar farm is a move, albeit small, in the right direction. I just hope there isn't some sort of endangered desert amoeba that will stall this project.


RE: Massive is all relative.
By SPOOFE on 12/3/2010 1:28:10 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
at least a solar farm is a move, albeit small, in the right direction.

No, it isn't. It's a symptom of the overall problem: That a small cabal of industrialists essentially created this "alternative energy" industry by creating a fear-mongering narrative that convinced people to "go green". It's dependent on government handouts; it couldn't possibly be competitive otherwise.

A "step in the right direction" would be if someone figured out how to make it profitable without taxpayer help. Or if we passed necessary legislation that makes it easier to actually finish building a nuclear plant.


Math
By rikulus on 12/1/2010 11:51:11 AM , Rating: 2
Just double checking the price comparison math in the article...

0.08 dollars per kw-hour, there are 1000 MW per kw and this plant has 250 MW so makes 0.07*1000*250 per hour of full capacity = $17,500 per hour.
I don't know how they rate it for 250 MW, and how that compares to an average day... but say it averages the equivalent of 6 full power hours per day, then it is producing $105,000 of power per day.
That's $38,325,000 per year.
Just nearly $1 billion over it's lifetime (not $153 million).




RE: Math
By namechamps on 12/1/2010 12:03:41 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah not sure what metric the article is using but it isn't valid.

Solar power in southern CA has about 20% peak capacity factor (~5 hours peak sunglight per day) however that would be no downtime for any other reason (mainteance, repairs, damage, etc). So lets assume 15% capacity factor over life of plant.

In one year the plant would output 250MW * 0.15 * 24 * 365 = 418,500 MWh or 418.5 GWh.

Lets also assume the plants output degrades by 1% annually over 25 years the combined output would be 9.3TWh.

At $0.07 per kWh that ~ $650 million.

However CA utility is likely paying 200% overwholesale for "green power". Solar PV simply doesn't make sense without subsidies. So at $0.20 per kWh the plants gross revenue would be $1.8 billion.


RE: Math
By dirtyfoot on 12/1/2010 12:06:08 PM , Rating: 2
remember the plant is going to cost about 1billion$plus to build. So i believe they mean there will be a net profit of 158million over its life


RE: Math
By namechamps on 12/1/2010 12:14:45 PM , Rating: 2
Even then the numbers don't add up.

1) This plant is going to get market rate of $0.05 to $0.07 per kWh wholesale. It has a signed PPA power purchasing agreement. It has locked in a sweetheart deal of $0.20 per kWh.

2) The interest amortized over 20+ years alone would sink this project without subsidized pricing.


RE: Math
By goku on 12/1/2010 12:21:04 PM , Rating: 2
You're also forgetting that the cost of electricity rises about 5% year over year and has done that for the past 30 years. This solar power plant *should* make much more money than is being calculated in these comments.


RE: Math
By FITCamaro on 12/1/2010 12:24:20 PM , Rating: 2
These comments are also not factoring in maintenance costs of the plant. Which, contrary to one idiots comment, are not small. Maybe smaller than a nuclear power plants. But that doesn't mean they're cheap.


RE: Math
By rikulus on 12/1/2010 1:11:12 PM , Rating: 2
OK, so we add in a reasonable amount of cost for operating and maintenance at the solar plant. Then we should add it to the coal plant cost as well... I can't imagine that would be less than at the solar plant, I'd assume more, but maybe it's a wash.

Here'a a topic nobody has been talking about... coal doesn't just appear in the coal plant. So we need to include the costs and land use required to mine, process, transport, and unload the coal. Plus all the maintenance costs for the mine equipment and trains of course. :)


RE: Math
By rcc on 12/1/2010 5:28:18 PM , Rating: 2
I could be wrong, but I think you'll find that already calculated into the 7-8 cent per kWh rate.


RE: Math
By SandmanWN on 12/1/2010 11:46:18 PM , Rating: 2
Its on your bill. Its been a known variable for a great many decades.


RE: Math
By EddyKilowatt on 12/2/2010 2:40:29 PM , Rating: 2
The cost to dig it out of the ground and ship it to the power plant, sure. The cost to restore the removed mountaintops and acid-killed rivers? Not so much.

This is all about externalities. The betting amongst forward-looking people is that solar has many fewer of them than fossil fuel dug or pumped from the ground with its waste dumped back into air and oceans, or nuclear with all fuel cycle risks accounted for. (Uranium-fueled nuclear at any rate... I think thorium sounds pretty attractive though.)

It is totally legit for society as a whole to decide that these lower externalities are worth subsidizing.


RE: Math
By SPOOFE on 12/3/2010 1:32:24 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
It is totally legit for society as a whole to decide that these lower externalities are worth subsidizing.

It would be legit if the scheme were sold to the public on those parameters. But it wasn't; it was based on lies and deception, clever histrionics and fanciful doomsday claims.


Seriously
By MrTeal on 12/1/2010 11:31:23 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Challenges to the plant's success remain. Currently environmental activists in California are vigorously resisting large solar and wind installations, which they fear will damage fragile ecosystems. They have filed lawsuits to try to block similar projects.


Go away already. Please.




RE: Seriously
By AnnihilatorX on 12/1/2010 11:51:14 AM , Rating: 2
Agree, if people look at the map there are more preserved open space than actual solar arrays in the permise. Impact to wildlife will not be great if there is any.


RE: Seriously
By Paj on 12/1/2010 11:56:44 AM , Rating: 3
Gotta say, its pretty stupid for them to be protesting a solar plant. Im all for solar development, but I dont understand what their proposals entail.


RE: Seriously
By rcc on 12/1/2010 5:30:12 PM , Rating: 2
Bottom line is that they object to power generation in any form. It really doesn't matter how it's generated, they think it's bad. Of course some of it is worse in their eyes, like nuclear.


RE: Seriously
By SPOOFE on 12/1/2010 7:33:30 PM , Rating: 3
The truth is that environmental groups are ridiculously splintered. Some are major proponents of nuclear and reprocessing, recognizing the actual, physical boon to the ecosystem it represents. Others have the dogmatic worldview, the belief that Nature is somehow sacred and that "man" is some bastardization, some force or element that is "unnatural" in some way (as if man were the only animal to affect and change his ecosystem!).

The really ugly part is the fact that the looney-toon enviros are completely drowning out the message of the practical guys with their vomit and nonsense.


RE: Seriously
By kattanna on 12/2/2010 11:05:40 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The really ugly part is the fact that the looney-toon enviros are completely drowning out the message of the practical guys with their vomit and nonsense.


you mean like the fanatics of any group?

its long past due for us to start squelching the noise generated by extremists in any group, so the more moderate voices can be heard again


RE: Seriously
By SPOOFE on 12/3/2010 1:53:52 AM , Rating: 2
The pattern follows thusly: For any given fringe movement, there's an incredibly passionate and equally vocal group of people that leads the charge. This is the phase during which the message is polished and honed, the talking points nailed down and disseminated among the faithful. After they've been established as an enduring presence, they need only one major accomplishment (such as Al Gore's Nonsensical Hooplah) to move that fringe closer to the mainstream; counter-arguments to their talking points start to form, but they maintain momentum while the counters are similarly disseminating as their talking points did before.

Eventually, attrition takes it toll, the arguments are swatted down faster than the faithful can vomit new ones, and then there'll be a lull as the whole mess falls to the wayside as a new fringe movement readies to move into the mainstream. Repeat.


RE: Seriously
By maverick85wd on 12/1/2010 1:14:46 PM , Rating: 3
you beat me to it. They don't want nuclear power because it's "bad", they don't want wind because of "the birds" (and some of the more ignorant are convinced they 'slow down' global winds), now they don't want solar. Apparently they just want everyone to live in the stone age. Or at least they think they do, as they walk around with their brand new Macbook Air. How do you think that thing works? I don't see a hand crank.

I consider myself an environmentalist in that I think proper handling of toxic materials is very important. I recycle whenever possible. I'm also glad to see the progress being made by companies like Ford with their ecoboost line of V6 engines that have more power than the V8's they are replacing while using less fuel. And I'm all for investigating the viability of ideas people have to reduce the negative impact we are having on the environment. But sometimes those ideas aren't practical, and at some point enough is enough. I truly feel for the residents of California who are paying outrageous prices for energy and whom rely increasingly, in part, on electricity production that's dependent on the sun (or wind). These plants take up too much time and money with current technology, without even getting into capacity issues. I've seen it said on this site before and I'm sure I'll see it again, but fission reactors are far safer now than they were 50 years ago, and they are the best thing we have until fusion becomes commercially employable.


Time for change
By dirtyfoot on 12/1/2010 12:19:02 PM , Rating: 1
these solar plants r not expected to make money right now. the point is to learn the technology so that in the future we can build solar power plants in an efficient way. I'm Pro solar, pro wind and pro nuke. Im anti coal. Look what coal has done to this world! if we were running nuclear power fot eh last 3 years rather then coal we would not be talking about global warming




RE: Time for change
By FITCamaro on 12/1/2010 12:26:32 PM , Rating: 2
For most of the past three years, many areas have been getting cooler.

Coal may not be the perfect fuel but it is cheap and effective. If not for coal we wouldn't be doing research on the rest of this stuff.


RE: Time for change
By CowKing on 12/1/2010 12:40:28 PM , Rating: 3
Except it's only cheap because it's being subsidized more than all renewable energy combined.


RE: Time for change
By kattanna on 12/1/2010 2:10:20 PM , Rating: 2
you have a link showing your wild claim?


RE: Time for change
By CowKing on 12/1/2010 11:38:33 PM , Rating: 2
http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/3HtjIb/1bog.org/file...

Here you are madam. Not specifically the exact thing you were asking for, but renewables all have relatively the same amount of subsidies.


RE: Time for change
By kattanna on 12/2/2010 11:22:45 AM , Rating: 2
wow... thats so full of lose

im guessing their getting their 2 decades from something like this in wikipedia? even though it states 37 years

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal

quote:
At the current global total energy consumption of 15.7 terawatts,[67] there is enough coal to provide the entire planet with all of its energy for 37 years


only problem with that is they are talking about powering everything from coal. that means no hydro, no natural gas, no oil.. LOL not exactly likely oil is going to run out tomorrow and we have to turn to making gas out of coal now is it?

and then there is little LOL gem

quote:
Coal couldn't compete with wood, steam or watermills a an energy source without subsidies.


just how stupid are people who actually believe this total BS. learn some GD history would you. The world turned from wood because we were destroying the worlds forests. when we discovered coal, it was rapidly adopted because it was a cheaper and far more efficient fuel source then wood.

steam? LOL thats so dumb im not even going to comment on that one further

oh.. and for future reference, its SIR


RE: Time for change
By SPOOFE on 12/3/2010 1:57:24 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
there is enough coal to provide the entire planet with all of its energy for 37 years

Another bit of trivia they don't mention in those sorts of cites is "... at current market prices". There are seams of coal that can't be accessed without the resultant product costing considerably more than it currently does. However, as the "easy" (or "easier") deposits run out, the fuel becomes scarcer and its price goes up... suddenly, those un-mineable seams become cost-effective to tap, and GASP! we have more coal again!

It's a diminishing returns game, not a hard-and-fast line where coal just suddenly disappears forever.


RE: Time for change
By SPOOFE on 12/1/2010 7:36:33 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
it's being subsidized more than all renewable energy combined.

Maybe in total dollar amounts, but definitely not relative to wattage produced. Alternative energy is alternative for a reason.


This should be built in space.
By Binkt on 12/1/2010 1:29:13 PM , Rating: 2
Why are we continuing to waste resources on "green" make-work projects like this and wind power when the clear solution to our power gathering needs lies in a space-based solar power station? An additional benefit for having power gathering and beaming infrastructure in space is that it will enable new space industries which will pull our collective economic asses out of the fire. I am really getting tired of this lack of leadership here in the US. At this point the barriers are purely political.




RE: This should be built in space.
By MindParadox on 12/1/2010 3:55:54 PM , Rating: 2
ya know, id think the power beaming part of the whole thing would be the hardest problem, sure, you can broadcast energy thru the air, but in focused "beams" itd be hard to do.

altho, a giant solar array in space that could be attached to say, a portable energy storage system that could be retrieved would be nice, or even, now that people have stopped laughing, we could get on with the space elevator(or even just a power cord from a geosynchronous satellite)


RE: This should be built in space.
By Binkt on 12/1/2010 4:05:42 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
ya know, id think the power beaming part of the whole thing would be the hardest problem, sure, you can broadcast energy thru the air, but in focused "beams" itd be hard to do.


Not so my friend, Power beaming via microwave or laser is a solved problem with the added benefit that such a beam can be steered to where it is most needed. An installation in orbit would be able to beam energy to satellites to help them maintain orbit without reaction mass. That alone would be a huge boost to our space economy.


By drank12quartsstrohsbeer on 12/1/2010 6:49:47 PM , Rating: 2
It would also make a convenient death-ray


RE: This should be built in space.
By kattanna on 12/2/2010 11:25:36 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
now that people have stopped laughing


not true, im still laughing my ass off


solar
By texbrazos on 12/1/2010 1:14:07 PM , Rating: 2
I am a big fan of alt. energy and have been looking at the Tessera solar plant that uses stirling engine tech and focused mirrors to concentrate the sun to make the engines run. No solar panels on these. Tessera cost 2 billion and will provide around 500,000 homes power. The Comanche Peak plant where I live cost 15 billion and provides 1.5 million homes power. Do the math.
It's just too bad the companies don't sell single units to homeowners yet.




RE: solar
By dirtyfoot on 12/1/2010 5:08:23 PM , Rating: 2
u forget though that the tessera plant is only producing power for at most 12 hrs a day and peak performance of only 5 or so hours. also the Tessera plant will not last as long as comanche peak. also camanche peak did not cost 15b$ its was quite a bit less then that.


RE: solar
By texbrazos on 12/1/2010 5:41:13 PM , Rating: 2
Every source I find estimates the cost at $12.8 to 15 billion for the Comanche Peak plant. If they expand it they are saying around 27 billion. Anyway they are not cheap. Also stirling engines can run off any heat source. If these things were fitted with nat. gas, biomass, hydrogen etc. they could essentially run all the time. Let's say the Comanche peak plant cost $12 billion on the low side. It powers 1.5 million homes.
The Tessera plant can power 500,000 homes at 2 billion. 12 billions dollars worth of Tessera plants could power around 3 million homes.
This tech is still in it's infancy and has huge potential, and I am not quite sure why you think it will last as long. Stirling engines are pretty simple devices that are easy to repair.


RE: solar
By Brodda Thep on 12/2/2010 9:52:36 AM , Rating: 2
The Tessera plant is 660 MW capacity at about 25% capacity factor. The commanche plant will be 3000 GW at 90% capacity factor (assuming you mean reactors 3 and 4). That's 165MW vs 2700MW. Not sure why you would use the bizarre comparison of 'homes powered by'. Nuclear is much cheaper. And the costs quoted for nuclear almost always include decomissioning costs + fueling costs up front.


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