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Abegnoa Solar just announced a stunning new 280 MW plant design implementing advanced tracking mirrors, and molten salt thermal storage.  (Source: Abegnoa Solar, ASP)
A new trough-based solar power plant is being constructed in the Arizona desert, which will blow away past designs

There is an estimated 175 petawatts of solar energy absorbed in the upper atmosphere at any time, around 8,000 times the worldwide energy usage in 2004.  This massive unharnessed power has motivated many to study solar power in its various forms as a promising source of alternative energy. 

While moderate adoption of solar power has occurred over the course of the last 40 years, with solar power currently accounting for 0.04% of the world's total energy consumption, there is still a long way to go to fully tap this massive energy source.  Currently, there are three main means of solar power production.  One method is the use of solar troughs or solar power towers which focus solar energy on water or another evaporant, turning it into steam.  This steam then drives turbines and is recondensed to liquid.  One disadvantage, however, is that most current trough plants cannot produce power at night.

Another method is photovoltaics, but these plants tend to be more expensive.  Photovoltaics can have the advantage of no moving parts, though some have motors to allow them to track the sun.  By featuring a smaller number of moving parts, photovoltaics have a slight advantage over troughs, as the extra mechanical components in troughs can easily break and require maintenance.  Troughs, towers, and non-concentrated solar voltaics have approximately the same efficiency -- around 15%.   More advanced solar cell designs promise even higher efficiencies, but are not yet commercially producible. Concentrated photovoltaics have a higher efficiency, but require more infrastructure and more mechanical components. 

Finally, a relatively new approach is to use concentrated solar energy, typically from a parabolic disk, to run a Stirling engine.  This type of production is more expensive and not as extensively researched, but it has efficiency unmatched by anything except concentrated photovoltaics.  

The current record for solar plants is held by a nine-plant 350 MW collective, named Solar Energy Generating Systems, located in the Mojave Desert.  The plant utilizes chiefly trough designs.  The U.S. also holds the record for the third largest plant, also implementing the trough design, the 64 MW Nevada Solar One plant.  The largest photovoltaic plant is far behind, the Beneixama photovoltaic power plant in Spain, at 20 MW.  The largest U.S. photovoltaic plant is the 14 MW Nellis Solar Plant.

Now a new 280 MW trough plant project looks to far surpass past capacities and maximize the potential of this type of solar power.  The new commercial endeavor, launched by Abengoa Solar aims to build what would today be the world's largest solar plant, operating in the Arizona desert.  Abegnoa Solar signed a contract with Arizona Public Service Co. (APS), one of Arizonas leading energy utilities, to build and operate the plant.

The plant will cover a total of 1,900 acres, almost 3 square miles of desert.  The plant itself will consist of two 140-megawatt steam generators.  The plant will be capable of powering 70,000 homes, while saving 400,000 tons of greenhouse gases.  The plant also eliminates a host of other emissions typical with gas and coal plants.

The plant's name, Solana, was selected as it means "a sunny place" in Spanish.  The plant will implement tracking mirrors on its troughs to track the sun from east to west.  The troughs will concentrate the sun's rays, known as concentrated solar power (CSP) technology, as the sun travels from east to west.  The receiver pipes mounted in the center of the troughs will receive this energy and use it to heat water to over 700 degrees F.  The water is then sent to a heat exchanger to produce steam and generate power.  The troughs will be arrayed in long, massive rows, all feeding in to the two central generators.

As previously mentioned, one key disadvantage of many trough plants is that they cannot produce power at night.  Most current U.S. trough plants switch to burning fossil fuels to keep up with power needs at night.  As long as they only provide 27% of their output from fossil fuels, they are still entitled to alternative energy status.  The new Solana plant looks to do away with fossil fuels entirely, though.  Large tanks of molten salt will store solar energy by day, and by night the plant will maintain a steady production as this thermal energy is drained.  This storage will also help alleviate power problems on cloudy days.

The plant will come online in 2011.  It is located 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, near Gila Bend, Arizona.  APS plans to run the plant for thirty years or more, generating at least $4B USD in revenue, and making $1B USD in economic benefits for the state of Arizona.  The construction will bring in 1,500 jobs, which will help to counteract local effects of the national economic slump.  When the plant comes online, it will employ 85 skilled full-time workers.

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano lauded both Abengoa Solar and APS.  She said of their efforts, "This is a major milestone for Arizona in our efforts to increase the amount of renewable energy available in the United States."

Santiago Seage, CEO of Abengoa Solar said, "This project not only shows leadership in Arizona and the southwest, but for America. This project will help usher in a new era of large clean and efficient solar power plants. Our commitment to solar energy is global and we will work with utilities, regulators and companies worldwide to make plants like this happen by leveraging the technologies we have been developing over two decades."

Abegnoa Solar is no newcomer to the solar industry.  It built large solar plants in Spain, Morocco, and Algeria.  With this new plant it seeks to expand in the American Midwest.  It hopes to develop gigawatts of capacity in the sun-rich southwest, powering millions.

The plant will receive a long term extension of the solar investment tax credit passed by the U.S. Congress.  For a video on the new plant, provided by Abegnoa Solar, please look here.  For more of the latest developments in solar technologies, please refer to additional stories found here at DailyTech



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More research, less tax breaks
By Entropy42 on 2/28/2008 11:22:50 AM , Rating: 4
I wish the government would just put up research money for technologies it wants to see developed, rather than tax breaks and subsidies that make it harder to evaluate the true cost of an energy source. I love seeing progress on the development of solar cells, but I always worry when I see something like this being built, because I wonder if it truly a cost effective way of producing energy, or if the rest of the US is just paying for Arizona. <I am NOT saying that is definitely what is happening here, I don't know enough about this project to say that, but I hear a lot about credits and subsidies for solar power>




RE: More research, less tax breaks
By Cygni on 2/28/2008 11:28:50 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. Pushing these absurdly expensive unprofitable plants covering thousands of acres is not the right path. The technology is simply not there for large scale solar power plants yet. Instead of tax breaks for massive unprofitable green power production (both solar and wind), that money should be spent on smaller, more experimental power production.

Wind and solar is just not advanced enough to be spending government money on huge construction projects like this. More money for the innovators, less money for the construction companies.


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By Chimpie on 2/28/2008 11:59:22 AM , Rating: 5
But by building these plants they are not only providing energy but doing research as well. It's not like they are going to build this and not learn anything at the same time.

I say build it and build it well. Learn from it.


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By Cygni on 2/28/2008 6:23:16 PM , Rating: 3
In this era of cad-cam, there isn't a lot a facility like this is going to teach us. Its fundamental processes and design are identical to those already in use elsewhere around the world... its just bigger. The inherent problems in solar power aren't making arrays BIG enough, its making arrays EFFICIENT enough.

Other than 'How to build big arrays,' there is much more actual research possibility on a smaller, more experimental array.


By animedude on 2/29/2008 2:12:52 AM , Rating: 2
Money better spend on how to harness hydrogen fuel.


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By BansheeX on 2/28/2008 12:55:00 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I wish the government would just put up research money for technologies it wants to see developed,


You mean taxpayer money or money borrowed from abroad? What the hell would politicians know where to spend our money or how much goes to what? What's to stop them from dumping it into some idiotic misadventure like, say, ethanol from corn, instead of building nuclear plants like we should? These people are influenced by domestic lobbies, good and bad. I say we free up the money to the people and let the free market decide. If the government stops dicking with things, oil prices will rise and demand will naturally generate for fuel efficient cars and alternative energy sources. If bad idea companies can't lobby for taxpayer subsidies, companies in general will be compelled to seek out the best solution through competition in order to profit from the new demand. THEY will fund the research, and people will pay directly for the successful product of their own volition, not through taxes to fund the research according to what politicians have been influenced to favor. Why the hell do people want the government to decide all these things given their track record?


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2008 1:40:40 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
I say we free up the money to the people


If you let the common people decide they'll just vote to spend it all on themselves. People take things for granted. The power that comes into their homes most don't even have a clue how its generated. They just know when they flick the switch it comes on. They think the gas they buy, while expensive, just should be available at the station when they want to fill up.

The average person doesn't have a clue how things actually happen. They live in their own little world watching American Idol and bitching about how the government needs to do more to make their life easy.


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By BansheeX on 2/28/2008 2:27:11 PM , Rating: 1
But if that lifestyle of entertainment is threatened by rising oil prices, they will naturally become interested in more energy efficient products, nuclear, etc, on a personal and community level. This is already starting to happen regardless of subsidies because the market is ultimately more powerful than government manipulation, but people are finding it difficult to afford the new technologies considering the economic environment in which they are now being introduced. Progress in this field could have happened a long time ago if politicians didn't promise policies of cheaper oil. I know that if I had been allowed to keep the tax money that goes to government waste and bad research, I would use it to outfit my house with geothermal, solar, wind, whatever, to become more self-sufficient. Those are products that companies offer that are becoming better and cheaper every day due to demand and competition. But that demand and competition can't exist without the consumer being able to afford it, and the government's taxes, waste, and inflationary policies are making people poorer every day.


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By dever on 2/28/2008 2:38:54 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
people are finding it difficult to afford the new technologies considering the economic environment in which they are now being introduced
Over the last 150 years, the real income of individuals in the US has increased 1.5% to 2.0% annually. The rate is actually increasing over time. Before this period in history, there was no real growth in income over time, just random fluctuations. Most people over the span of human history were relagated to subsistence living, making approximately $600/year in today's US dollars.

In this economic system, there are, of course, fluctuations like any system, but on average, people are becoming richer. It's hard for me to take anyone seriously who states that it's harder for individuals to afford technology than before. What technology is more expensive today?

Stating that, you're completely on target about government interference. Without this interference, real wealth increases would most certainly be much higher.


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By BansheeX on 2/28/2008 3:11:46 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Over the last 150 years, the real income of individuals in the US has increased 1.5% to 2.0% annually. The rate is actually increasing over time. Before this period in history, there was no real growth in income over time, just random fluctuations. Most people over the span of human history were relagated to subsistence living, making approximately $600/year in today's US dollars.


I'd like sources and calculations for this. When you say $600/year compared to today's dollars, how are you measuring today's dollar? If you're adjusting inflation using government measurements of inflation, your logic is flawed. Also, consider the illusory nature of today's wealth: this is easy to understand if you simply imagine us sliding into a second depression because much of our current "wealth" is purely credit subsidized by foreign central banks. If that happens, suddenly your current numbers are toast, so your claim relies on its being made during the phony boom periods of said Keynesian policies. For the people who grow up or suffer in the bust periods, your contention that fiat has improved the average person's economic life is not so palatable.

What really tricks people is technological progress, and how that relates to standard of living comparisons. Televisions and cars may not have been invented yet in the 19th century, but people had a better sustained income relative to other goods that was not at risk of collapsing and in which you could afford to raise as many as seven kids on a single income. You can't do that today. You need two incomes at least to raise even one child. But the better technology has deceived you into thinking that you're better off economically than any previous point in history.

quote:
The rate is actually increasing over time.


Nominal increases mean nothing if inflation is debasing those nominal gains. The only value that matters is the value of dollars relative to that which you buy with them. People's incomes didn't have to "increase" nominally by 3% every year because the gold or silver which backed their currency couldn't be churned out and debased by the government, thus there was far less inflation to have to catch up with.


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By Ringold on 2/29/2008 1:16:04 AM , Rating: 3
The gold standard ultimately fails for a couple reasons.

Add gold to the world, and you have inflation.

Have a steady level of gold, and you have deflation as more goods and services are produced (and more consumers are born).

Inflation from gold brought back to Spain from the New World was devastating. Economists don't really know how to handle deflation; Japan's situation is.. bizzare. Yes, we managed to grow with deflation earlier in our national history, but we were also in a stage similar to China; I think hell could've been unleashed and we'd of still managed to grow.

I find your lack of faith in orthodox economic theory to be disturbing, to paraphrase Vader. ;)


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By masher2 (blog) on 2/29/2008 1:49:29 AM , Rating: 4
> "Add gold to the world, and you have inflation."

We add gold to the world every year, by mining more of it. In this respect, the only difference a gold standard would make is that some of that additional gold would be purchased by the government, if it wished to issue new bank notes.

And remember, there's nothing magical about "gold" in a gold standard. Bimetallism works even better, or even a basket of weighted goods. The issue is fiat currency, not gold itself.


By PhantomRogue on 2/29/2008 2:37:01 PM , Rating: 2
>The issue is fiat currency, not gold itself.

I wish more people understood that fact. It's not about GOLD being the standard, its about creating a standard that is tangible. One that is based in reality, not made out of nothing.


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By dever on 3/3/2008 2:29:59 PM , Rating: 2
My statement was based on a "popular" economics by called "More Sex Is Safer Sex" by Steven E. Landsburg. I don't have it in front of me, so my numbers were from memory.

quote:
You need two incomes at least to raise even one child
I think this statement reveals your perspective. Perhaps you have some unrecognized "standard" of living that you feel is necessary (maybe a new ipod every year minimum?) that comes before having additional children.

I know someone who works construction, his wife stays at home and raises their 8 kids, plus one on the way. They home school, can vegetables from their garden, etc. But by any measure I can come up with, their standard of living is many, many, many times greater than pre-industrialized America or any third world nation.

They live in a two-story home, have plenty of food (huge home-cooked meals), many changes of clothes per person, heating and air conditioning, washer and dryer, dish washer, cars (airport van if you were wondering, plus another truck and car), fridge & freezers, stereos, computer, cell phones, video games, cameras, power tools, stove(s), etc, etc etc. They've even sent some of their kids to private schools... and some to public when they wanted to.

They also live within their means. They work extremely hard and are very frugal. However, they would have to have worked much, much harder in the pre-industrial world to have a fraction of the goods and lifestyle they enjoy. They probably would have been considered well off even 50 years ago.

While this is just an anecdote, it is in direct conflict with your statement. You can, in fact, raise a large family, or do any of the other things that were possible earlier, and have many more conveniences.

Standards of living increase, and are continuing to increase. Is it possible you are taking for granted the huge abundance of wealth we enjoy every day? Is this a great country or what? (my apologies to non-US citizens, but I can only speak from experience.)


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By Spuke on 2/29/08, Rating: 0
RE: More research, less tax breaks
By BansheeX on 2/29/2008 5:04:08 AM , Rating: 2
We weren't talking about that, I was addressing how in a good economy (a free market economy FREE of those housing bubbles created by the federal reserve system) the high price of oil spurs demand for alternative products and companies race to provide them. I already made the distinction in my post when I talk about this not working in our current system because of the resulting poor economic environment that the socialist policies create, which claim to be helping society by having the government directly redistribute the people's money to politically influenced research and other government waste. If people's money is being taken away and debased by these do-gooder, nanny-state policies, how do you expect them to afford the resulting product (or even expect the resulting product to be the one that makes the most sense)? Der der der, socialist overload.


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By Spuke on 2/29/2008 12:36:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If people's money is being taken away and debased by these do-gooder, nanny-state policies, how do you expect them to afford the resulting product (or even expect the resulting product to be the one that makes the most sense)? Der der der, socialist overload.
I misunderstood. My apologies. I agree with these statements made and find it amazing that this isn't understood. If people don't have money then they won't spend it.


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By dever on 2/28/2008 2:29:51 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
...vote to spend it all on themselves
The suggestion to give economic liberty to individuals was not implying a detour through our politicians by voting. Instead, individuals, when given access to a truly free market, vote with their dollars. In this case, self-interest is good. The consumer doesn't need to know the difference between solar or coal or nuclear, they can vote on what they feel to be the best value.

You're correct in implying that democracies are dangerous because mob rule can use government's unique power of lethal force to acquire their demands. However, in the free market, companies do not have such powers, and votes in the form of money spent is ideal.


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2008 4:33:39 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The consumer doesn't need to know the difference between solar or coal or nuclear, they can vote on what they feel to be the best value.


Me and you don't get to vote. If we move to an area, we use the power that the power company provides. We don't get a say in how they produce it. Short of everyone leaving an area that has power produced by say coal, there's nothing you can do to determine how its produced. You can write all the letters you want but then you'll likely just be fueling the local landfill as your letters get tossed in the trash.


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By BansheeX on 2/29/2008 5:06:05 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
If we move to an area, we use the power that the power company provides. We don't get a say in how they produce it.


But you did get a say in moving there, didn't you?


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By dever on 3/4/2008 1:34:20 PM , Rating: 2
And companies will definitely consider the cost of electricity when determining their location. I believe the number of viable jobs effects the number of people who relocate.


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By dever on 3/3/2008 2:36:46 PM , Rating: 2
There is a very small, indirect vote. Higher prices from less efficient methods will cause consumers to consume less. This lower consumption and other profit motives will drive producers to seek the lowest cost methods, retaining a higher profit margin and potentially a higher gross profit, all the while we spend less per unit. Of course, this is all thrown off by over-regulation.


RE: More research, less tax breaks
By random git on 2/28/2008 2:49:16 PM , Rating: 2
This is very true. The most gross example of that kind of misspending is ethanol, which may not even be any better for the environment than conventional fuels. At least this solar plant won't do any harm.


By jbartabas on 2/28/2008 3:17:39 PM , Rating: 2
I am not sure, though, that the ethanol initiative was totally motivated by environmental concerns, if any at all.


By Oregonian2 on 3/3/2008 5:43:53 PM , Rating: 2
That can be a good idea if it is coordinated carefully and in detail by those who are experts in the field and have a good global long term view. DARPA does a lot of good work, for instance.

However, grants are more for technology development while tax break incentives are more for product development.

My first draft of this was a LOT longer explaining that and why, but I think it's self evident enough.

P.S. - Remember that solar power really is NUCLEAR power!


Economical
By MadMaster on 2/28/2008 6:55:33 PM , Rating: 2
Assuming this plant generates on average 200MW of electricity...

200,000kW * 8760 (hours per year) * $.07 = 122 million a year.

- approx 10 million maintenance each year...

112 Million dollars profit.

At $5000 per kw of capacity (It's probably closer to $3000) the plant would cost 1 Billion dollars. After less than 10 years it would pay that money back and make 112 Million dollars each year.

And people say doing things like this hurt the economy?




RE: Economical
By PlasmaBomb on 2/28/2008 7:13:55 PM , Rating: 2
You are making a lot of assumptions there. Remember the saying!


RE: Economical
By MadMaster on 2/29/2008 2:23:50 AM , Rating: 2
200MW average is pretty close, these molten salt systems are made to run through the night (pretty cool huh).

Also, it says 85 skilled workers year round. At 100k loaded salary on average, that's 8.5 million dollars a year. 1.5 million in spare parts and replacements...

I've talked to some of the engineers that work on these molten salt solar arrays, they think it currently costs about $2000 per kw but I figured $5000 because it rounded out nicely to 1 billion, and it is a good overshoot.

Granted, these number are rough, but they do show that it could be profitable to build solar power plants. But once you pay off the loans, they become extremely profitable.

Keep in mind, it costs about 1 billion+ to build a GW coal plant, but you have to fuel the thing with coal in order to generate electricity. However, the electric companies have figured out a way to make money and still sell electricity for $0.10 per kW.


RE: Economical
By masher2 (blog) on 2/29/2008 6:34:56 AM , Rating: 2
> "it says 85 skilled workers year round. At 100k loaded salary on average, that's 8.5 million dollars a year. 1.5 million in spare parts and replacements..."

That's an expense, not a profit. By your logic, the more people it takes to rn a plant, the more profitable the plant becomes.

Backwards logic. Costs are costs.

> "200MW average is pretty close, these molten salt systems are made to run through the night"

Again, you have it backwards. Yes, a molten salt system can theoretically have a 100% duty cycle. But every MW it discharges is two MW (or more) that it can't discharge at some other point in time.

Solar power stations are rated just like any other: by peak output. 280MW x 35% AF = ~100 MW, minus conversion losses in running the salt storage system.

> "the electric companies have figured out a way to make money and still sell electricity for $0.10 per kW."

Massive government subsidies account for solar power being that price...and its still substantially more expensive than alternatives.


RE: Economical
By Spuke on 2/29/2008 12:40:24 PM , Rating: 2
quote:

> "it says 85 skilled workers year round. At 100k loaded salary on average, that's 8.5 million dollars a year. 1.5 million in spare parts and replacements..."

That's an expense, not a profit. By your logic, the more people it takes to rn a plant, the more profitable the plant becomes.

Backwards logic. Costs are costs.

> "200MW average is pretty close, these molten salt systems are made to run through the night"

Again, you have it backwards. Yes, a molten salt system can theoretically have a 100% duty cycle. But every MW it discharges is two MW (or more) that it can't discharge at some other point in time.

Solar power stations are rated just like any other: by peak output. 280MW x 35% AF = ~100 MW, minus conversion losses in running the salt storage system.

> "the electric companies have figured out a way to make money and still sell electricity for $0.10 per kW."

Massive government subsidies account for solar power being that price...and its still substantially more expensive than alternatives.
Rate this down all you want. Doesn't make it any less true.


RE: Economical
By jbartabas on 2/29/2008 1:28:11 PM , Rating: 2
As far as I can tell, the workforce was counted since the beginning as maintenance cost, hence the 8.5+1.5 = 10 millions deducted from the profits.


RE: Economical
By MadMaster on 3/2/2008 9:19:07 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
> "it says 85 skilled workers year round. At 100k loaded salary on average, that's 8.5 million dollars a year. 1.5 million in spare parts and replacements..."

That's an expense, not a profit. By your logic, the more people it takes to rn a plant, the more profitable the plant becomes.


Dur, read more closely next time. 122 Million revenue - 10 million expenses = 112 million profit. (Yes I am missing other expenses)


More numbers needed
By dever on 2/28/08, Rating: 0
RE: More numbers needed
By random git on 2/28/2008 2:59:48 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Once again, government involvement takes money from the masses, and puts it into the pockets of a few individuals. In this case, the "alternative power" companies who had the most effective lobbyists.

Do you even need the answers if you've already made this hasty conclusion without any "real numbers"?


RE: More numbers needed
By jbartabas on 2/28/2008 3:06:51 PM , Rating: 2
Funny, I thought the same thing :-) He does not have the numbers, but he'll draw his own conclusions anyway ....


RE: More numbers needed
By random git on 2/28/2008 3:11:27 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah, you know 12 year old kids :-)


RE: More numbers needed
By Spuke on 2/28/2008 4:33:24 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Yeah, you know 12 year old kids :-)
No, 12 years olds make silly, incoherent statements then demand that everyone around them agree that they're true.


RE: More numbers needed
By random git on 2/28/08, Rating: 0
RE: More numbers needed
By Spuke on 2/29/2008 12:16:08 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Like the one you just made?
No the one you just made. :rollseyes: I guess some of us aren't intelligent enough to tell when someone else is agreeing with them.


RE: More numbers needed
By dever on 3/3/2008 2:50:04 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, this is based on the well known fact that solar is much less cost efficient than any of the currently dominant sources of power... so the admitted assumption on my part is that this project is heavily subsidized.

My conclusions are much more reality-based than the romantic picture painted by the author of this article.

And, like I asked, if I'm wrong, please let me know... just need some numbers. I would absolutely love to see solar more efficient than coal or nuclear. I just don't want my economic liberties sacrificed at the political whims of vote-getting hacks.


RE: More numbers needed
By Rovemelt on 2/28/2008 4:23:37 PM , Rating: 2
I imagine to get these numbers you'd have to be closely involved with the plant designers and investors. I'm curious too--if someone finds these numbers, please post them. Irrespective of that, I'm just happy to see our energy companies diversifying with their technology and am ok with our tax dollars subsidizing solar technology considering our current fossil fuel dependence and global warming.

Are you ignoring the influence all the lobbyists for fossil fuel companies have had on U.S. energy policy for decades on purpose?


By Connoisseur on 2/28/2008 11:22:58 AM , Rating: 1
I know it's been covered before but i'm curious to see if the savings in emissions will offset the initial cost/impact of creating those cells. 3square miles worth has got to cost a lot of greenhouse gases just to produce.




By eye smite on 2/28/2008 11:55:29 AM , Rating: 4
That's a good point, but by that same token developement and newer innovations in solar power won't happen unless efforts like this are made. At least give them credit for trying.


By eye smite on 2/28/2008 1:36:56 PM , Rating: 2
What's the deal with rating me down on this comment eh?


By legoman666 on 2/28/2008 12:01:45 PM , Rating: 3
Or you could, I dunno, read the article. It clearly states that the plant will not use solar cells, but use mirrors to reflect light into a water tank to heat water to 700F. No solar cells, just a crapload of mirrors.

"The plant will implement tracking mirrors on its troughs to track the sun from east to west. The troughs will concentrate the sun's rays, known as concentrated solar power (CSP) technology, as the sun travels from east to west. The receiver pipes mounted in the center of the troughs will receive this energy and use it to heat water to over 700 degrees F. The water is then sent to a heat exchanger to produce steam and generate power."


By RaulF on 2/28/2008 12:33:43 PM , Rating: 2
This is the same with anything, you have to hurt to gain.


Interesting
By DeepBlue1975 on 2/28/2008 2:32:46 PM , Rating: 1
Solar power is an appealing solution, but at this stage it is utterly inefficient for practical purposes.
Maybe Arizona has land to spare and 3sq miles of dessert lost are not important, but instead of such huge things I'd rather test the concept first on small facilities just to keep researching till the efficiency gets a bit more promising.




RE: Interesting
By eye smite on 2/28/2008 3:11:21 PM , Rating: 4
I'm sure the plant will yield new results into research, processes and future solar plants. It's a step forward and sometimes it's a clumsy step but at least efforts are being made.


RE: Interesting
By Rovemelt on 2/28/2008 4:32:56 PM , Rating: 3
I totally agree.

We'll probably find that solar plants like the one described in the article will become more economically attractive as the costs of fossil fuels rise. So, while it may not seem like a great energy investment now, this could totally change depending on supplies of other energy resources. That and there is little risk of supply disruptions...this solar plant should, in theory, operate as long as it's able to be maintained. We don't have to worry about waste issues and will probably have little environmental impact (although I wonder where they will get the water in the desert to produce steam). Arizona seems to be the ideal place for a project like this...


RE: Interesting
By docinct on 2/29/2008 6:21:47 PM , Rating: 2
Similar plants have been operating in Calif. since before 1990.
The official literature quotes "Third-generation designs of trough plants produce power for $0.08–$0.1/kWh."
and total output as "With a combined rated capacity of 354
megawatts (MW), the nine plants generate enough power to meet the needs of about 500,000 people."
I think this qualifies as testing out the concept.


RE: Interesting
By masher2 (blog) on 2/29/2008 9:42:05 PM , Rating: 2
You imply current plants are generating at 8-10 cents/kWh. This is incorrect. This NREL document places current SEGS trough plants LCOE at 17 c/kWh LCOE (about 4X current costs from nuclear or coal).

http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy03osti/33208.pdf

There are plenty of projections (including many in that same document) which suggest better results could be obtained for newer plants, down to the value you state. But it's important to remember these are paper models only , not actual costs from actual sites...and even those estimates are 2X the cost of traditional sources.

I'd also like to point out that the cost of using the molten-salt energy storage adds enormously to the cost. This NREL document estimates storage costs at 31 c/kW-h:

http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy03osti/33209.pdf


Typo.
By Benji XVI on 2/28/2008 12:32:27 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
...which will help to counteract local affects of the national economic slump


...effects. (Sorry.)

On topic: I was interested, so I looked up some numebrs. For comparison, a modern nuclear fission plant procudes around 1000MW of power and costs around $1.5 billion.

I wonder how much this will cost to build. I'd bet it's fairly competitive in that metric. And the running costs will be far lower.




RE: Typo.
By theapparition on 2/28/2008 3:56:45 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
On topic: I was interested, so I looked up some numebrs.

...numbers.

If your going to correct grammar, at least have the correct spelling. :-)


RE: Typo.
By Benji XVI on 2/29/2008 7:57:44 AM , Rating: 2
I am not being paid to write this.


RE: Typo.
By Denithor on 2/29/2008 1:52:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If your going to correct grammar, at least have the correct spelling. :-)


...and if you're going to correct spelling, make sure your own spelling is correct!

;)


RE: Typo.
By theapparition on 3/1/2008 3:59:13 PM , Rating: 2
Technically that would be incorrect word usage, not spelling.
Thanks for the correction, asshat. See why this is all pointless.


Like Gundam 00
By RaulF on 2/28/2008 12:37:36 PM , Rating: 3
Will be ever have something like that?

There are three giant towers that go thru the atmosphere to space. And then giant solar panels on them to collect solar energy. Fossil fuels are no longer required =). I know far fetch but hey is a good idea.




RE: Like Gundam 00
By nugundam93 on 2/28/2008 1:48:18 PM , Rating: 2
LOL!

but you'd need to complete an orbital elevator first. oh okay, three of them.


RE: Like Gundam 00
By habibo on 2/28/2008 3:54:41 PM , Rating: 2
And then will I have the 1.21 gigawatts I need to operate my flux capacitor?


Which is it?
By theboomboomcars on 2/28/2008 12:13:13 PM , Rating: 2
The opening paragraph states:
quote:
A new photovoltaic power plant


Later in the article it states:
quote:
The plant itself will consist of two 140-megawatt steam generators.


So it is photovoltaic or is it steam?




RE: Which is it?
By Benji XVI on 2/28/2008 12:41:35 PM , Rating: 2
The biggest
By nzalmeida on 2/28/2008 11:52:50 AM , Rating: 2
That is more than 4 times the biggest in the world, that will produce this summer when completed, 64MW and 25 times bigger than the biggest producer now an 11MW power plant. They are both on Alentejo.




Wording issue?
By jbartabas on 2/28/2008 2:07:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
There is an estimated 175 petawatts of solar energy absorbed in the upper atmosphere at any time, around 8,000 times the worldwide energy usage in 2004.


I would suggest something like '8,000 times the worldwide power consumption averaged over 2004'. Or conversely, convert the 175 petawatts in equivalent energy over 1 year.

Other that this slight wording thing, I was wondering what was the relevance of the 'solar energy absorbed in the upper atmosphere' here, as the relevant number would be more the energy transmitted through the atmosphere, i.e. reaching the ground. Energy absorbed may be more relevant for wind-driven energy, as a fraction of the energy absorbed fuel the atmosphere dynamics. Did I miss something concerning the way the plant works? Was it meant 'energy reaching the upper atmosphere'?




Scary thoughts
By MrTeal on 2/28/2008 4:11:41 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
There is an estimated 175 petawatts of solar energy absorbed in the upper atmosphere at any time, around 8,000 times the worldwide energy usage in 2004.


Ignoring the differences between power and energy (I assume you meant 175 PW of power, around 8000 times the average worldwide power usage), that's a pretty scary number. Given the explosive growth in energy usage in the last 100 years, I have to wonder how long it will be before society requires all 175 PW?




Spain not for long
By MAIA on 2/29/2008 6:52:41 AM , Rating: 2
Largest solar plant will begin its production next month here in Portugal. It's a single 46 MW plant.

Portugal holds an impressive use of renewable energy: 46% of total consumed energy.

It's seems the smaller the country, the better the use of renewables.




Arizona solar plant
By wkorthof on 3/1/2008 5:18:43 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, so many comments from left field.

This is a great development--the SEGS solar power plant model is the most viable way to build central-solar power. Glad to see Arizona is following the lead of Nevada and California with another good size solar project. This is one important mature technology among several renewable sources that need to be dramatically expanded. Because it is already a well understood "mature" technology, like wind power and photovoltaics, the key to expansion is simply building more, not R&D projects. Basic physics tells us that the efficiencies and costs of these technologies aren't going to change much. In our current system, it may cost more to develop wind turbines or solar power than it does to pump and burn oil or gas from the ground. But considering global warming and the national security problems from imported energy, it makes more sense to spend money on solar power and wind than it does invading foreign countries and sending money to prop up hostile nations. On the question of land use, I think roof-top photovoltaics and wind-turbines in farmland are ideal. But centralized thermal-solar power plants in desert areas also have a place. The land devoted to coal mining, nuclear operations, and gas/oil extraction actually make central solar look pretty land-efficient and low-impact.




Every little step
By judasmachine on 2/28/2008 11:47:40 AM , Rating: 1
Helps us.




Good for the Environment?
By blaster5k on 2/28/08, Rating: -1
RE: Good for the Environment?
By Spuke on 2/28/2008 11:45:46 AM , Rating: 2
Arizona doesn't have any aversion to nuke power so why not build another nuke powerplant there instead?


RE: Good for the Environment?
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2008 12:08:24 PM , Rating: 5
Seriously. A good nuclear plant can put out way more energy in a fraction of the space.

People are talking all about a recession and what not. While I'm not a believer of the main stream media, here's a way to solve it. We need clean energy. So build it. Lets get going on building nuclear plants. Let's do something similar to the public works projects of the great depression era. Except private industry funds it with maybe some government subsidies. Let's start a national effort to build nuclear plants to both increase our power production (which is barely adequate) and create lots of skilled and unskilled jobs. In the end we'll have plenty of clean energy.

Maybe then we can move to a national effort to improve our network infrastructure. Yes both these things are expensive but you know what? When people have jobs, they have money to spend. And when they have money to spend the economy flourishes and they don't have to go into debt to spend money. Of course such simple ideas seem to be above the heads of our corporate leaders.

All we're doing now is spending millions of dollars to do impact studies and crap like that. How about we do something that actually will make a difference.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By othercents on 2/28/2008 12:31:09 PM , Rating: 5
Nuclear plants require a bunch of water for cooling. I'm not sure how feasible it is to run one in a desert.

Other


RE: Good for the Environment?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/28/2008 12:43:17 PM , Rating: 5
Actually, the largest nuclear plant in the country is in Arizona. It's not cooled by river water, but by treated sewage piped in from Phoenix.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Spuke on 2/28/2008 1:11:45 PM , Rating: 2
I was about to say that, thanks.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By goz314 on 2/28/2008 1:14:03 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah, and it has had mediocre service record as of late. They have had to shut down reactors on numerous occaisions during the past few years not just for routine maintenance but to address safety citiations issued by the NRC.

Conequently, it's also owned by APS, the same company that will run this new solar plant.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/28/2008 1:25:34 PM , Rating: 2
Palo Verde's availability factor is still running almost 80%....over double what a solar plant is going to yield.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By goz314 on 2/28/2008 2:17:04 PM , Rating: 2
-Not when you factor in molten salt energy storage as this new plant will incorporate. There is also the possiblity to augment nighttime electricity generation with underground compressed air storage and release at a future date.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/28/2008 2:22:11 PM , Rating: 3
Salt storage (or any other storage) doesn't increase the Energy Availability Factor -- it decreases it.

EAF is the ratio of total energy delivered / maximum possible over the period. To store power for night-time delivery, you have to *subtract* that from what you could otherwise deliver during the day.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2008 2:25:18 PM , Rating: 2
Also wouldn't there be a problem if the sky was overcast for several days straight?


RE: Good for the Environment?
By goz314 on 2/28/2008 2:36:35 PM , Rating: 2
I am aware of what energy availability entails. Calculating EAF also depends on how you define the condiditions.

If one defines it as the useful energy available at the input of the steam turbine over time, then using molten salt and compressed gas storage most certainly does increase the EAF.

Conversely, your calculation uses the system energy input point as the conditions that will govern the overall power availability. That's an equally correct way of putting it, but it's not the method I was using when making my earlier comment.

If the peak daily load downstream never reaches the total theoretical output capacitiy of the plant, then why not use some method such as molten salt or underground compressed air to store the excess for use later? It's better than running with a perpetual ~50% duty cycle.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/28/2008 3:16:48 PM , Rating: 3
You're still missing the point. Let me illustrate with numbers. A standard 300MW solar plant might have a 30% AF. Let's simplify and assume 60% AF during the day, and 0% at night.

Now, toss in salt storage and optimistically assume its 50% efficient. If it operates all night, it has to be charged at double that rate during the day. For a steady-state output, you therefore need to divert 2/3 of the 300MW(0.6) daytime output to charging. That leaves 1/3(300)(0.6) = 60 MW remaining.

So you can define this as as a 300 MW plant with a 30% AF, or a 60 MW plant with a 60% AF.

Neither one looks very attractive, compared to Palo Verde's 3,800 MW at 80% AF.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By goz314 on 2/28/2008 3:24:25 PM , Rating: 2
Hey, that apple over there doesn't look like an orange. That's because it isn't. ;-)


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Spuke on 2/28/2008 3:32:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Hey, that apple over there doesn't look like an orange. That's because it isn't. ;-)
Excellent. Now we know you don't know what you're talking about.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By random git on 2/28/2008 3:31:19 PM , Rating: 1
Your math fails you. Let me help.

300 MW x .3 AF = 90 MW 24/7
60 MW x .6 AF = 36 MW 24/7

The conclusion based on this hardcore math (which seems to be beyond your grasp) is that 300 MW with 30% AF is not the same as a 60 MW plant with 60% AF and (more importantly) you are wrong.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/28/2008 3:42:27 PM , Rating: 2
> "The conclusion based on this hardcore math (which seems to be beyond your grasp)"

Oops - you forgot the conversion losses. You can't double the AF of a solar plant without storing energy, a factor I included in the calculations.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Cybesq on 2/28/2008 6:14:28 PM , Rating: 1
Is there some reason Masher2, that you don't identify yourself as Michael Asher who writes "Articles' on Daily Tech. Also, while you are at it, why don't you post your bio and credentials?


RE: Good for the Environment?
By PlasmaBomb on 2/28/2008 7:09:18 PM , Rating: 2
He is identified as Michael Asher by the little DT logo and the (blog) which links here - http://www.dailytech.com/blogs/~masher


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Spuke on 2/29/08, Rating: 0
RE: Good for the Environment?
By Cybesq on 2/29/2008 1:03:03 PM , Rating: 2
You know what? If I was posting "Articles" on behalf of Hell, I might identify myself as Satan. Michael Asher is frequently quoted as "Michael Asher from Daily Tech". Those aren't credentials. Is this the same Michael Asher who spent five years working for Chevron? Hmmmm, I wonder. If you people want Drudge Report Fox News science, I understand. People who write articles that want to be taken seriously are not afraid to discuss their qualifications, education and experience.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By UANib on 2/28/2008 8:10:27 PM , Rating: 2
With all these calculation I think some of you are assuming a few things I didn't see in the article (I could have missed it). It states there will be two 140MW steam generators, but it does not stae the solar troughs will be at 100% capacity during the day to create enough hot water to turn the generators at full capacity. There could be the possibility they will have enough over head capacity in the solar troughs to charge the salt banks during the day and still generate 280MW during the day. Also it would make sense to have the overhead to ensure sufficient power generation during inclement weather. Just my 2 cents.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/29/2008 6:50:48 AM , Rating: 2
> "Also it would make sense to have the overhead to ensure sufficient power generation during inclement weather. Just my 2 cents."

It's a valid point, but it would entail this solar station being rated differently than any other one built. The quoted figure traditionally peak output...which is generally only only available in the noontime hours, on a clear day.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By MagnumMan on 2/28/2008 10:37:55 PM , Rating: 2
Crap in, crap out?


RE: Good for the Environment?
By goz314 on 2/28/2008 2:11:11 PM , Rating: 3
I agree. Let's start stimulating the economy by tapping into the potential that solar energy has in addition to other proven power generation technologies. At least in that way we will begin to start tackling the problems posed by future energy demands in a way that begins to wean the country off of it's dependence on foreign countries and congolmerates for a significant portion of its energy supply.

Solar energy’s potential is off the chart. The energy in sunlight striking the earth for 40 minutes is equivalent to global energy consumption for a year. The U.S. is lucky to be endowed with a vast resource; at least 250,000 square miles of land in the Southwest alone are suitable for constructing solar power plants, and that land receives more than 4,500 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of solar radiation a year. Converting only 2.5 percent of that radiation into electricity would match the nation’s total energy consumption in 2006.

Tapping this potential in a meaningful way will require a significant investment in infrastructure. It will also require extensive tax subsidies to encourage industry development. Over the course of the next 30 years those subsidies would probably total to be less than the Defense Department's budget this year alone, but that's beside the point. Suffice to say, it won't be cheap.

We as average citizens have a choice that we can make. We can be apathetic as we have been and allow the current energy industry to drive our economy into ultimate stagnation, or we can be proactive and encourage our congressmen and senators to pass legislation that embraces the potential mentioned here using the technology, know-how, and ambition we as Americans have at our disposal.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Torched on 2/28/2008 2:16:01 PM , Rating: 2
Why not take the plunge and build the Polywell fusor then? It's cleaner than nuclear power and can be retrofitted onto existing nuclear plants. It's also smaller to build and cheaper to maintain.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Adonlude on 2/28/2008 12:08:14 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Three square miles for a paltry 280MW?

Seriously, especially considering you would need over 4 times that power or 6sq miles just to send a guy back to the future.

quote:
Personally, I think a more space efficient solution is better for preserving the environment and its natural beauty.

Been through Arizona? I think they can spare a few square miles of scorching desert.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Benji XVI on 2/28/2008 12:38:43 PM , Rating: 3
Precisely my thought. We cannot solve energy crises with a one-size-fits-all approach like "NUCLEAR FTW!". This is not an either/or debate. We must diversify and deploy everything where it's appropriate.

I can imagine few places more appropriate to deploy a giant solar heat trough complex than the Arizona desert.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2008 1:35:35 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that the desert isn't good for much but sunlight and this is a way to use the land in a positive way. But I hardly think we want to completely cover the desert in solar energy farms. Yes a combination of power is needed.

Honestly I wonder why we're not investing in more geothermal power research. I mean its clean and reliable. It doesn't depend on the weather. It doesn't involve any radiation. Unless the Earth's core suddenly freezes, its gonna keep working forever. Yes its expensive to build, but so is this and nuclear.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Rovemelt on 2/28/2008 5:11:50 PM , Rating: 2
I agree! Geothermal is great, but it's efficacy is somewhat dependent on location. Iceland makes great use of geothermal power (as they are pretty much sitting on a volcano), and the people there enjoy soaking in the warm water that is produced along with the power. I think Iceland gets essentially all their residential power (heating, electricity) from a combination of hydro and geothermal.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/28/2008 1:58:28 PM , Rating: 2
> "We cannot solve energy crises with a one-size-fits-all approach like "NUCLEAR FTW!"."

Why not?


RE: Good for the Environment?
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 2/28/2008 2:42:07 PM , Rating: 4
Uninformed environmentalists


RE: Good for the Environment?
By goz314 on 2/28/2008 3:12:22 PM , Rating: 2
amateur "journalists"


RE: Good for the Environment?
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2008 4:21:06 PM , Rating: 3
Yet you seem to read it.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Spuke on 2/28/2008 4:38:47 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Yet you seem to read it.
LMAO!!!! I'd rate you up if I hadn't posted already.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Doormat on 2/28/2008 2:44:14 PM , Rating: 2
Nuclear waste.

Nuclear is not clean energy. Its cleaner than coal, but its not "clean". There is a good deal of radioactive waste that is left over when a fuel rod is spent.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By ChronoReverse on 2/28/2008 2:55:59 PM , Rating: 2
Not if we used Breeder Reactors and such.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/28/2008 3:02:46 PM , Rating: 2
No. An average reactor generates about 1 cubic meter of high-level waste/year....nearly all of which could be recycled, should we ever decide to build breeder reactors again, or a rubbiatron-type generator.

Compared to the trillions of tons of natural radioactive waste left over from when the planet was made, it's an immeasureably small amount, even were we to continue using nuclear power for many thousands of years. Compared even just to the amount of radioactivity released from the uranium present in the ash from coal fired plants, its trivial as well.

Nuclear waste is a non-issue, created by those opposed to nuclear power.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Durrr on 2/28/2008 9:49:06 PM , Rating: 2
Finally, someone dispelling myths. I am in the nuclear industry, and people always talk about the radioactive waste. It really gets old explaining to people that naturally occurring isotopes have much more average activity than nuclear waste produced during fission. Better think twice about eating that Banana because of radioactive Potassium which deposits itself into your bone structure!


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Benji XVI on 2/29/2008 8:04:09 AM , Rating: 2
You're so right, just dump it in the sea.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Spuke on 2/29/2008 12:47:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You're so right, just dump it in the sea.
He just gave you some education and you STILL want to remain stupid.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By blaster5k on 2/28/2008 1:41:39 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe I have a thing for cacti.


By djkrypplephite on 2/28/2008 1:46:31 PM , Rating: 2
This plant needs moar jiggawatts.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/28/2008 12:30:43 PM , Rating: 2
> "Three square miles for a paltry 280MW?"

Don't forget your average solar plant has an availability factor of about 30-35%, meaning their total output is about 1/3 of stated peak power.

Molten salt storage will allow the station to provide power at night, but it's not going to increase total output...it will actually decrease it slightly, due to conversion losses.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By othercents on 2/28/2008 12:32:05 PM , Rating: 1
I wonder what the environmental impact is on reflecting light back into the atmosphere?

Other


RE: Good for the Environment?
By goz314 on 2/28/2008 1:10:52 PM , Rating: 2
Have you ever heard of these things called clouds and polar ice? Think about how much sunlight reflects off of them and you will probably answer your own question.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By mezman on 2/28/2008 2:41:20 PM , Rating: 2
But it's the incremental increase!!!!

Just like the incremental increase in CO2 added to the air from Human activity that's supposedly causing global warming.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By zornundo on 2/28/2008 1:18:15 PM , Rating: 2
This isn't reflecting light into the atmosphere - it reflects it to heat up the salt.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By random git on 2/28/2008 3:03:04 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for the laugh


RE: Good for the Environment?
By KingstonU on 2/28/2008 1:48:44 PM , Rating: 2
Since this is the desert, although I do think deserts can be said to have natural beauty, does anyone go there? There is almost no significant plant or wildlife, people don't go there. And the intense heat and sun that make it the desert that it, is ideal for solar power harnessing. Just a thought.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Spuke on 2/28/2008 2:18:57 PM , Rating: 2
Tons of people go to the desert for recreation out here in the southwest. There's still more desert than people though even on a holiday weekend. I have to admit, I didn't realize how much people use the desert for recreation until I moved to California.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By sonoran on 2/28/2008 3:05:30 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
desert...There is almost no significant plant or wildlife

Actually, there are lots of plants and wildlife in the Sonoran desert - it's not empty sand dunes. They will no doubt have to clear the area of saguaros and other large cacti, but I can well imagine *many* desert creatures enjoying the shade provided by these collectors, as shade is a very scarce commodity in the desert SW. The first thing that struck me upon moving to Phoenix years ago was just how incessant the sun really is - no shade, not a cloud to be seen anywhere - the sun just beats down on you from sunrise to sunset.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By random git on 2/28/2008 2:27:26 PM , Rating: 2
If the environment and natural beauty is that important to you, you should consider turn vegetarian immediately. Do you have any idea how much land it takes to produce beef, how many thousands of square miles of forest have been cleared for grazing? I don't think we can ever match that destruction no matter how much solar farms we build.

We just have to accept solar collectors and even more fugly wind turbines as a part of our future country side. There will still be many untouched areas, also in deserts, which you seem to be so fond of, because we don't really have much else to do with them.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/28/2008 3:25:24 PM , Rating: 2
The problem isn't the land use as you point out, it's the high cost of solar power generation. Even standard solar plants are much more expensive per kW-h than nuclear or coal, and things like molten-salt storage are only going to add to the cost.

And of course power plants in the Southwest can't fill the needs of the nation. Shipping power even a hundred miles incurs losses of 7% or so. Until we can build superconducting cables, transporting power across the entire country isn't feasible.

Solar most certainly has a place in our energy future, particularly in areas such as decentralized generation. But for high-energy density applications such as large power plants, the technology just isn't there yet.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Spuke on 2/28/2008 3:44:56 PM , Rating: 2
I understand what you're saying but for the others this powerplant is for Arizona use only more than likely.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By random git on 2/28/2008 3:54:45 PM , Rating: 2
I was answering to the op, who's noble concern was the environment. In reality cost is of course the main problem.

Even at a 30% AF you "only" need 5000 plants like the one in the article to create enough electricity to power the whole country. that's under 16,000 sq miles, would easily fit in the southwest. And we can build superconducting cables, I think Daily Tech had an article on one being built in Manhattan.

And who said large power plants need to have a high energy density? The sun's core produces a puny 50 watts per cubic meter yet it produces trillions of times more energy than our biggest plants on earth.

I would say that the technology is there to revolutionize the way we make electricity. It's just too expensive compared to the cheap energy sources we're used to.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/28/2008 4:15:28 PM , Rating: 2
> "we can build superconducting cables, I think Daily Tech had an article on one being built in Manhattan"

At a current cost of $40M+/mile, it's going to be a while before we can economically cover the nation with superconducting cables.

When that happens, and if the generation costs of solar ever come down to be in line with nuclear, I'll be the technology's most enthusiastic backer.

> "Even at a 30% AF you "only" need 5000 plants like the one in the article to create enough electricity to power the whole country"

According to the link below, total US capacity is now 980GW. That works out to 10,800 such plants...but that ignores energy storage. Assuming efficient molten salt approach would push that up to 18,500 plants. And that assumes demand doesn't rise over 2005 levels:

http://web.mit.edu/mit_energy/resources/factsheets...

Solar's a great idea. But it's not a solution yet.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Rovemelt on 2/28/2008 4:54:57 PM , Rating: 2
Right now, yes, solar is expensive per kwh. However, as other energy resources rise in price due to rising demand, the cost of sunlight will not change. What may not be cost effective right now may be very attractive in 10-20 years, well within the operational lifetime of the solar plant.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/28/2008 5:20:01 PM , Rating: 2
> "However, as other energy resources rise in price "

That's certainly true for coal and gas, but no reason to be so for nuclear. In fact, over the past 25 years, nuclear costs have declined steadily.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By jbartabas on 2/28/2008 5:28:14 PM , Rating: 2
The question would be: 'would that be still the case in case of a global switch to nuclear'? (ignoring the political issues raised but such an assumption).


RE: Good for the Environment?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/28/2008 5:33:27 PM , Rating: 2
There's no reason why not, given the supply of uranium is enough for world demand for many tens of thousands of years, if one assumes reprocessing.

Furthermore, world resources of thorium (which can also be used in reactors) are over three times as abundant as uranium.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By jbartabas on 2/28/2008 5:36:39 PM , Rating: 2
If you assume reprocessing, you assume increase in costs, aren't you?


RE: Good for the Environment?
By ChronoReverse on 2/28/2008 6:12:18 PM , Rating: 2
The nice thing about breeder reactors is that they generate useful energy while making fuel.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By jbartabas on 2/28/2008 6:18:03 PM , Rating: 2
But what's their operational status at the present time?


RE: Good for the Environment?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/28/2008 11:12:18 PM , Rating: 3
> "If you assume reprocessing, you assume increase in costs, aren't you? "

Somewhat yes, but not extraordinarily so. And even without reprocessing, uranium and thorium resources would last into the next millennium.

A further point to think about. Our current nuclear plants are all 1960s-era designs. We have much better designs on the books -- more efficient, cheaper to operate, safer, cleaner....but very little interest in building any.

How expensive was solar power in the 1960s?


By Comdrpopnfresh on 2/28/2008 2:59:41 PM , Rating: 2
could be that it's not the most wanted land...


RE: Good for the Environment?
By J0nsey on 2/28/2008 3:31:36 PM , Rating: 2
Nuclear and coal plants need energy to work. If you count the land that has to be mined for coal and uranium, nuclear and coal don't seem quite so space sensitive. While land is used to create a solar plant in the desert, would you rather have that land used, or a mountain top stripped in the appalachians?


RE: Good for the Environment?
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2008 4:28:10 PM , Rating: 2
We have a lot of nuclear material as it is. There's tons of nuclear waste sitting in storage tanks outside of Savanna, GA. Probably all of which could be used in nuclear power plants (not our current ones though) and then reprocessed back into fuel. It's practically an unlimited energy source. And our best bet until we master fusion.

And its not like uranium mines are all over the place. It's not as abundant a resource as coal.


RE: Good for the Environment?
By Entropy42 on 2/29/2008 11:26:23 AM , Rating: 2
Spent fuel from existing plants cannot be reprocessed at anything less than excessive cost. The spent fuel is sealed in casks for on site storage, and re-separation is very difficult.

Breeder reactors, like those mentioned in the comments above, create fuel which is much much easier to reprocess. These reactors are already used extensively in France, and reduce the radioactive waste from plants by a sizable amount. The waste from a breeder reactor will fall to the radiation levels of natural uranium after about 1000 years, unlike the decay times of current waste, which are orders of magnitude larger.

We don't use breeder reactors in the US because they were banned decades ago (this has since been overturned) because during a stage of the reprocessing, the fuel is weapons-grade material.


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