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Dell's Solar Grove, located at its headquarters in Round Rock, Texas  (Source: McBride OxBlue Camera via Jetson Green)

Children check out the Florida Power and Light's DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center outside Arcadia, Florida.  (Source: daylife)
The solar industry continues to shine brightly

As costs of solar deployments drop, many are looking to get in on a piece of the action.  Solar shingles and solar windows are just a couple of the promising technologies likely to see mass production over the next few years.  However, traditional installations are also thriving.

Dell Computer just received a completed 130 kW installation of Solar Trees at its headquarters in Round Rock, Texas.  The installation was designed by Envision Solar, BP Solar, and Weitz Company.  Contracting was handled by McBride Electric.

The resulting parking lot, dubbed the Dell Solar Grove, both provides 50 shady parking spots and clean green energy.  The lot also features Envision Solar's CleanCharge solar charging stations using the Coulomb ChargePoint technology.  These stations will help charge current and upcoming plug-in vehicles, such as the Tesla Roadster or 2011 Chevy Volt.  The plan to use solar to charge EVs is also being championed by Japanese automaker Nissan, who looks to use solar to charge up its 2011 Leaf EV.

Also making solar news is the near completion of the Soto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia, Florida.  Owned by Florida Power & Light Company, this 25 MW installation features 90,000 photovoltaic panels and will go online by the end of this month.  When it does go online, it will become one of the nation's single largest solar installations.  Together with centers in Martin County and at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida will be shortly getting 110 MW of new solar generation capacity, boosting it to the second largest solar-producing state in the nation.

The new Soto Center will generate enough power for 3,000 homes.  FPL Vice President and Chief Development Officer Eric Silagy brags, "Large-scale solar projects such as FPL’s DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center provide Florida with the opportunity to create and attract more clean-energy jobs and produce millions of dollars in new revenue for local governments while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting the effects of climate change.  Large-scale solar projects such as FPL’s DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center provide Florida with the opportunity to create and attract more clean-energy jobs and produce millions of dollars in new revenue for local governments while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting the effects of climate change."

The plant's construction and maintenance have created 400 jobs.  The project will also generate an estimated $2M USD in annual tax revenues, which will help fund schools and other local services, starting next year.  The center is estimated to cut nearly 575,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions -- the equivalent of taking 4,500 cars off the road.  It will also save 277,000 barrels of oil and 7 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

While costs are dropping, solar power costs per kWh remain higher than other forms of alternative energy.  Once that gap closes, expect solar to see an even greater jump in interest.  Until then projects like these will surely continue across the nation, albeit at a slower pace.



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Hurricane Ray
By acase on 10/27/2009 7:39:44 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Florida will be shortly getting 110 MW of new solar generation capacity, boosting it to the second largest solar-producing state in the nation.


Not positive how well solar panels hold up to harsh weather conditions, but I would imagine the first hurricane to come through would wipe a good portion of these out...




RE: Hurricane Ray
By ImSpartacus on 10/27/2009 7:47:47 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. They don't look terribly resilient, but at least Dell is trying. PR stunts FTW!


RE: Hurricane Ray
By therealnickdanger on 10/27/2009 9:35:05 AM , Rating: 1
Assuming they allow parking underneath the panels, this is a very smart way to build "solar fields". It also protects the cars from getting too hot in the sun! However, unless they build up the supports holding them up, I can see one of Dell's employees talking on her cell phone while parking and doing her makeup, crashing into a support and bringing the panel down on top of her... at least it will be a green death.


RE: Hurricane Ray
By stromgald30 on 10/27/2009 12:08:01 PM , Rating: 3
If you bothered to look closely at the pictures, you can see concrete surrounding the base of the support posts. This is similar to many of the lamp posts that are in parking lots, so I think it's safe to say that hitting one of these at 5 mph with even a SUV won't bring it down.

I don't see how this is any different than the lamp posts already in parking lots. Plus, considering the weight and area of the solar panels, I doubt it'll crush the top of a car like a giant steel lamp post will.


RE: Hurricane Ray
By kattanna on 10/27/2009 1:16:20 PM , Rating: 2
plus, think of the upshot to them being in that parking lot

higher skill rating for doing donuts!


RE: Hurricane Ray
By Cypherdude1 on 10/27/2009 7:57:00 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
so I think it's safe to say that hitting one of these at 5 mph with even a SUV won't bring it down.
I have to agree that if an SUV were to hit the solar post going, say 25 MPG, it could bring the whole thing down. An SUV weighs at least 5,500 LBS. Speaking of SUV, or any vehicle for that matter, is there even enough room to park underneath the half of the solar panels which are leaning down? Looking at the picture, it doesn't appear there is enough room.

If there is enough room, this is actually a good idea. I hope other companies copy it. Of course, companies will need to have 24 hour security camera surveillance. These solar panels are very expensive and there already have been numerous cases where thieves have gone up on roofs and stolen them.

BTW, when I first read the title, I thought Dell was the company providing power to 3,000 homes. DailyTech should rewrite their title.


RE: Hurricane Ray
By therealnickdanger on 10/27/2009 2:10:16 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think I said anything about the driver going 5 MPH, most people drive a lot faster than that through parking lots anyway. I'm not sure what planet you live on, but most solar panels weight ~3 lbs per ft^2, not including support structure. Conventional parking spaces are typically 9'x19'. Judging by the shadow cast by the panels in the picture, each array covers 3.5 x 2 parking spots.

(3.5 x 9') x (2 x 19') = 1197ft^2
1197ft^2 x 3lbs = 3591lbs = 1.8 tons (not including support structure)

Yeah, you're right, it probably wouldn't even scratch the paint.

While my hypothetical situation may never happen, if it DID happen, the array would probably fall over to one side since it is supported only by a single centerpost. So it wouldn't likely kill the driver, but some unfortunately sap standing nearby. At the very least, it would crush the just about any car it falls on unless it has a roll cage...

Anyway, going back to what I said in another thread, I think this is a cool idea, making good use of the space. In fact, if I ever build a car-port, I may just do it using panels. I just hope my wife doesn't crash into it while doing her makeup. LOL


RE: Hurricane Ray
By stromgald30 on 10/27/2009 4:12:19 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I don't think I said anything about the driver going 5 MPH, most people drive a lot faster than that through parking lots anyway.

Yeah, people usually go faster than 5 mph, and no, you never said anything about 5 mph. I was giving an example, not trying to infer a speed into your argument. I'm just saying that it looks like they can take some small hits. You can't design for everything, and if it's up to current standards for steel lamp posts, it's hard to argue for more.

quote:
Yeah, you're right, it probably wouldn't even scratch the paint.

Sheesh, talk about blatantly putting words in people's mouths. I never said anything about it doing very little damage. I said that it's less dangerous to someone in a car than hitting a lamp post. It isn't just the weight, but the area that it would be spread over. That's why IMO the lamppost will more likely hurt someone who drives into it.


RE: Hurricane Ray
By The0ne on 10/27/2009 5:48:16 PM , Rating: 2
They'll come down, trust me. You'll pay at least $1500 for one too :P

My drift turned into a slide because there were sand littered on the corner :/


RE: Hurricane Ray
By FITCamaro on 10/27/09, Rating: 0
RE: Hurricane Ray
By safcman84 on 10/27/2009 8:34:58 AM , Rating: 3
Solar panels for when its sunny, wind turbines for when its hurricane time!


RE: Hurricane Ray
By CommodoreVic20 on 10/27/2009 8:38:02 AM , Rating: 4
Not if the panels can be quickly placed in a protective position. This can happen automatically or manually. Hurricanes requires preparations, every Floridian knows that. You buy supplies, spend a day installing heavy shutters etc... This would be no exception. I doubt very highly that the engineers who designed this multi-million ( Billon? ) dollar project didn't think of hurricanes, especially with the Florida building code, which is definitely the best in the country.


RE: Hurricane Ray
By randomposter on 10/27/2009 9:54:25 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
I doubt very highly that the engineers who designed this multi-million ( Billon? ) dollar project didn't think of hurricanes

Exactly. It continues to amaze me when detractors of anything "green" make the assumption that the engineering skills of an engineer miraculously leave their body whenever they are involved in an environmental project, or the scientific skills of a scientist somehow evaporate when they are involved in an environmental study.

The people doing "green" work are bound by the same building codes, laws of physics, and rules of good science as anyone else. If you are willing to assume that the guy who designed the local coal-burning power plant crossed all his "t"s and dotted his "i"s, then logic would suggest you have the same confidence in the solar farm down the road.


RE: Hurricane Ray
By therealnickdanger on 10/27/2009 11:57:15 AM , Rating: 2
You're assuming engineers were even involved with the design. If you've ever been driving through a confusing mall parking lot and wondered "WTF were they thinking?", chances are that an engineer was never consulted. Usually, an architect will draw up a sexy plan that pleases the eye and the plan will be carried out by a contractor to the letter. While these contractors employ engineers, they don't do the actual design, they just build the thing according to the plan - assuming it follows federal/state laws and local ordinances.

I don't think the fact that this a green tech per se has anything to do with the "detractor's" comments, but is a legitimate question. You can see in the picture itself, the supports look beefy, but it maybe wouldn't take a hurricane to blow it down - some strong gusts might even do the trick, let alone debris that could smash into them. We can assume they have a protection system in place, but we don't know. All in all, I think it's a good idea and a solid design, and the odds of that particular 20,000sq-ft area being hit by a hurricane are probably low. Low enough for Dell to risk the cost.


RE: Hurricane Ray
By The0ne on 10/27/2009 5:53:07 PM , Rating: 2
You're right of course. Most companies providing green energy won't have an engineer around. You see of course people in management, architects or design layout people, doing most of the work.

Most engineers tend to "over" do designs which one can tone down but stupid designs is done by someone else and these usually require complete redesign or they just simply destroy themselves just being there.


RE: Hurricane Ray
By FITCamaro on 10/27/2009 1:07:26 PM , Rating: 2
Have you ever lived in Florida? For the vast majority of hurricanes, many people do not prepare. My parents don't unless its a Cat 3 or higher and coming at them.

Also, there's very little you can do with a solar panel designed like a sail in 100+ mph winds. Its going to to catch the wind and potentially get blown over. Or struck by debris unless you put a cover over the entire panel that is. And I have yet to ever see that.

And it doesn't address my main point that in Florida, you can go for an entire month without seeing the sun. Relying on a solar power plant for your home is ridiculous because you're still going to need to build/keep a backup plant. And why build two plants when you can build one that'll do the job regardless of the weather?


RE: Hurricane Ray
By therealnickdanger on 10/27/2009 2:17:16 PM , Rating: 2
To be completely fair, you don't need direct sunlight to get power, it will still gather power, just not as much.

I hear what you're saying though. It would be nice if we (as a nation) would embrace nuclear power for the bulk of our energy needs. Then, combined with wind/solar on individual homes/businesses, we would all live much more freely than we have ever known! Of course, this is dreamland fantasy. :(


RE: Hurricane Ray
By CommodoreVic20 on 10/28/2009 2:27:42 PM , Rating: 2
I lived in South Florida for 35 years. I have personally experienced and lived through many hurricanes, including the largest disaster of the United States, Hurricane Andrew. I lived in the southern part of Coral Gables which sustain 160+ mph over more than 8 hours during Andrew. I am also an architect and have over 20 years of construction experience, especially with the South Florida building code.

Without any doubt, on any construction project, especially of this magnitude, a licensed, insured, qualified and experienced engineer or engineering firm ( definitely in this case ) is required by law to be involved in the structural design. By law the design must meet the stringent and constantly updated hurricane resistant building code of Florida. Nothing is bullet proof but you can bet on it that the hurricanes were definitely taken into account when the design was being made.

It doesn't take a half wit to realize that there numerous solutions that can be easily implemented in protecting this project.


RE: Hurricane Ray
By stromgald30 on 10/27/2009 12:14:15 PM , Rating: 2
Well, the article did say that Florida is the second largest solar producing state in the US. I'm sure many of their solar farms have gone through a few hurricanes, and they would be designed with hurricanes in mind.

The DeSoto plant isn't the one pictured, so they could be much closer to the ground or have some other protection from the wind. Dell's location in Austin, TX rarely sees hurricane like winds, so it makes more sense to build 'solar trees'.


RE: Hurricane Ray
By mars2k on 10/27/2009 1:35:47 PM , Rating: 2
Did anybody notice that the Dell installation is in Round Rock Texas? The only thing Round Rock would ever get out of a hurricane would be some rain.....maybe. Not wind. You guys have got Florida mixed up with central Texas.


"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997














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