Print 28 comment(s) - last by CommodoreVic20.. on Oct 28 at 2:27 PM

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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RE: Hurricane Ray
By FITCamaro on 10/27/2009 7:50:48 AM , Rating: 0
Not to mention months like June where it can be cloudy and raining for an entire month at a time. Sorry kids, no AC today, the power plant isn't putting out enough juice.

FPL is already known as Florida Flicker'n Flash due to their spotty power. Hell I even worked out at Kennedy Space Center for a summer in college and we STILL lost power at times. You'd think the headquarters building for NASA at KSC would be high on their priority list for maintaining power to.

This new solar installation definitely doesn't look to change that. And yeah if a hurricane comes through, I don't see a solar farm weathering the storm too well. I'd put a solar installation on a house in Florida. But definitely wouldn't depend on it for the sole source of power year round.

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
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.

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