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Cleantech's solar array will be seven times larger than the next closest rival

Portugal announced in April that it was home to one of the world's largest solar arrays. The 150 acre, 11-megawatt (MW) solar plant was built by Catavento and PowerLight Corporation and is capable of powering 8,000 homes in Serpa.

Cleantech America LLC., a San Francisco-based company, plans to build a solar farm that would far eclipse the one built in Portugal. The new 80 MW farm, known as the Kings River Conservation District Community Choice Solar Farm, will be situated on 640 acres of land and is scheduled to be completed by 2011.

"We're pretty confident that solar farms on this scale are going to have an industry-changing impact," said Cleantech CEO Bill Barnes. "We think it's the wave of the future. This scale of project, I think, creates a tipping point for renewable energy."

"We think the impact for it will be similar to the impact of the computer chip," Barnes continued. "So too will economies of scale like the Community Choice farm drive down the cost of solar."

Cleantech estimates that the energy generated by the solar array will be enough to power 20,000 homes.



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640 acres is a lot of land
By drank12quartsstrohsbeer on 7/10/2007 9:31:55 AM , Rating: 5
What is going to happen to the land itself? Will plants and little critters be able to survive underneath these panels or will they destroy the habitat?




RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By mars2k on 7/10/2007 9:45:05 AM , Rating: 1
You're talking about desert here. This is one square mile. This is not a solid panel. What critters? What plants?


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By LogicallyGenius on 7/10/2007 11:58:51 AM , Rating: 5
ya, its better than those bioFuel farms created by chopping the native forests.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By dever on 7/10/2007 3:41:16 PM , Rating: 2
More importantly, how much special-interest money is helping to fund this? I'd be surpised if this is anywhere near feasible without raping individual incomes through taxation and giving the proceeds to a large energy company.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By RogueSpear on 7/10/2007 9:19:44 PM , Rating: 2
Much more of your money is going to support oil and corn farmers. So what exactly do you mean by "special interest money"? Do you even have any idea of what you're talking about?


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By Chernobyl68 on 7/10/2007 6:03:57 PM , Rating: 2
Fresno isn't exactly a desert, is it?


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By MrTeal on 7/10/2007 9:45:16 AM , Rating: 3
One square mile. I wonder how many square miles the 2200 MW Diablo Canyon nuclear plant sits on?


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By kattanna on 7/10/2007 10:03:34 AM , Rating: 2
the actual lot size with all the buildings/parking lots..etc is maybe 40 acres. though the plant also encompases several hundred acres of pristine land used for grazing and wildlife.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By TomZ on 7/10/2007 10:08:32 AM , Rating: 5
OK, so this project will use 16X the amount of land to produce 1/27th the amount of energy. I guess efficient land use is not one of the selling points.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By FITCamaro on 7/10/2007 10:27:12 AM , Rating: 2
/sarcasm

Nuclear power is evil though.

/end sarcasm


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By ZmaxDP on 7/10/2007 11:01:28 AM , Rating: 5
Gee, since it is southern California, why don't they just set up a requirement that any homes use a certain amount of their roof area for solar energy collection and then subsidize it with rebates on solar panels and inverters. Each home gets a grid tied system and lower energy bills with less cost to the state overall. And, you aren't using up an "pristine" land that isn't already built on.

Oh wait, that is a practical idea - it would never go over in any state or federal government, much less California...


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By ZmaxDP on 7/10/2007 11:02:29 AM , Rating: 2
Should be "less cost to the state and consumer overall." Kind of an important point.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By jaybuffet on 7/10/2007 1:12:19 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure about California, but I believe some places already do this. In fact, if you provide energy to the grid, they will credit your account


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By Cygni on 7/10/2007 1:23:19 PM , Rating: 4
the problem with your idea is that you are looking at 20+ years before the solar panels will pay themselves off to the homeowner. forcing an area with already over inflated housing costs (and general cost of living) to add $20,000 to their cost of ownership for some dream of saving the air, when the fact of the matter is that LA's cars create way more polution than its energy production, is a pretty bad idea. especially considering the fact that producing a solar pannel has a pretty significant carbon footprint itself.

forcing people to put the inefficient solar panels we have today on their houses is not the answer, and its not a new or novel solution that nobody has thought of. solar as of today is not world saving, nor is it 'as significant as the computer chip.' the only solution i see is nuclear, but the general public is too timid to embrace Gen3/4 nuclear plants yet.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By blaster5k on 7/10/2007 2:11:17 PM , Rating: 3
I completely agree. Nuclear is the best option we have to fight climate change, but yet so many environmentalists refuse to consider it.

The problem I see with all the renewables is the amount of land area they take to generate a significant amount of power. Sure, there are deserts and such where you could throw this stuff, but if you want to build enough to make a real difference, you're going to ruin habitats and screw with nature in other ways.

Nuclear produces more power for the amount of space than pretty much anything we can do today -- and it's even affordable. Virtually all the pollution is contained and manageable (most of the U.S. nuclear waste stockpiles are from creating high grade plutonium for weapons programs -- not power plants). With each generation of designs, they keep getting safer and safer. The generation IV designs look especially promising.

One of these days, "environmentalists" will wake up and realize that nuclear power is the only way we can realistically put a dent in emissions.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By Tsuwamono on 7/10/2007 2:40:23 PM , Rating: 1
The reason they are against it is because its good now but bad down the road. Although if we dont do something now there wont be a down the road to worry about lol. I think Nuclear is the best option to buy us time to figure out Fission.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By blaster5k on 7/10/2007 2:58:37 PM , Rating: 2
I think you mean fusion. Lots of money has been spent over the years trying to produce a working fusion reactor without much success. It remains to be seen if it will ever be a viable concept. Some people think it might be a hundred years before we overcome a lot of the issues with it. Fission is quite sustainable anyhow -- especially with reprocessing and breeder reactors. Supposedly, the fuel supply will last longer than the sun will.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By Terberculosis on 7/10/2007 4:09:28 PM , Rating: 2
http://www.iter.org/

I think 100 years is a bit of an overestimate


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By Ringold on 7/10/2007 6:32:11 PM , Rating: 2
It's being built in France. Doesn't bode well.
Notice the artists rendering on the home page. It doesn't exist yet.
Even when it's completed, completion doesn't mean successful operation.
Even when it's succesfully operated, that doesn't mean commercial viability.
Commercial viability doesn't mean "Fusion power plants in every back yard!"
I wouldn't count on ITER or fusion in general to save the day any time soon..


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By Chernobyl68 on 7/10/2007 6:07:28 PM , Rating: 2
pretty sure we already have fisson fugured out! :p


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By TomZ on 7/10/2007 2:59:27 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
One of these days, "environmentalists" will wake up and realize that nuclear power is the only way we can realistically put a dent in emissions.

Nuclear power doesn't fit well with the "environmentalists" because it doesn't benefit them in any way. With things like the so-called "global warming crisis" and things like that, they can whip the public into a frenzy, which gives them some degree of control over our culture, lifestyle, politics, personal choices, and checkbooks.

Nuclear power solves far more problems then it creates, and if they were truly objective in considering what is best for the environment and people, and what is also economically sustainable, they'd be behind it.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By RogueSpear on 7/10/2007 9:26:34 PM , Rating: 2
I always find it interesting how the people here who have such a crisis of conscience when it comes to the batteries in hybrid cars going in a landfill (hint - they're largely recycled) have no such qualms regarding the waste produced by a nuclear power plant.

It's also depressing at best that whenever there's news or some article about technology or a project that attempts to be environmentally responsible, the pro nuclear and pro fossil fuel crowd always has a lot to say in the negative. Devil's advocate is one thing, being a shill is quite another.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By TomZ on 7/10/2007 10:38:42 PM , Rating: 2
Let's stick to the debate, and avoid the name calling, ok?

Nobody has mentioned anything about hybrid car batteries going into landfills, or anything even remotely related to spent nuclear fuel going in or anywhere near a landfill. I don't understand the correlation you draw between these ideas.

I am personally reacting to the misguided perception that solar power is an environmental panacea (which it isn't) and to the general dislike of nuclear power by environmentalists (which is illogical).


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By RogueSpear on 7/11/2007 6:18:36 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Let's stick to the debate, and avoid the name calling, ok?

Name calling? Please point out where I did that.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By PrinceGaz on 7/11/2007 10:37:26 AM , Rating: 2
I don't normally find myself agreeing with you, but I'm fully with you on the nuclear power issue.

If environmental campaigners really want to save the planet, the only viable way of generating the power we need today without burning fossil-fuels is by nuclear-fission. Wind-farms and solar-plants generate relatively small amounts of power and cannot be relied on as a major source of energy (wind-farms don't generate much power on calm days, and solar-plants produce next to nothing at night), yet are disproportionately expensive and use large areas of land.

I want to save the planet (it's the only one we've got) and the only way I can see of doing it is building more nuclear plants.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By 9nails on 7/10/2007 8:14:17 PM , Rating: 2
Nuclear seems like a fair product until you have to deal with radioactive waste. Then I'm not all that wild about it.

I still like the idea of tidal current turbine generators using high and low tidal flows to turn the blades. (Sort of like wind farms, except using the ocean currents for the wind.) But that only works for coastal countries and hasn't been implemented any place that I'm aware of.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By TomZ on 7/10/2007 8:59:33 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Nuclear seems like a fair product until you have to deal with radioactive waste. Then I'm not all that wild about it.

The nuclear power industry and government has done an excellent job managing used nuclear fuel so far. I haven't heard of any problems or accidents relating to nuclear waste through all the years, have you?

That industry's record is much better compared to the other two major forms of electricity generation - coal and natural gas - where the waste byproducts of burning the fuel are simply released into the environment, including the radiation emitted from coal-fired plants.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By oTAL on 7/11/2007 2:22:07 PM , Rating: 2
You forgot about oil spills...
Thousands of animals painfully dying in a single accident.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By tygrus on 7/10/2007 10:40:21 PM , Rating: 2
Photovoltaic Solar Panels are not econonomical in several ways (already mentioned by others). Solar furnaces require glass&metal not silicon, and are a lot more economical. 640acres would recieve about 2900MW peak solar energy. Less than 2.8% (80M) of this will be harnessed by the specified solar array taking up equivalent of ?% of the land (each panel is <100% covered by solar cells, panels are spaced apart). Solar furnace can be >3x more efficient than standard solar panels.
Remember that land in a dessert is cheaper and already is under utilised (low use by nature and humans). What is regarded as desserts frequently have some vegitation but low importance in the scheme of things.

One problem with solar panels on the suburban roof is then being shadowed by taller buildings and trees.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By zombiexl on 7/10/2007 9:47:40 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
What is going to happen to the land itself? Will plants and little critters be able to survive underneath these panels or will they destroy the habitat?

Who cares it will be more than 8x larger than the one in Portugal. So what if we trade one green type thing for another.
</sarcasm>

Anyway, thats a good question. I'd like to know the answer as well. It would be shameful for a company to promote doing something "green", while destroying 640 acres. Somehow I think they will not kill the land, but you never know i guess.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By TomZ on 7/10/2007 9:54:40 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think it will be any more or less destructive than other human uses for land, e.g., agricultural, industrial, commercial, or residential use. Whatever currently lives there will live there no more.

The bigger question in my mind is whether this provides energy that is more cost-effective than other energy production methods. To me, building a big solar array is not any great accomplishment, if it results in energy that costs some number of times more than energy from other sources. Being "green" is a good thing, but "green" is only sustainable if it is combined with economic efficiency. Otherwise, it doesn't scale up to really help solve the problems at hand.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By zombiexl on 7/10/2007 2:48:39 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah I noticed when the deregulated electricity that it was always more expensive to choose a "green" provider. Not sure if that was greed, lack of customers or (more likely) the much higher expense of being green.

it aint easy (or cheap) being green.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By Shintai on 7/10/2007 9:58:30 AM , Rating: 2
It depends on the location. If desert etc.

But atleast in green fertile areas here. There is sheeps and other domestic animals walking around the solar panels and eating grass.

Its easy to mix many interests.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By masher2 (blog) on 7/10/2007 10:10:14 AM , Rating: 4
> "There is sheeps and other domestic animals walking around the solar panels and eating grass."

It doesn't work that way. Solar panels work by occluding sunlight. Grass doesn't grow where there is no sun. Nor can you farm underneath a solar panel either. There is certainly some small amount of land between panels, but the area covered by a panel isn't useful for grazing or anything else.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By Shintai on 7/10/2007 10:31:55 AM , Rating: 2
You do now alot of plants, including grass dont need direct sunlight?

And yes..grass grows.
http://www.fotosearch.com/bigcomp.asp?path=AGE/AGE...


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By masher2 (blog) on 7/10/2007 10:45:14 AM , Rating: 3
Here's a link to a photo of a real solar array, not a few cells sitting in someone's backyard. See any grass growing under those panels?

http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=6738

And even for smaller panels such as your photo displays, the same issue applies. They block a certain percentage of sunlight. So grass may still grow underneath them...but its less grass, and it grows slower.

The total amount of food energy obtainable from an acre of land is a linear function of the solar energy impinging upon it. Every square foot you cover with solar panels subtracts from that. Thus-- even if you allow grazing on that land-- you need a substantially larger piece of land to service the same number of animals.

As for modern farming, its just not possible under solar cells, even small ones. Irrigation, crop spraying, harvesting equipment, etc...none of it works well in tiny confined spaces like that.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By IckesTheSane on 7/10/2007 2:21:45 PM , Rating: 3
MIT's Technology Review had a photo essay on that solar plant in Portugal.

http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/18300/

In it, they do list that "The panels are high enough off the ground for sheep to graze underneath, and the Serpa park will double as pasture for livestock."

I'm sure the grass will not grow as well as if nothing was covering it up, but it is certainly better than using the land for a single purpose when it can be used for two.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By ZmaxDP on 7/10/2007 2:27:44 PM , Rating: 2
I really liked the nice backyard solar image. Of course, that would never happen at a commercial plant for maintenance reasons, etc... Also, in commercial plants the solar panels move to track the sun all day - usually animals don't like that.

Masher's image is dead on, and still a little idyllic. What is sad is that California chose to endorse and likely help fund a large percentage of a commercial plant. Unlike a nuclear of coal power plant, you can disperse solar cells over a wide area (think rooftops in a city) and get the same electricity generation without having to develop new land. If you'd just put a three kilowatt array on top of every asphalt shingle roof in California, you'd get a hell of a lot more generation capacity than what they're talking about here, and they could get the owners of most of those houses to finance a bit of it out of pocket rather than out of their taxes. Heck, if you really put that many solar panels out there, you'd not only get their costs down per panel by a large factor, the state would end up generating solar power for the rest of the country during peak load times. That's the most valuable form of energy available. I'm not saying get rid of the nuclear and coal and wind generation, you need something to handle capacity that solar isn't ideal for, but it would quickly make California's energy crisis evaporate if they'd just get some decent rebates, tax incentives, and financial assistance worked out...


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By cheburashka on 7/10/2007 3:21:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If you'd just put a three kilowatt array on top of every asphalt shingle roof in California

Most homes in California do not use asphalt shingles.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By Ringold on 7/10/2007 6:44:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
you'd just put a three kilowatt array on top of every asphalt shingle roof in California, you'd get a hell of a lot more generation capacity than what they're talking about here, and they could get the owners of most of those houses to finance a bit of it out of pocket rather than out of their taxes.


Simple government bonds would probably provide vastly superior returns -- at current prices. Current prices which would skyrocket if such a plan were pushed, like prices already have thanks to Germany's voracious appetite for solar panels that it can barely efficiently use. Most homes probably also consume much more than what a simple 3kw setup could provide even at high noon on a summer day. Especially at high noon on a summer day.. The economics just don't even come close to being rational.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By nah on 7/11/2007 10:47:00 AM , Rating: 2
and here I was about to post masher, where are you ;)


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By DeepBlue1975 on 7/10/2007 4:52:40 PM , Rating: 2
That's completely true...
But if you use rotating solar panels which vary its position according to then sun's position, using a constant angle that is a bit less than optimal but good enough for your purposes, you can cast a shadow that is not the biggest one in any moment, and better yet, is never focused in the same place during the day, so that grass and all that stuff could still grow beneath a solar panel array.

The problem to my idea is that perhaps it'd take, for the panel to move, a bit of the energy it generates, making this yet more inefficient.

The problem with solar energy is not the idea of solar energy as it is, but rather the way that we, by now, know or try to harness that energy.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By JediSmurf on 7/10/2007 10:26:57 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
There is sheeps and other domestic animals walking around the solar panels and eating grass.


Oh come on, "there is sheeps?" subject-verb conflict is acceptable enough. English may not be your language even, but "sheeps"? Sigh.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By blckgrffn on 7/10/2007 10:43:08 AM , Rating: 2
I actually raised sheep growing up, and I know that at least my area, sheep were sometimes called "sheeps" just for kicks... I doubt that happened there though =)

Nat


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By Misty Dingos on 7/10/2007 6:58:57 PM , Rating: 2
Nothing is going to happen to the land. Other than some welcome shade in the desert.

This is the typical response to someone who fancies themselves enlightened and in reality has no concept of what the world is really like.

Would you support a nuclear or coal power plant there instead of the solar array? Not likely. California needs more electricity to meet their growing demands. It has got to come from somewhere. Let me explain.

This is very simple. Try to keep in mind when it comes to power needs. They are going to keep going up. Conserve all you want but the requirements for electricity are going to rise for the foreseeable future. So we are going to have to generate more power. Since we need to generate more power we are going to need more power plants. Wind, solar, tidal, and even ocean currents. We are going to need these power resources. So quit crying about the Gumby desert rat and the purple spotted puke flower. What the rest of us want to hear from you eco-nuts is red is positive and black is negative.

If you can't get these simple facts and are still in denial. Symptoms of this would be wanting the world to turn to an agriran economy or feeling that the world would be better if we just lived in trees again. If this is you then walk or travel to the nearest coast line. Walk into the surf and embrace the mother ocean. Keep walking until the water is over your head. Breathe deeply until no air remains in your lungs. Thank you now the rest of us can go about building the future of mankind and not revert to the past.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By TomZ on 7/10/2007 7:55:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Would you support a nuclear or coal power plant there instead of the solar array?

Yes, I would. We have a number of nuclear power plants here in Michigan, and I would support building more, if that was possible. Building solar farms is an inefficient use of land relative to nuclear power.

I'm not saying I think solar is "bad," I'm only saying it is an inefficient use of land, that's all.

Cheap energy is good for our economy and standard of living, and we should work towards efficient, cost-effective ways to produce more energy.


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By Dactyl on 7/10/2007 11:07:12 PM , Rating: 2
Just like Alaskan wildlife enjoys the warmth of the pipeline, I'll bet the critters there will enjoy hanging out in the shade.

Why do some people assume that everything humans do is bad for cuddly widdle forest animals?


RE: 640 acres is a lot of land
By euclidean on 7/12/2007 1:07:02 PM , Rating: 2
They should put palm tree shapped solar panels on all stree lights/parking lot light poles....imagine how much energy you could get from something like that?


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