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California's First Solar Thermal Plant in 20 Years

A funny thing about solar thermal. It works great, is cheap, easy to build, easy to maintain, and has been profitable for decades. But no one's been building them!

Why? Simply because utilities are too lazy to deal with developing new technologies and, in the absence of other pressures, would much rather just keep the buy ultram 50 mg online status quo.

So now that there (finally) are other pressures, like impending carbon taxes, pressure from state and national government to clean up power generation, and the possible end of the freaking world, we're finally seeing solar thermal plants go online again. The first Californian plant in over 20 years went online today, in fact, on a nice sunny day.

The plant is the first built by Ausra which is already planning a similar plant in Las Vegas. They're somewhat famous for their claim that they could power all of America with a mere 92 square miles of cheap viagra india land. While technically true, 92 square miles of solar is a pretty daunting project.

The plant basically uses flat mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a pipe containing oil. The oil is heated to magnificent temperatures and then the pipe runs through a vat of water. The water instantly boils, creating steam that then drives a turbine, creating electricity.

The plant is small, only 5 megawatts, but their second project, planned for next year, will be 117 megawatts. An average coal plant is roughly 800 megawatts.

Solar thermal projects are particularly appealing because they produce most of their power when people are using the most electricity in warm climates (when all the air conditioners are on.) Other solar thermal start-ups (like eSolar) are working on their own similar systems to compete with Ausra. But right now, it looks like they'll all succeed fairly well because desire for these plants far outstrips the only best offers generic cialis from china capacity of the companies to build them.

Via GreenTechMedia

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Comments (30)Add Comment
written by Tom Saxton, October 23, 2008
It's actually a square 92 miles on each side, which is 8464 square miles.
Ausra = Direct Steam Power
written by Willy, October 23, 2008
Ausra's solar fields do not use an oil at all. They are different from Nevada Solar One and the SEGS plants because water is boiled in the piping through the solar field;
written by e, October 23, 2008
while i agree that utilities companies hadn't been terribly proactive until the recent past, on what basis do you believe that solar thermal is low maintainence and cost effective? the power storage and off-peak hours issues from any solar energy source alone provide plenty of frustrations and economic disincentives. i like your reporting but making such doe-eyed blanket statements over unproven technologies will really hurt the public perception of renewable energies in the long run.
written by Jake, October 23, 2008
Also, we must remember that deserts don't equal wasted space.
Deserts are not wasted space
written by JP, October 23, 2008
I agree with Jake above. Deserts are not wasted space, they are vibrant eco-systems and are commonly looked at as wastelands. I have personally visited one of these solar plants in the desert east of us online pharmacy cheap tramadol cod LA, and it might as well be a parking lot. If this could somehow be implemented on the roofs of huge commercial warehouses or distribution centers then we may have something.

The Chic Ecologist
written by Ken Roberts, October 23, 2008
I'm also curious about the water consumption. Hank, you say that solar thermal boils water in order to turn a turbine. Is the water captured, or released into the air? If it is not captured, then this could cause significant water consumption. What is the water consumption per kilowatt? How does that compare to other sources of energy?
Oil price
written by Phil, October 23, 2008
That's the current incentive to tramadol cheap no rx overnight not bother with solar investments. I believe it makes it the lowest price on viagra perfect time to invest in renewables such as solar, because when oil prices rise again businesses will be cash-strapped and it will be too late. This is the dilemma of renewable energy development: high oil prices means lack of funding due to rising costs, low oil prices means lack of incentives to invest in renewables.

A smart long-term thinking company, like Google are known to be, will use the current opportunity to invest in renewable energy so as to not be caught off guard when oil prices rise again. While the competition will see its earnings negatively affected by high oil prices, those who will have invested in renewable energy will see their earnings positively affected thanks to levitra lowest price long-term planning.
written by RV, October 24, 2008
JP, Southern California Edison is starting a large program on putting up Solar panels on the roofs of large warehouse in Southern California. It's been applauded by the Governator. :)
Water Consumption
written by JP, October 24, 2008
I can answer some of Ken Roberts question. The water is usually collected and discharged into onsite holding ponds. It is reused several times, but there is an element of evaporation, and being in the desert, it has to get there somehow as well.
solar thermal plant
written by david, October 24, 2008
I am sure the whole plant will cost a lot of cialis legal money.If it really works,we will be happy.
Small potatoes
written by Steve N. Lee, October 24, 2008
I've just posted two articles on my blog about similar stories to this one, making up a top 20 of environmental success stories. You'd be amazed how many truly massive green projects like this are being undertaken around the globe.

For example, Australia is building the world's biggest solar thermal plant which will power 100,000 homes. It's hoping to use solar thermal to generate a whopping 40% of the country's power needs by 2020.

People will be amazed at just how many wind farms and solar plants are spriging up all over the tramadol without prescription and free shipping globe. Some in the most surprising places where you'd never dream green technology would be a priority. It is heartwarming. And about time!

Nice to see California pushing forward again with this project (it features in my list, too). Let's hope more states follow its lead.

Steve N. Lee
author of eco-blog
and suspense thriller 'What if...?'

On water consumption:
written by EV, October 24, 2008
Typicly, an oil of some sort (think mineral) is used to transfer heat from the collectors to only now buying cialis in canada a central location. The Oil is then cooled by water, producing steam, which turns turbines. This greatly reduces the amount of water required. There are also other fluids/gases that can be used for turning the turbines, several of which can be a completely closed cycle system. What they use will be up to them and will probably depend on the local area.
On land use
written by EV1, October 24, 2008
Solar power like Ausra's could power the whole country using *less land than we use for coal mining*. And unlike the coal mining use, the plants will generate power essentially forever; components will be replaced as they wear out in 40 years, but no more land will be needed to produce the same energy every year.
written by Ken Roberts, October 24, 2008
Thanks for the viagra without prescription uk water usage replies.
written by Loosely_coupled, October 24, 2008
I'm no powerplant engineer, but I would have to assume that if water/steam is used for energy transfer in a solar-thermal system it would be in a proper closed-cycle architecture and not just venting a huge volume of steam into the atmosphere.. Obviously that would be nonsensical..
written by Ken Roberts, October 25, 2008
To loosely, you should see some nuclear power plant designs. Especially ones located near rivers. Remember the drought in Georgia? A big reason why we couldn't stop sending more water out of our reservoirs than we were receiving into them was because of 2.5mg cialis a nuclear power plant downstream in Alabama, that required a huge sum of water in order to operate.
written by D Kennedy, October 27, 2008
I'm not so sure about solar thermal being easy to maintain. Those mirrors get scratched up and cialis daily knocked out of place by windblown sand.
water usage
written by energywonk, October 30, 2008
Folks, let's not confuse solar thermal with nuclear. As Loosely pointed out, it would be silly to discharge hot water from a thermal-transfer system. With nuclear, on the other hand, they *want* to dissipate heat and carry it away from the core. Heat is a necessary "input" into many industrial processes. Capturing and using waste heat (i.e. from nuclear plants) is arguably "greener" than building huge new solar thermal plants, often with a much better ROI.
written by Sally C., October 30, 2008
So that's what it is! I think this is next to the 99Fwy near Delano, CA -- not techically a desert, in the middle of prime farm country. Near some packing plants, as I recall. I've been curious each time we drove by.

We put a photovoltaic system on our roof this July, leased from SolarCity. We've saved at least $300 net electric costs already. When rates go up we'll save even more.
written by Carl, October 30, 2008
The water issues, pertaining to feed water loops, should not be a major concern given that steam generation plants use closed loop systems with condensers and other equipment to convert steam back to feed water. What is a problem is the means in which the feedwater is cooled. The water usage for this, depending on scale, would be similar to any other power plant of a comparable scale. As for capturing waste heat from nuclear coolant systems, the coolant water used to cool feedwater is not heated to a pressure that will turn turbines.
written by stop killing our deserts, October 31, 2008
water comments are waaaaaayyyyyy off here. first of all, to get any kind of decent efficiency in a hot desert, like the Mojave, the system has to be WATER COOLED, which means billions and billions of gallons every year. bright source, planning CSP at Ivanpah, has 'fessed up to 35 million gallons/year just to rinse their mirrors. this is UNACCEPTABLE in desert climates where water is scarce and precious. and the hotter it gets, the LESS efficient CSP is. it's a dead end technology that kills 10 acres for every MW produced, and requires giant transmission infrastructure which releases huge numbers of GHGs. did i mention that most of these plants are also largely gas-fired?

these plants are a greenwashed attempt to re-centralize and re-monopolize electricity production in an era when it is both environmentally and levitra injectable financially possible to decentralize it and focus it on point of use solutions.

please, don't believe the Big Solar and Big Wind propaganda! these are wilderness killers, and the Mojave is a proven effective carbon sink, if left intact! our next round of solutions can NOT make dead ecosystems a falsely externalized cost. the planet has had it up to HERE with our destruction. the next phase has to go easy on our poor environment. that means policies that support cheaper, better rooftop solar and conservation.
Solar Thermal in Iraq?
written by JDS, November 03, 2008
Why aren't tons of these plants, which seem to be a good, stable source of electricity being built in Iraq? Instead, they suffer with electricity only for a few hours per day.
need space?
written by z, November 05, 2008
How about setting up shop along the international interstate highway system.
Just run a couple of pipelines along the way and have them detour into generators every once in a while.
Finally, Alternative Energy Era Has Come
written by charles, November 06, 2008
Nice to here US is finally openning up eyes and seeing the need to for alternative energy sources to be a significant source of energy and get off middle east oil addiction.

reply to ...
written by Willy, November 12, 2008
It is the Wet Cooling in a solar thermal plant that uses up most of the water. But if we develop better Dry cooling technology we can surpass today's current Wet Cooling efficiencies.

And a plant like Nevada Solar One uses less than 2% natural gas, so the try it low cost cialis argument that they are "largely gas-fired" is not true.

Rooftop solar still requires mining of rare elements like cadmium-telluride, indigo, etc. Even if we used the world's supply of these minerals, we would have nowhere near the power generation needed.
response to all
written by Bad Man, November 16, 2008
All, I was just surfing for the cost of some of these PG&E solar projects when I cam across this site. I've observed a misunderstanding about how power plants work.
(1) If water is used as a medium, you will try to recycle it after running it through the turbine. Not only does this reduce costs of replacing the water, you also get higher efficiencies in your system due to the vacuum created by changing discharge steam to liquid.
(2) The steam put off from nuke plants is not created from the turbines - it's part of the cooling system. Just like sweat on your arm, water can be evaporated to increase cooling to your system. Where water is scarce, one can use a radiator-type system similar to what you use in your car. Regardless, the coolant medium used in a solar plant and the evaporative cooling that takes place at a nuke plant are two different things.
(3) I hope you folks are distinguishing between the different methods that are being bandied about here. Photovoltaics (like on your calculator) are different than using a big mirror to heat oil.
(4)Finally, check out other processes, such as the organic rankin (OCR) cycle. It uses a fluid that has a lower boiling point than water, so therefore doesn't need as high a temperature to operate.
Sunny Days
written by Sunny Days, December 22, 2008
There are pros and canadian pharmacy cialis cons to fossil fuel and solar power solutions. The future of increased electrical energy demands dictates that our resources be utilized conservatively and enviromentally responsibly. According to Ausra, their solar thermal power solution can be "bolted" onto existing fossil fuel power plants to reduce emissions as a hybrid solution or developed as a full scale baseload electric power plant with zero carbon emissions. Check out the following link. releases/AusraAust announcement - FINAL[1].pdf
Ausra is already doing this in Austrailia. My forecast is for sunny days.
Learn Some Math
written by T, March 22, 2009
do you not know math. 92 squared = 8464. so if its 92 square miles, it has 8464 miles inside, jeez. go to school
California's First Solar Thermal Plant in 20 Years
written by Solar China, December 07, 2010
compare the cialis generic canada solar project ?how about the price percent than solar Thermal ?
it is solar Thermal great project.
written by flyer printing, November 22, 2011
Just run a couple of pipelines along the way and have them detour into generators every once in a while.

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