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Google Invests In World's Largest Solar Power Tower Plant

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the getting-plenty-of-sun dept.

Google 387

cylonlover writes "Google has chipped in a US$168 million investment in what will be the world's largest solar power tower plant. To be located on 3,600 acres of land in the Mojave Desert in southeastern California, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) will boast 173,000 heliostats that will concentrate the sun's rays onto a solar tower standing approximately 450 feet (137 m) tall. The plant commenced construction in October 2010 and is expected to generate 392 MW of solar energy following its projected completion in 2013."

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387 comments

Solar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811214)

There should be more than enough energy in the Sun to power their servers.

Re:Solar (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811568)

I just played an mp3 and then sent it to the rubbish bin and emptied it ... and it's still playing!
Where is teh music coming from?

Story may not be right (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811590)

> There should be more than enough energy in the Sun to power their servers.

Can we just go ahead and say there is more than enough energy in the Sun to power their servers? I know all the epistemological concerns about truthiness, but I don't think most of them really apply here...

Also, does anyone know whether Google is investing or we are? How much of a tax benefit do they get from this?

Re:Story may not be right (1)

smelch (1988698) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811614)

Well they certainly aren't getting more than their investment back from the US, so I would say Google is investing in this.

Re:Story may not be right (1)

softWare3ngineer (2007302) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811702)

They already got it back from the government. Unless you think Google gave them 30% of the gross income(50 billion) they made last year, like many individuals do every year.

Re:Story may not be right (1)

smelch (1988698) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811770)

Wow, so you're one of those "the government didn't take their money which is the same as giving it to them" people. Well you sir should just shut up then because thats an asinine position to take.

Re:Solar (1)

God'sDuck (837829) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811788)

There should be more than enough energy in the Sun to power their servers.

Unless there's an injunction. Oracle's already suing Google for using Sun's code in Android. I'm assuming they'll be adding this exploit to the suit.

What would happen to the birds? (0, Offtopic)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811218)

I wonder what would happen to the birds who fly into the beam near the focal point. Or would there be enough thermal convection signals there to scare them off?

Re:What would happen to the birds? (2)

cobrausn (1915176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811252)

Probably would not harm them as much as wind power does, depending upon who [wsj.com] you ask [treehugger.com] .

Re:What would happen to the birds? (4, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811316)

Bats [google.com] have it worse than birds, for some reason that's still not understood. Since bats are one of the most important insect predators, this means more pesticides are needed to protect crops.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (1)

DanTheStone (1212500) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811364)

I thought they figured out it was due to the sudden pressure drop exploding their lungs? Did I hear incorrectly?

Re:What would happen to the birds? (3, Insightful)

Jeng (926980) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811380)

Not wind, Solar.

Your linked article is about wind turbines, not solar power plants.

I kinda doubt that bats will get cooked by the solar arrays since they tend to only come out at night.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811462)

Yes, and you'll note that said reply was in response to something comparing animal deaths by solar to animal deaths by wind. This is also known as a wandering discussion, and is usually truncated shortly after the mods show up with "-1, Offtopic" scores, but can be carried out for months once the story is off the front page.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811562)

Guess I should have clicked on their links before replying to yours.

Oh well.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811382)

I'm guessing bats are going to be safe from the perils of solar energy. Thats just my own speculation.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811410)

Ah yes, the "eco friendly" wind farms...

I guess environmentalists don't really care about distributed noise damage and stress (the very low frequency "thumps" wind turbine generates) to land animals and humans nor do they really care about significant decrease in bird populations.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811452)

Significant relative to birds dying of smog from coal plants?

Re:What would happen to the birds? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811290)

A quick google came up with this [audubon.org] (PDF warning)

Re:What would happen to the birds? (5, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811496)

Right. 70 birds over 3.3 years.

And if you read it, it says 81% of the deaths were because of birds flying into the structure (broken mandibles), apparently mistaking mirrors for blue sky. There were 13 birds total that got singed because of entering the "standby points", patches of sky, where mirrors are focused when NOT in use. Simply dispersing these focus points solves this problem.

Your average flat roadway kills more birds in 6 month than this entire facility in 3 years.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (1)

Simon80 (874052) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811806)

That's 40 weeks, not 40 months, and because of the possibility of scavengers removing carcasses, the rate is more like 100 birds per year. The authors also warn that larger facilities may result in a nonlinear increase in the number of bird deaths because of the increase in scale.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811810)

(PDF warning)

Who cares?

Re:What would happen to the birds? (3, Funny)

ashidosan (1790808) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811296)

what would happen

Fwoosh.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811300)

there will be take away restaurant nearby, that specializes in poultry.
World energy and world hunger crisis solved!

Re:What would happen to the birds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811358)

You obviously haven't been to the Mohave. Restaurants are far and few.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (4, Informative)

defunctpassword (2032272) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811368)

They had a setup like this out at Thermo California a few years back. You could see the heat exchanger glowing like a mini sun on top of the tower. I doubt many birds will get close to it.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (1)

slackzilly (2033012) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811470)

Insects are attracted by light. Birds like insects. But then again, the insects would probably not hang around for to long..

Re:What would happen to the birds? (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811598)

Insects are attracted by light. Birds like insects. But then again, the insects would probably not hang around for to long..

Birds are like insects, hmm?

Re:What would happen to the birds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811632)

Coincidentally, that's not what he said...

Re:What would happen to the birds? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811644)

He said birds LIKE insects, not birds ARE like insects.

But There are virtually no flying insects in the Mojave, and bugs are only attracted to insects at night when the sun is down.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (2)

SiggyTheViking (890997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811736)

>>But There are virtually no flying insects in the Mojave
My windshield says something different, especially this time of year with the wildflowers carpeting the desert.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (1)

slackzilly (2033012) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811658)

No, I didn't say that birds are like insects. I said that birds like insects.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (5, Insightful)

metrometro (1092237) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811436)

> I wonder what would happen to the birds who fly into the beam near the focal point

The question to ask is whether this would impact birds more or less than ecosystem-wide acid rain from a coal plant? I have no patience for people crying about largely ephemeral bird impacts from wind or solar power, but aren't bothered at all by the much bigger and well documented bird killer: cars.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (3, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811512)

forget cars, try cats.:D

the less damage that is done by a power source the more people focus on the rare problems, unlikely scenarios or minor damage.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811584)

big oil tankers and container ships are way worse at polluting than all the cars on the planet.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (1)

crakbone (860662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811596)

Well if its anything like this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Solar_Project#Solar_One [wikipedia.org] It will be so bright they will not want to look at it let alone fly near it. I was able to see this tower from miles away and it was bright. Even though the thermal concentrator was painted flat black it was like looking at the sun.

Re:What would happen to the birds? (2)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811674)

Probably death. Same as would happen to a bird that flew into the outflow of the stack of a coal burning power plant. Or chopped up in the blade of a wind turbine. Or sucked up the chimney of a solar convector and ground up in the spinning turbine. Or blown away by the shotgun of the custodian of a solar panel installation for crapping all over his solar cells. For nuclear, I guess it might smack into the side of the cooling tower and die.

How many corpses of dead squirrels are on the roadways of Portland, Oregon? I'd guess it's in the thousands at any given moment, but we keep on driving. There seems to be no shortage of squirrels though.

Regulators, regulate! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811242)

Make sure they have a contingency plan for when there's an earthquake followed by a tsunami.

Re:Regulators, regulate! (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811268)

Contingency plan: It's a desert.

Re:Regulators, regulate! (1)

cusco (717999) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811430)

The Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth, is on the Pacific coastline of Peru and Chile. Trivia: they fed sand from the Atacama to the Viking lander test instruments, and didn't find life.

Re:Regulators, regulate! (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811274)

Let's see... a bunch of molten salt seeps out on the desert floor, and its cooling is accelerated by the tsunami. Meanwhile, the Pacific and the Mojave, nether strangers to lots of salt, shrug it off.

Sounds good to me.

Re:Regulators, regulate! (1)

slackzilly (2033012) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811498)

Would an accident to this power plant cause gigantic amounts of radiation?

Excellent (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811248)

Activate Archimedes II

Drop in the bucket (5, Informative)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811254)

$168 million sounds like a serious investment, until you consider that this thing is projected to cost $1.37 *billion*.

Re:Drop in the bucket (5, Insightful)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811340)

Over 10% is hardly a drop in the bucket.

Re:Drop in the bucket (2)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811418)

I think the summary should have included the total cost. One could read it and come away thinking that Google was completely bankrolling the project, when this is actually just a fraction of the money that will be required to build it.

Re:Drop in the bucket (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811602)

You'd have to be a fucking idiot to read the summary and think that google was *completely* bankrolling the project. It's neither stated, inferred, nor implied.

So stop backtracking and blaming the summary and just admit that you're a moron and a failure when it comes to basic reading comprehension.

Re:Drop in the bucket (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811668)

I agree, TFS would have been a good place for the total cost.

Re:Drop in the bucket (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811758)

I think the summary should have included the total cost. One could read it and come away thinking that Google was completely bankrolling the project, when this is actually just a fraction of the money that will be required to build it.

1/1 is a fraction. 1/10 is a fraction. I assume that the fact that it is not an irrational amount of money implies that it can be expressed as a fraction.

BTW it did say "Google has chipped in" so if you read it as Google bankrolling the project, I'd say its a reader error.

Re:Drop in the bucket (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811522)

Unless the bucket is 500 microliters in which case it is just about right.

Re:Drop in the bucket (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811608)

Over 10% is hardly a drop in the bucket.

Yep, that's definitely a respectable sized splash

Re:Drop in the bucket (2)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811376)

If you were buying a $600,000 house, could you justify buying a $70,000 car because it's a drop in the bucket? Google hardly has a majority contribution (plurality maybe? Haven't read the article...), but about 12% is a non-trivial contribution in my book.

Re:Drop in the bucket (4, Insightful)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811420)

$168 million sounds like a serious investment, until you consider that this thing is projected to cost $1.37 *billion*.

You a Chemist? I don't know what the hell kinds of buckets you use but mine tend to carry more than 9 drops ;)

168 mil / 1.37 billion = a little more than 12%. I'd consider 12% of my salary or budget a pretty significant investment, and if I was taking a test I'd consider a question worth 12% of the grade worth a pretty significant investment in doing well on it.

Re:Drop in the bucket (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811484)

I think the summary unfairly implied that this was a majority investment. 12% is, to my mind, a very small investment. But, drop in the bucket or not, it's still nowhere even close to the kind of investment that will be required to actually see it through. I think that needs to be clarified.

Re:Drop in the bucket (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811530)

"chipped in" implies a maority investment?

Re:Drop in the bucket (2)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811624)

"chipped in" implies a maority investment?

No, it implies they are playing golf.

Re:Drop in the bucket (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811580)

Actually, I wanted to correct this. $1.37 billion was just the loan guarantees it was given for construction. After researching it a little more, I found out that this doesn't cover all the actual cost. Actual construction cost is estimated to be more like $2.14 billion.

Re:Drop in the bucket (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811586)

How is it not? Do *you* have $168 mil in the couch?

$1.37B is not the cost (2)

billrp (1530055) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811628)

That's the amount of the federal loan the company got. Add to that Google's $168m, and add other investments, but they won't say what the projected actual cost is. And the effective generation rate of the ISEGS is about 15%, which takes into account darkness, cloudy days, etc. They say the output is 392MW, but you need to discount that to get the effective delivered capacity of 60MW. So if the cost is $1.5B then the cost per kW is about $25,000, which is way high. Nuclear plants are up to about $10,000/kW.

Re:Drop in the bucket (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811630)

Wait, the total cost is then about $3.50 per watt? Christ, they should have just subsidized cheap panel purchases. If this kind of scale up can't create more economy than that, then this approach is not going to work.

The money would have been better spent on outfitting solar power manufacturers with solar cells, so people stop complaining about how solar panels are really fossil fuels. Some people just don't understand the difference between marginal costs (like fuel that is dug out of the ground), and capital costs (solar panels that pull power from the sky so long as they last). This difference means that, given a sufficiently long lived solar installation, the initial cost doesn't matter. You will make your money back eventually, and once you do, you have a free source of power.

Re:Drop in the bucket (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811696)

This difference means that, given a sufficiently long lived solar installation, the initial cost doesn't matter. You will make your money back eventually, and once you do, you have a free source of power.

The only problem is that most solar installations aren't 'sufficiently long lived'.

Re:Drop in the bucket (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811656)

Wow, and it has the power output of a nuclear reactor. That's like 5-10 times less that a new reactor would cost. All told that plant sounds like a pretty good investment.

3600 acres = 1457 ha (2)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811260)

That's 14.57 square kilometers, the size of a small to medium-sized town, maybe 20000 to 50000 inhabitants.

Re:3600 acres = 1457 ha (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811322)

So? Lots more desert than that. Also in the USA a town with 20k folks is probably more like 20sq km.

Re:3600 acres = 1457 ha (5, Insightful)

rahvin112 (446269) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811560)

Do you have any idea how big the Mohave is? You could fit several European countries in it. It's not even the largest, just the one with (IIRC) the lowest rainfall and cloud cover with bonus points for being the closest to the major CA population centers.

We have about 6 deserts in the US that could fit dozens of facilities this size with a minimal wildlife impact (they spread the concentric circles of mirrors out by about triple the mirror size). In fact I wouldn't be surprised if we could build mirror farms like this in rural deserts and end up with an area the size of France covered in mirrors. People really fail to grasp just how big the American southwest is.

Re:3600 acres = 1457 ha (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811650)

They are only producing 10 kW per acre. That's pretty shitty, in my book.

Is $168M the total cost or just a share? (1)

phaserbanks (1977290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811262)

Curious to know the total cost of the project, i.e. dollars per Watt. The article doesn't specify whether Google is the sole investor.

Re:Is $168M the total cost or just a share? (1)

phaserbanks (1977290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811352)

Thanks elrous0

Re:Is $168M the total cost or just a share? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811706)

Well, the text is very vague. Someone said capital cost will be $1.37 billion and generate 392MW power. This would put it at $3.5/We installed capacity. Assuming this is peak generation, then the cost go up 4x (assuming no clouds, and 100% uptime), to $14/We.

In the desert, with additional maintenance over the years (ie. broken mirrors, unless they are steel mirrors of course), the cost is more likely $15-20/We.

Anyway, this is a larger scale test for solar and still lightyears short of what is needed. In comparison, coal or nuclear can provide with 1000-1500 MWe, or 4000-5000MW thermal. To replace something like a very large coal installation (about 5GWe sustained) at 8-10% collecting efficiency (like the plant that will be built), the total area required would be 250km2, or an area 10 miles by 10 miles, or a circle about 11 miles in diameter, at the very minimum.

I'm certain this will work very well in desert areas (Saudi Arabia, Nevada, parts of California), but it will not be very feasible in high population density areas like China or India or most of Europe.

Mirrors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811278)

How do they maintain the integrity (uniform reflectivity) of the mirrors when they're constantly being blasted with sand? Does efficiency rely on this factor?

Re:Mirrors (1)

ThatMegathronDude (1189203) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811404)

The Mojave doesn't have much wind.

Re:Mirrors (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811604)

Blasted?

Sand storms aren't all that common in most of the the Mojave.
Its mostly a bunch of cheap mirrors. Replace them when needed.

Re:Mirrors (1)

Skidborg (1585365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811612)

I suspect their height might be partially to avoid this too.

Re:Mirrors (1)

Skidborg (1585365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811700)

Eh, scratch that. Only the centre tower is all that tall.

Hi Apk. Imagine seeing you here.

nitpicking physicist here (1)

dlenmn (145080) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811294)

is expected to generate 392 MW of solar power

FTFY

Re:nitpicking physicist here (3, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811344)

is expected to generate 392 MW of solar power

FTFY

No, it's expected to collect solar power.

Re:nitpicking physicist here (3, Informative)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811640)

No, it's going to collect a lot more than 392MW of solar power, if wants to put out 392MW of electrical power.

Re:nitpicking physicist here (1)

Glock27 (446276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811816)

is expected to generate 392 MW of solar power

FTFY

My first thought was that the 392 MW would be at noon on June 21. The important figure is of course the average MWH it will generate per day/year.

I'd guess it'll have a hard time seeming significant compared with nuclear power. I was just reading about the new Indian nuke plant complex the Russians are building, which is expected to generate 62 GW...or about 150 times as much, day or night, sunny or cloudy.

Sun? (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811336)

I thought they got bought, or something...

Terminator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811360)

This sounds familiar...

I guess it comes on the heals of kernel.org's release of skynet.

I think they got the name wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811476)

I'm pretty sure it will be called Helios One...
http://fallout.wikia.com/wiki/Helios_One

Finally, something serious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811480)

And not the usual geek Space Nuttery... Put it in space! Yeah, like Solaren? The only thing they've done is transfer money from gullible investors into their pockets.

Why Tower over parabolic trough? (1)

spiedrazer (555388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811486)

I'm sure there are numbers, but from a completely un-informed standpoint it seems to me that the paraboloc trough designs where a slurry tube runs through a mirrored trough would be cheaper to produce and maintain? http://www.powermag.com/renewables/solar/Saguaro-Solar-Power-Plant-Red-Rock-Arizona_468.html [powermag.com]

Re:Why Tower over parabolic trough? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811534)

From the Article--
"Although solar power tower development is currently less advanced than the more common trough systems, they offer higher efficiency and better energy storage capabilities. Parabolic trough systems consist of parabolic mirrors that concentrate sunlight onto a Dewar tube running the length of the mirror through which a heat transfer fluid runs that is then used to heat steam in a standard turbine."

Re:Why Tower over parabolic trough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811792)

1 set of expensive pumps vs thousands?

2.7% Efficiency? (1)

RockClimbingFool (692426) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811492)

That seems a bit low.

3,600 acres = 14,568,683 m^2

~1,000 w / m^2 incident solar energy in the Mojave

That would give an total solar energy input of 14,568 MW of power to this installation.

392MW / 14,568 MW = 2.7%

Re:2.7% Efficiency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811558)

3,600 acres = 14,568,683 m^2

~1,000 w / m^2 incident solar energy in the Mojave

That would give an total solar energy input of 14,568 MW of power to this installation.

392MW / 14,568 MW = 2.7%

You're assuming every meter of ground will be used. There needs to be space for maintenance, buildings, security, etc. The piece of land is 3600 acres, not the total area of reflectors

Re:2.7% Efficiency? (1)

smelch (1988698) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811744)

I don't think that really matters though. Overhead is part of the efficiency of a system. Just because it completely ignores some of the energy doesn't mean we should pretend the energy isn't there.

Why so tall? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811516)

Why so tall? Height is of great benefit to wind turbines and solar chimneys, but how does it help heliostats to have extra distance for the rays to diffuse?

Re:Why so tall? (1)

imric (6240) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811620)

Off the cuff, I would say to maximize the area of each individual mirror exposed to the sun over the course of the day. The higher the tower the better in that case.

Re:Why so tall? (3, Informative)

anagama (611277) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811672)

It's so tall so they can use more mirrors and get more juice out of it. If it was at ground level, maybe a single ring of mirrors could direct light at it. If it's at 20', maybe two or three rings. When it's way up in the sky, you can get many rings of mirrors with a direct line of sight to the target.

It's a Google Article!!! (3, Funny)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811550)

Paranoids to the right...

Fanboy's to the left...

NEXT!

So they invest in green energy (1)

slackzilly (2033012) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811582)

How evil of them..

Re:So they invest in green energy (1)

cf18 (943501) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811772)

They will use this tower to power their Archimedes II orbital laser.

Biggest? (1)

kevmeister (979231) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811678)

An even bigger solar project based on more traditional photovoltaics is in the works for the eastern edge of Alameda County, California. An article in today's Contra Costa Times [insidebayarea.com] states "At 400 megawatts, the Mountain House solar complex could produce more electricity than the 370-megawatt plant that Oakland-based BrightSource Energy aims to construct in the Mojave Desert near the Ivanpah settlement."

Can't Google fund nuclear fusion instead? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811686)

How come CERN seems to have money coming out their asses, to bang Large Hadrons together? Now, if they could just bang two Hydrogen atoms together, producing a butt-load of heat . . . now then we're talking!

That's not enough power... (1)

jeffeb3 (1036434) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811690)

That's not quite the 1.21 GW needed...

Is this cost effective? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811716)

Is a solar plant cost effective yet against traditionally fueled plants?

A new 2GW nuclear plant costs [wikipedia.org] around $10B, this plant is $1.7B for 400MW. Since it's solar, divide rated power by around 3 to account for nighttime, so it's more like a 133MW plant.

So, cost per watt of nuclear is $10B / 2GW = $5/watt versus 1.7B / 133MW = $12.75/watt

Can they sell electricity at a high enough price to recoup their costs? Are operating costs for a solar plant like this much lower than for a nuclear plant? The sheer size of the plant seems like it will take a lot of maintenance. Keeping 173,000 heliostats in operation sounds like a huge undertaking.

Good for air conditioning load (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811762)

The whole plant (3 units) is expected to generate about 1.2GW at peak. That's about one modern nuclear unit.

Over a full day, a solar plant generates maybe 1/3 of its peak power. That's OK, though. For areas where air conditioning is the peak load, a solar plant produces max power just when it's needed. A reasonable near-term goal would be to get Southern California's entire air conditioning load (10 to 15 GW) onto solar power.

This is solar's big advantage over wind power. Wind power is highly variable, and not in a useful way. Peak demand and peak wind output are unconnected. Averaging wind over a large area doesn't help much. Look at the current wind power output on the PJM dashboard. [pjm.com] See it varying over a 4:1 range in 24 hours. Then look at the PJM renewables map [pjm.com] , showing all wind installations in the PJM area, which stretches from Illinois to the Atlantic Ocean, and Pennsylvania down to Virginia.

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