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US Pays $2B To Develop Concentrating Solar Power Projects

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the everything-collecting-the-sun dept.

Power 219

coondoggie writes "The US Department of Energy today said it was conditionally committing $2 billion to develop two concentrating solar power projects that it says will offer 500 megawatts of power combined, effectively doubling the nation's currently installed capacity of that type of power. Concentrated solar systems typically use parabolic mirrors to collect solar energy."

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500MW Average (0)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454772)

or only at noon ?

Re:500MW Average (1)

sdBlue (844590) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454818)

I haven't read TFA of course, but I would assume they mean solar-thermal, where a medium is used as a buffer to store the heat, and provide power when the sun isn't shining.

Re:500MW Average (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454868)

Both plants have thermal storage so I'm assuming that's their base load rating.

Energy != power (2)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454948)

As you correctly note, the estimated amount of energy harvested from this project remains undisclosed.

The "enough to power X number of homes" is therefore a kind of fraud.

Re:Energy != power (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455662)

Not really. Whether you're powering homes or factories or offices, consumers use far more power during the daytime than during the night.

It's even more pronounced here in Arizona, where we blast the A/C during the day because it's so damn hot, and then don't use it much at night (or not at all, in the winter) because it's so much cooler. Because of this, we actually use our nuclear power here to pump water uphill during the nighttime, and then generate hydroelectric power with that water during the daytime to meet peak load needs.

So a solar (thermal) plant making lots more power during the daytime is not really a problem in many places. A few of these would be great in combination with a nuke plant, with the nuke plant providing the base load at all hours and the solar plants providing power for peak loads.

Re:Energy != power (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455790)

The second plant is planned for 250MWe which means the nominal electrical output will be 250MW, peak may be higher and maintenance or something like an ash cloud may lower it temporarily but on average the design is for 250MW of base load output 24x7.

Re:500MW Average (1)

softWare3ngineer (2007302) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455158)

I believe that these projects use molten salt to store energy and produce power through most of the night as well. I could be wrong, just what i remember from similar stories in the past.

Re:500MW Average (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455812)

Yep, typical values for thermal storage are 18-36 hours of rated generating capacity, which in the southwest should be more than sufficient for anything but a one in a million event.

SOLAR PRESTIGE A GAMMON !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36454812)

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Hair ring molassis abounding
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Jury !!

This is only useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36454836)

if these are manufactured here. If this work goes to China (or spain), it really is a waste of money.

Re:This is only useful (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36454936)

I only partially agree. The short-term impact of the manufacturing jobs is lost. The long-term impact of developing the manufacturing tech here is lost. The equipment and the power that it generates is gained.

I generally agree that it would be good to see the manufacturing developed here--preferably adjacent to where these things will be used. Since the finished goods have to be shipped there, it might make sense to ship the raw materials there and build them too. Then again, it might not. There's a lof analysis involved, and you can be surprised at the conclusions of good analysis. It might make perfectly good sense to make the stuff on the other side of the world and ship it here.

Yes. Trade deficits, blah, blah. At the end of the day they have falling bonds and weak dollars. We have a physical plant. This reminds me a lot of the fear that people expressed when the Japanese were buying high profile buildings here in the 80s. We're not going to lose anything if the "shit hits the fan". They have a piece of paper that says they own something. We have the something, surrounded by guns.

Re:This is only useful (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455268)

Trade deficits, blah, blah. At the end of the day they have falling bonds and weak dollars. We have a physical plant.

Better to have the world buying your tech, then you having to buy theirs, no?

Re:This is only useful (1, Informative)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455756)

Yes. Trade deficits, blah, blah. At the end of the day they have falling bonds and weak dollars. We have a physical plant. This reminds me a lot of the fear that people expressed when the Japanese were buying high profile buildings here in the 80s.

This isn't an office building, nor is it a museum relic. It's not going to last forever, nor is it going to be sufficient for supplying power forever. Any kind of power plant requires well-trained people to keep it running, and if you plan to use more power in the future (which everyone should, unless you're in Detroit), then you're going to need to either upgrade this plant or build more of them. If all the expertise to do all this resides with foreign companies, then you're stuck with having to go back to them when you need to expand in the future, or if you have any big problems. This isn't a very good situation to be in with your vital infrastructure.

The Japanese buying big office buildings isn't the same. It's pretty trivial for a company to move all its offices out of one building and into another one down the street in case the new landlord tries to double rent. Sure, it takes a bit of money to hire movers and change the letterhead and set up the cubicles and install new network cabling, but it's really not a big deal. It's a totally different matter when your power plant supplier wants 5x as much for a second plant which you absolutely need in order to avoid rolling blackouts.

Re:This is only useful (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455018)

According to TFA, it sounds like this effort is as much to generate jobs in California as it is to generate power.

Re:This is only useful (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455254)

Which political party here has been actively trying to stop 'green' technologies?

The old mantra of the GOP being the 'pro business' party would be laughable if it wasn't so sad. They only the pro 'current big biz who pays us' party.

A link to the actual press release (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454852)

A link to the actual press release [energy.gov]

First of all, these aren't grants or direct money (as the summary seems to imply), they're loan guarantees. And if you read the press release, it's pretty clear this is a helluva lot less about producing clean energy than producing jobs in California.

Like so many government-funded and government-backed programs these days (NASA, I'm looking in your direction), this is basically a just a jobs program. Some Senator gets to go back to his district and say he created jobs. Whether these plants actually ever create any energy is anyone's guess.

Re:A link to the actual press release (3, Insightful)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454920)

Whether these plants actually ever create any energy is anyone's guess.

Without loan guarantees we would never know one way or the other.

Re:A link to the actual press release (1)

jmottram08 (1886654) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455202)

The problem is not about answering the question, its that the question takes 2 billion we dont have to answer.

Re:A link to the actual press release (4, Insightful)

PinchDuck (199974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455280)

You're right. What company in their right mind would want to produce something that is going to be in constant and ever increasing demand? They would have a guaranteed customer base, guaranteed scarcity, and guaranteed profits. Yup, no company in their right mind would ever want to be a part of that. Thank God that Uncle Sam is here to fill the gap. We should pour money into projects like this right up until the day we default.

Re:A link to the actual press release (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455448)

Without loan guarantees we would never know one way or the other.

Really? And why is that? Is it because the risk reward is too low for a private company to build a plant?

lf a corporation (not necessarily an American one) thought they could profit by building one of these it would be built. That they will only do so with a government backstop against failure indicates these plants are not economically viable.

Re:A link to the actual press release (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36455592)

lf a corporation (not necessarily an American one) thought they could easily profit by building one of these, it would be built. That they will only do
so with a government backstop against failure indicates these plants are not currently economically viable.

The problem is that we don't know for certain that it will or will not be economically viable. All we have are guesstimates on its returns. Plus, the venture capitalists and investment banks want to see significant ROI quickly. They are impatient if it takes too long to realize the returns.

Re:A link to the actual press release (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36455972)

are not economically viable ... right now.

Re:A link to the actual press release (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454934)

Problem is that these projects might not even get off the ground. There are environmental challenges in state and federal courts about the locations of these and the harm they cause to local wildlife. The Mojave project has already lost one battle and been forced to move to a secondary location. No Senator or Rep is going to touch it until it gets past green hurdles, and it probably won't given the strength of that lobby in CA.

Re:A link to the actual press release (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455010)

. Whether these plants actually ever create any energy is anyone's guess.

Um, huh? If you spend $2B on power plants that don't produce power, that's not a bragging point; that's the central point of your opponents' attack ads against you.

Re:A link to the actual press release (1)

jmottram08 (1886654) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455226)

. . . Are you so naive to think that a congressman wasting 2b actually effects elections?

Re:A link to the actual press release (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36455060)

Yeah! What's NASA ever done for anyone?

Re:A link to the actual press release (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455164)

Depends. Since 1972, or before?

Re:A link to the actual press release (1)

Bardwick (696376) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455146)

Yeah, what could possibly go wrong with load guarantees. Kind of sounds familiar. Didn't we have some kind of economic collapse here recently? Uncle Sam is the cosigner for all of america.

Re:A link to the actual press release (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455176)

Don't worry, your Uncle's credit card is still valid...for now.

Re:A link to the actual press release (3, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455276)

if you read the press release, it's pretty clear this is a helluva lot less about producing clean energy than producing jobs in California

Just because a press release is phrased a certain way doesn't mean a project is actually "about" that. The press release is just a gauge of today's political winds.

Look at Secretary Chu's statement:

"These projects represent an important step in the development of solar as an affordable, clean energy resource in this country," said Secretary Chu. "By investing in the commercial-scale deployment of solar technologies, we can create greater efficiencies that will lower the cost of solar power while creating jobs and increasing our global competitiveness in this key industry."

What part of that is incorrect, or admits the possibility that this is "basically just a jobs program?" I don't see why Concentrated Solar can't be scaled up affordably.

Re:A link to the actual press release (4, Informative)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455542)

Yeah! It's not like NASA has any current missions that are providing valuable science to our society [nasa.gov] at all. It's nothing but a worthless jobs program!

I don't necessarily agree or disagree with the rest of your post, but please educate yourself about the space industry before commenting on it. I'm getting really tired of correcting ignorance on what is supposed to be a News for Nerds site. Thanks.

Re:A link to the actual press release (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456194)

Sorry but most of the NASA missions on that list will have no effect on the day-to-day life of people on earth. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is not all that high on my priority list. Birth of the cosmos, water on Mars, xray radiation, etc. will not improve the quality of life here on earth. How about we deal with things here on earth before we spend money on the universe. Sure there are a few projects dealing with climatology that are important but most of them are cool but of no practical purpose.

Who let the cat out of the bag? (1)

coldfarnorth (799174) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454872)

Anyone care to take bets on how long before some senator/representative (likely from a state where coal or oil extraction is a major source of revenue) denounces this as the perfect example of government waste and interference in "free market" for energy?

Re:Who let the cat out of the bag? (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455154)

Are you saying it's not?

Re:Who let the cat out of the bag? (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455732)

Solar-thermal is a proven technology. And besides, it is just a loan guarantee. Not a grant.

Re:Who let the cat out of the bag? (1)

OutSourcingIsTreason (734571) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456024)

The energy market is certainly NOT free. Oil is heavily subsidized by Uncle Sam with billions spent in tax giveaways to oil companies and trillions for that oil war in Iraq.

Payment or loan? (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454878)

TFT talks about a payment, but if you follow links you end up at this page [greentechmedia.com] which talks about loan guarantees instead.

Re:Payment or loan? (1)

jmottram08 (1886654) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455244)

money saved is money earned.

Is this the way we want to go? (2)

bjd1970 (1908116) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454908)

Is concentrating solar power into "power plants" the best way? Wouldn't it make more sense to distribute the collection over a large area, namely every persons house?

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36454946)

Mirrors are cheaper than PV panels.

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455200)

But if you make the mirrors out of PV panels, they pay for themselves in just 10 years.

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (1)

b0bby (201198) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455232)

Mod parent up. PV isn't cost effective yet; thermal plants with molten salt reservoirs can be.

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (2)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455306)

PV isn't cost effective yet

Come again? A home PV installation is currently cost-effective even here (.nl), you can recover your investment in something like 12 years. It makes more sense to invest in a PV installation than to put the money in a savings account.

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36455534)

You forget not every place has the Dutch ~50% tax on electricity.

That makes a big difference for making private energy generation profitable.

--
Teun

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455830)

It also doesn't make sense unless you own your own home, and also intend to live there until you die. For the rest of us who either rent, or will probably move in 2-10 years, investing in PV panels is stupid. I don't know about Holland, but here in the USA people rarely stay in one house unless they're retired. And retired people generally don't have the extra cash to invest in a PV installation since they're on fixed incomes.

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455846)

They aren't cost effective if you have to store your own electricity. The only people doing local storage are those where a grid tie is prohibitively expensive, but using the grid as your storage system doesn't scale well (yet).

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454970)

Is concentrating solar power into "power plants" the best way? Wouldn't it make more sense to distribute the collection over a large area, namely every persons house?

Big businesses make better campaign contributors than "every persons"

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (2)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454982)

How would companies get paid if you were allowed to make your own power? Communist!

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455040)

How would companies get paid if you were allowed to make your own power?

Allowed to make your own power? Are people actually being prevented by companies from installing solar panels now? I know some home-owners associations have blocked them, but they're not the power company and are typically run democratically by the home-owners.

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454990)

One of the several advantages that this type of plant provides is continuous power - Rain or shine. I guess you COULD set something like that up at home if you've got a big yard for mirrors, but personally I don't want a basement full of molten salt. Not to mention that I enjoy turning my lights on when it's dark, not just when the sun's shining. The battery alternative is just environmentally irresponsible and kind of a PITA. For these plants, you basically need a bunch of glass (where will we ever find that?), a bunch of salt (there must be some floating around somewhere), and a turbine.

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36455332)

I don't think it would even work on a small scale installation. Too much heat loss as a percentage of storage capacity.

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455862)

I don't know about where you live, but where I live, the amount of power I need when it's dark is pretty low: just lights (CF), refrigerator, computer, etc. In the daytime, however, we have to run the A/C nearly constantly. Solar power is perfect for this environment as it provides all the power right when I need it the most to run the A/C.

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (4, Insightful)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455104)

You need both. Solar power is low-density, so you need a lot of area to gather enough power.

When you install PV on rooftops, it doesn't provide enough power for buildings with more than a couple of floors. I did some calculations recently for my own apartment building: a roof full of PV panels provided just enough power for one floor of the building, assuming the national average domestic power consumption.

CSP can supplement power generation for high-density areas (cities). It can also easily provide nighttime power by using heat storage. This is more difficult to do with house-sized PV (you need huge battery banks in each house, or a central storage system, e.g. a pumped water storage facility).

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (1)

Vegemeister (1259976) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455292)

No. It wouldn't make sense. The economies of scale just aren't there for distributed generation. It is a libertarian pipe dream.

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36455300)

Yes, because mirrors are cheap, and solar panels are expensive.

In the case of most concentrated solar, it is mirrors used to heat a more conventional style boiler, and no solar panels at all.

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36455392)

Is concentrating solar power into "power plants" the best way? Wouldn't it make more sense to distribute the collection over a large area, namely every persons house?

YES, IT IS THE BEST WAY. The efficiency in these large plants are SIGNIFICANTLY higher than photo-voltaics.

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455560)

Thermal tracking systems can collect more energy if there is direct sunlight. Clouds really cause them problems though. In the desert, these systems can make the most sense. Where there are clouds, such as in Germany, PV does better. It does not care all that much about the angle the light is coming from, including from all angles. It is not clear how much more costs can fall for thermal solar power plants. These sound like they may cost 4 or 5 dollars a Watt. PV will certainly cost less, much less, than this in the next ten years. You can get Evergreen panels for $1.60/W retail these days and if you want to set them up on old tires in your yard you can get a system in for $2.50/W including the inverter. Working on the roof will cost more. But, in new construction, the cost may be getting to $3/W quite soon.

Re:Is this the way we want to go? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456030)

Yeah, PV panels are half what they were a couple years ago, now that there's no silicon production shortage. And even inverter prices are down from where they used to be; a couple years ago when I looked, the cheapest I found was $0.70/W; now I'm finding some under $0.50/W.

I'm thinking about doing my own rooftop install, but I don't want to end up with some sort of ghetto solar panel system. Are there any places you can go to learn about how to do it *properly*, in line with manufacturer specifications? I'd leave the grid hookup to a pro (as well as the requisite tree-topping we'd need done). But if it wasn't for installation labor costs, I'd be able to easily justify a solar install even up here in Iowa.

Yes and No at the same time.... (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455622)

Yes as having power generated at the site of usage removes the transmission loss from the equation thus improving overall energy usage efficiency.

No because most all solar power used at residences are silicone panel collectors, which use a lot more raw materials for the energy output they produce compared to concentrating arrays (which use lots of space with mirrors which are much cheaper to produce (both in costs and energy/waste usage) than panels for the same energy output, but require more physical space.

So like everything there are pros and cons. Since most people don't own enough space where motorized mirrors can be placed, you don't see many concentrating solor power installed at residences.

Re:Yes and No at the same time.... (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456086)

Our grid averages 92.8% transmission efficiency. That's not a lot of loss.

Mojave Solar Project details (5, Informative)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454958)

Actual information about the Mojave Solar Project can be found here [abengoasolar.com] and here [abengoasolar.com] .
The technology used in the MSP isn't entirely new (has been used in at least one other plant) but looks to be an incremental improvement.
The plant features heat storage using molten salt, and won't be using fossil fuels as nighttime backup.

Parabolic Focusing Panels (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454960)

Basically focusing the suns rays into a laser beam that super heats salt. The superheated salt runs a steam turbine. Of course the mirrors could be focused to take down overhead aircraft or satellites as well.

Re:Parabolic Focusing Panels (3, Funny)

gnick (1211984) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455064)

Of course the mirrors could be focused to take down overhead aircraft or satellites as well.

OK - Now I'm sold. The equivalent of burning an ant w/ a magnifying glass, but huge and in space? Count me in!

Re:Parabolic Focusing Panels (5, Funny)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455106)

Which would be just awesome. ;) Can you imagine getting the automated phone call:

To PG&E customers in your area: We regret to inform you that your area will be experiencing rolling blackouts this afternoon as we utilize our power plants as massive solar death rays against the hardware of our nation's foes. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. As a token of apology, we invite you to enjoy a spectacular light show in the sky at no expense to you.

Re:Parabolic Focusing Panels (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455174)

Of course the mirrors could be focused to take down overhead aircraft or satellites as well.

No they can't. These plants use parabolic trough [wikipedia.org] mirrors. I.e. you have a row of mirrors, and the energy is focused into a pipe that's suspended in front of the row.

Re:Parabolic Focusing Panels (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455218)

hackertourist==buzzkill

Price per Home (4, Insightful)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36454978)

$2B in loan guarantees for 100,000 homes. I wonder if they're guaranteeing the entire cost of the plants or just a part of the financing.

That would work out to $20k per home.

Average monthly bill for a home is approximately $100 a month. So $1200 per year. 12 year pay-off ignoring operating expenses and maintenance.

Sounds like a good investment.

Re:Price per Home (1)

swb (14022) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455130)

Yeah, but you don't get 100% of the power bill for the construction of the plant.

Think double or triple your pay off period once you factor in ongoing labor, maintenance, etc. 30 year payoff.

Re:Price per Home (3, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455298)

I can't speak for solar, but with wind, O&M is generally less than a fifth of the construction cost. I'd expect solar to be even less.

One nice thing about solar relates to grid stabilization. With wind, any turbine you add to the grid destabilizes it. At low penetration, the effect is quite small, easily dwarfed by demand instabilities, mind you, but it's still worth consideration. With solar however, at low penetrations, you're offsetting the increased demand that bright, sunny days impart to the grid. Low penetration of solar over a broad geographical area actually helps stabilize the grid, even without energy storage. Note the "geographical" component, mind you; having just one plant is vulnerable to the "a cloud just showed up" phenomenon (unless we get a smart grid, or at least a data exchange with power-hungry industries; barring that, you need integrated or standalone peaking -- although integrated peaking is pretty darned easy (see SEGS))

Re:Price per Home (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36455376)

I think what the PP meant by "ignoring operating expenses and maintenance".

On the plus side, it doesn't eat oil, which is a plus that is hard to quantify.

Re:Price per Home (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455984)

Nah, no way solar plants need that much maintenance and labour, two thirds of the cost of power sales? Worst case I'd say 24 years, which is what, a 4% ish return on investment? Not too bad, matches inflation anyway. A more likely case is 5 or 6%. Still not great, but quite acceptable for a utility.

Re:Price per Home (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455288)

$2B in loan guarantees is not $2B in cost. Unless the plant goes belly-up, which should be a low-probability event for something this simple. The expected-value of the cost on this probably about $50-100M, so the gov't is effectively spending about $1k per house.

But if it works, it's spending $0.

But if it doesn't work, it's spending that $20k/house for electricty those houses will never see.

Re:Price per Home (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455544)

$2B in loan guarantees is not $2B in cost. Unless the plant goes belly-up, which should be a low-probability event for something this simple. The expected-value of the cost on this probably about $50-100M, so the gov't is effectively spending about $1k per house.

Right, I was just curious though what the actual cost of the project was that we were guaranteeing in the interest of seeing how competitive it was with coal.

Re:Price per Home (1)

NoKaOi (1415755) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455352)

12 year pay-off ignoring operating expenses and maintenance.

Sounds like a good investment.

I think that's the point. That's why the government has to guarantee the loan. It's not a good investment in itself, but it is a good investment in the future of the technology, and overall in the acceptance of advancing new sources of power. Consider this a $2B investment in R&D where a good chunk will be recuperated in the power that it actually does generate. Oh yeah, and 12 years does happen (unless the doomsday folks are right), and I don't plan on being dead by then.

Re:Price per Home (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455490)

errr.. 17 year pay-off. Not sure where I came up with 12.

Re:Price per Home (2)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455504)

You think the average home pays $100 for power in California? Heh. Not if you live in the desert and run your AC at 50c/kWh.

$20k/home could install small-scale solar on all of these houses, and without the inevitable lawsuits (the Sierra Club has successfully blocked two sites already, costing $$) and cost overruns. It also demonstrates that the supposed economy of scale benefit from large scale solar are also illusory.

Re:Price per Home (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455574)

It will be damn small scale. We just looked into solar PV for a similar (AC-hogging, pool) rental property in Florida. To cover the entire bill would require a $75k system.

And it would still require us to purchase power from the grid at night. Yes, we could "sell" back to the grid during the day, but someone somewhere would still be burning fossile fuels for us at night. This plant generates power 24 hours a day.

Re:Price per Home (1)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456164)

5 year payoff is generally considered a good investment (It's an APR of 14% per annum)

12 year payoff is usually considered a fairly bad investment (It's an APR of 5% per annum)

And your money is at risk in both cases...

Government Boondoggle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36455016)

What they don't tell you is that each of the concentrating power plants is focused on the other power plant.

Digging ditches and paying to fill them.

Re:Government Boondoggle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36455296)

Did you set out to with the intent to post the most stupid comment you could on the subject, or was it just accidental?

Because it won't pay for itself. (1)

chiangovitch (1371251) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455022)

Why does the government need to guarantee loans? Because it doesn't make enough sense for sane people to back. If it will pay for itself and give reasonable return while generating cost-competetive power, it doesn't need the governement guaranteeing it with your money. Unless they've already succeeded in their campaign to destroy the ability to raise free capital in this country.

Re:Because it won't pay for itself. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36455404)

Loan guarantees are very common in long-term projects. Projects that WILL pay for themselves provided they can get financing at a predictable rates. No one will finance a 50-100-year bond at a reasonable rate, at least not anymore.

So what power projects need loan guarantees to be viable?

1. thermal solar
2. hydroelectric
3. wind
4. nuclear
5. coal [1]

[1] - http://www.powermag.com/POWERnews/DOE-announces-$8-billion-in-loan-guarantees-for-coal-indust_1374.html [powermag.com]

Why? Because lifetime of these projects is long and the cost of fuel they use is small in comparison to the capital costs.

Which fuel source doesn't require these guarantees? Gas.

Gas power stations are just gas turbines. These have reasonably small capital cost and most of the cost is the fuel.

Of course you MUST NOT base your electricity load on gas or any single energy source or you'll end up with a scenario like what happened in late 1990s - running out of gas. And if entire electricity infrastructure is gas based, well, let's say it screws the entire economy.

Anyway, without fossil fuels, the future energy mix is a mix of nuclear and renewables. And all of them need "load guarantees".

Because it doesn't make enough sense for sane people to back. If it will pay for itself and give reasonable return while generating cost-competetive power, it doesn't need the governement guaranteeing it with your money.

So one can make the same case against all long term technologies I've listed.

I hate subsidies (eg. feed in tariffs subsidies for renewables - utter waste - for example Germany is paying $0.35/kWh in feed-in subsidies to produce their 10% renewables), but loan guarantees ain't it provided that the project can prove that it will be cost competitive.

Re:Because it won't pay for itself. (2)

kaiser423 (828989) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455526)

The US government routinely provides loan guarantees for oil refineries, oil fields, wind plants, coal plants, natural gas pipelines, solar plants, etc, etc all of which are routinely profitable.

Strangely, the government views a stable US power grid as something that is important to our society. Who'd have thunk?

Re:Because it won't pay for itself. (1)

nico60513 (735846) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455530)

Unless your goal is to improve the technology to the point where it does become cost-effective. These types of investments are common to governments all over the world -- and are not new to the United States. It is not a sign that we are living under a repressive socialist government (at least not a repressive socialist government that started in January of 2009),

Now whether this project is a good investment or not ...

This is idiotic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36455034)

Why not spend HALF the money instead on the MIT Geothermal plan and get 100 GW of energy?

Re:This is idiotic (2)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455132)

Does your proposal come with a free unicorn?

EGS is not that cheap, or anywhere close to it. And the tech is less mature than solar thermal. And I say this as a big EGS supporter (actually, I've moved more towards SWEGS, which is a particular variant of EGS).

Why not more? (5, Interesting)

MoldySpore (1280634) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455156)

Really? Only $2Bil? When we are spending $708 Billion on defense? Why are we only putting up 0.0028% of the annual defense budget towards renewable, clean energy like this? Not sure how this makes sense. While it is nice to see a number in the Billions being put towards a project like this, I have a hard time taking the initiatives seriously when there are so many other bloated budgets we could chop down in size to put towards initiatives like this...

Re:Why not more? (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455234)

It's $2B for these two projects. $30B total [greentechmedia.com] , but that includes all 'green technologies', incl. some nuclear power projects and several car projects.

Re:Why not more? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455312)

It's less than that. A loan guarantee for $2B is not $2B in cash. Divide by 20-40, there. 0.00007-0.00014%.

And why? Because the MIC has a much better lobby than the alternative-energy people do.

Re:Why not more? (2)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455314)

Worse: These are loan guarantees, not grants. The military never pays back its budget with interest.

Re:Why not more? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36455650)

What makes you so sure that these "loans" will ever be paid off? If it's such a good idea why don't they finance it themselves, or through investment bankers? When GE decided gas turbine power generation was a good business to get into, that division apparently ran in the red for a number of years before it took off, but that was okay with them because they believed in the technology. Of course, that was then and this is now and they'll belly up to the government trough with all the rest of pigs.

Re:Why not more? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456142)

You really think funds with a spare $2B lying around can be found at every streetcorner? Especially this day in age?

Once you get to that scale, market capital generally prefers to only be put into guaranteed returns on established hardware. There's virtually no capital available for even moderate risk/reward scenarios in the multi-billion dollar scale.

Re:Why not more? (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455580)

It is probably best that you don't assume anything involving the annual defense budget of the U.S. makes sense. Correct that basic assumption about economic policy in this country and you will start to understand why political decisions get made the way they do.

Re:Why not more? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36456200)

2/708 = 0.0028 = 0.28%

Re:Why not more? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36456242)

$2 Bil of $708 Bil is about 0.28%, not about 0.0028%.
I hope the 100-fold increase of expenditure compared to your expectations can meet with your approval.

I like the irony (2)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 3 years ago | (#36455270)

Solar thermal concentrating power stations to provide electricity to run air conditioning.
 

Re:I like the irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36455776)

Solar thermal with heat storage provides baseline. Solar electric provides peek power for air conditioning.

Also the advantage of a loan guarantee is the recipient can then borrow at much lower rates, which improves the economics of the deal.

Re:I like the irony (2)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456162)

Actually, you can run cooling systems directly off heat [wikipedia.org] .

Re:I like the irony (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456210)

Not ironic at all. It is just smart.

Nuclear (1, Offtopic)

jonathansdt (1176719) | more than 3 years ago | (#36456056)

Can't we just build nuclear plants? They're awesome. They'll provide cheap power for our kids and grandkids to enjoy.
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