24 hour a day thermosolar powered electricity is now possible.

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Mark R

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
8,513
14
81
At €230 million euros, the cost of the gemsolar tower was approximately 15x the price of a regular fossil fuelled plant to build.

The expected output of the plant will be 110 GWh pa with an expected wholesale cost of €4.4 million; at a very generous capital interest rate of 2%, the interest cost would be €4.6 million. And that's before maintenance costs.

It's a nice technology, but it's hardly viable without subsidies, even in desert areas.
 

Fenixgoon

Lifer
Jun 30, 2003
31,665
10,096
136
You know, it doesn't have to be just one or the other. Every single watt generated by solar and other renewable sources is a watt that doesn't need to be generated through traditional means. It's going to be a gradual transition, no matter what, but I believe we should double down on renewables instead of keeping the status quo.

We should keep building more and more renewable generators, as fast as we can, wherever it works (rooftops and parking lots spring to mind), and before you know it, old coal, gas, and meltdown-prone nuclear power plants could be shut down without needing to be replaced.

And if we must use nuclear, we have to get better at it, and we're not. Almost nobody is investing in "safer" nuclear energy. We're running 40+ year old nuke plants now, based on 50+ year old technology with many serious flaws.

A meltdown (or three, in the case of Fukushima) every 20 years on average is not acceptable, no matter how unusual or unpredictable the circumstances. It just isn't.

and there's the great irony of nuclear energy in the US - everyone wants safer nuclear energy, but no one seems to realize that building new reactors is the best way to accomplish that.

for the record, i'm not opposed to renewable energy at all. but so many people make solar out to be this great panacea - except for the part where there's 12 hours of light per day and limited areas where solar plants can maximize solar efficiency - and forget that due to those limitations, other energy sources need to be utilized as well.
 
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Jaepheth

Platinum Member
Apr 29, 2006
2,572
25
91
At €230 million euros, the cost of the gemsolar tower was approximately 15x the price of a regular fossil fuelled plant to build.

The expected output of the plant will be 110 GWh pa with an expected wholesale cost of €4.4 million; at a very generous capital interest rate of 2%, the interest cost would be €4.6 million. And that's before maintenance costs.

It's a nice technology, but it's hardly viable without subsidies, even in desert areas.

I don't see an issue with that.

It's better to build them now while fossil fuels are cheap. If the cost of fuel rises, so does the cost of building a plant like this. They'll help reduce fossil fuel demand now and in the immediate future which will help prolong the supply, and if/when we run out of fossil fuel it'll be very nice to have other sources to fall back on; especially other sources that are of a matured technology.

Looking at just the bottom line cost right NOW is the sort of shortsightedness that I blame most of today's financial crises on.
 

Dman8777

Senior member
Mar 28, 2011
426
8
81
7.5 square miles = 200 MW, Sahara desert = 3.6 million square miles = 3,600,000 / 7.5 * 200 MW = ~10 TW.

The problem with nuclear energy is fuel. There simply isn't enough of it to suplant oil/coal/gas sources.
 

cybrsage

Lifer
Nov 17, 2011
13,021
0
0

-Slacker-

Golden Member
Feb 24, 2010
1,563
0
76
20 megawatts in installed power? The solar power plant at copper mountain seems to be no bigger than this facility, but has almost 3 times the output. 55MW.

1-s2.0-S1755008411701545-fx3.jpg




edit:

Ah, turns out it's actually a lot bigger ... 380 acres, or about 4 times larger. I take it back then.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_plants_in_the_Mojave_Desert#Copper_Mountain_Solar_Facility
 
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Zebo

Elite Member
Jul 29, 2001
39,398
19
81
At €230 million euros, the cost of the gemsolar tower was approximately 15x the price of a regular fossil fuelled plant to build.

The expected output of the plant will be 110 GWh pa with an expected wholesale cost of €4.4 million; at a very generous capital interest rate of 2%, the interest cost would be €4.6 million. And that's before maintenance costs.

It's a nice technology, but it's hardly viable without subsidies, even in desert areas.

They already did the math in the article. After 16 years it's all gravy.
 

Zebo

Elite Member
Jul 29, 2001
39,398
19
81
Renewable energy is good, but only a fool thinks it can replace fossil or nuclear within our lifetimes.

EDIT: Also IEEE magazine had an article which showed there is not enough water or space on our planet to go fully renewable energy sources without some major new technology being invented.

Indeed. We'd basically have to cover the earth with these but something is better than nothing until fusion.
 

Joepublic2

Golden Member
Jan 22, 2005
1,114
6
76

No energy is renewable; it bugs me when people say this. Solar is just indirect, inefficient fusion power.

7.5 square miles = 200 MW, Sahara desert = 3.6 million square miles = 3,600,000 / 7.5 * 200 MW = ~10 TW.

The problem with nuclear energy is fuel. There simply isn't enough of it to suplant oil/coal/gas sources.

Not true. There's astronomical amounts of fissionable elements in the earth crust and dissolved in it's oceans; a geologically surprising amount, in fact (one would have thought a greater % would have sunk to the core being so much denser than carbon,silicon and oxygen). More than people could use in 10 million years at current rates of energy consumption.

At €230 million euros, the cost of the gemsolar tower was approximately 15x the price of a regular fossil fuelled plant to build.

The expected output of the plant will be 110 GWh pa with an expected wholesale cost of €4.4 million; at a very generous capital interest rate of 2%, the interest cost would be €4.6 million. And that's before maintenance costs.

It's a nice technology, but it's hardly viable without subsidies, even in desert areas.

It does seem impractically expensive on the surface but it does bear mentioning that fossil fuel energy appears a lot cheaper to societies than it actually is because of hidden and externalized costs (damage to people's health and the greater environment).
 
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DCal430

Diamond Member
Feb 12, 2011
6,020
9
81
At €230 million euros, the cost of the gemsolar tower was approximately 15x the price of a regular fossil fuelled plant to build.

The expected output of the plant will be 110 GWh pa with an expected wholesale cost of €4.4 million; at a very generous capital interest rate of 2%, the interest cost would be €4.6 million. And that's before maintenance costs.

It's a nice technology, but it's hardly viable without subsidies, even in desert areas.

The one being built in Arizona is FAR more cost effective, because the one built in Spain was mainly intended for learning purposes.

The ones in Arizona will each produce over 1200 GWh Pa with a cost of $750 Million USD or 565 Million Euro, so the cost is actually very effective. Which puts it close to the cost of fossil fueled plants.
 

DCal430

Diamond Member
Feb 12, 2011
6,020
9
81
Here is what the one of the towers in Arizona will look like when finished. It will be 800 meters tall.

solar_tower_xjqnj.jpg
 

jagec

Lifer
Apr 30, 2004
24,442
6
81
This sound a lot more viable than photo cells and billions of ICs and wire which need service all the time, fail all the time, and become obsolete in a year as more efficient models come. Pretty straight forward and mechanical on it's surface and 24/7 power generation is just a bonus - not that you need as much at night.

Eh? The lack of time-shifting is indeed an issue for conventional PV, but concentrated solar will absolutely require more maintenance and have more downtime than PV. It involves moving parts (heat engine) and high temps, both of which are factors which usually lead to lower reliability and higher maintenance costs.

PV is about as maintenance-free as things get. You clean the panels occasionally (if you don't, you just get less power), and budget for inverter replacement every 10-20 years. The panels themselves last 30+ years without much degradation in power output.

As for obsolescence, it's true that the COSTS of PV have been dropping dramatically (probably not for much longer), but a kilowatt is a kilowatt, and the "obsolete" panels of decades past continue to crank out power today. It's not like panels from 1990 won't work with the 2012 power grid.
 

yh125d

Diamond Member
Dec 23, 2006
6,907
0
76
Is this thing really only 20mw? That's small potatoes. I'm working on a part of a 800mw plant right now thats going to israel...
 

BoberFett

Lifer
Oct 9, 1999
37,563
9
81
7.5 square miles = 200 MW, Sahara desert = 3.6 million square miles = 3,600,000 / 7.5 * 200 MW = ~10 TW.

The problem with nuclear energy is fuel. There simply isn't enough of it to suplant oil/coal/gas sources.

You're going to cover the entire Sahara desert in mirrors and move that energy around the world? Yeah, sounds feasible...
 

DCal430

Diamond Member
Feb 12, 2011
6,020
9
81
Impressive tech, it would be cool to see more of these where feasible.



200MW seems far fetched. This one is 480 acres in size. Unless there is some more efficient energy generation scheme they'd be using, getting 10 times the power output would require 10 times the solar energy, meaning 4800 acres or roughly 7.5 square miles of mirrors. That simply doesn't seem feasible.

And 200MW is still far less than a typical nuclear plant, so you'd need several 7.5 sq mi plants to equal a single nuke plant.

The one shown in the OP is actually 10 years old, so the technology has improved a bit. Also the most important thing is the height of the tower too. The one in Arizona will be 4 times the height. While 750 million for 200MW is expensive upfront, think about the lack of fuel cost over the years, so it will make up for it in the end.

Edit: Never mind, the builders website says it will be 5500 acres in area, so around 8.6 square miles for each tower. Damn that is a lot of space.
 
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blankslate

Diamond Member
Jun 16, 2008
8,596
476
126
It's a nice technology, but it's hardly viable without subsidies, even in desert areas.

Nuclear power in it's current common form (uranium fueled) isn't very viable without subsidies in the form of government paying for the insurance because there are *no* private insurance companies in their right minds who would write an insurance policy for a new plant.

The thermosolar technology is worth pursuing. As is developing Nuclear plants that use other fuels besides Uranium, so that the "byproduct" is less problematic.

Additionally Thorium is more abundant than uranium so it would be easier to find fuel for it and perhaps take less energy to process the fuel and bring it to the thorium reactor.
 
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blankslate

Diamond Member
Jun 16, 2008
8,596
476
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Not true. There's astronomical amounts of fissionable elements in the earth crust and dissolved in it's oceans; a geologically surprising amount, in fact (one would have thought a greater % would have sunk to the core being so much denser than carbon,silicon and oxygen). More than people could use in 10 million years at current rates of energy consumption.

Hopefully before we get around to using all of the fissionable material on or in the earth for fuel for powerplants we figure out how to use fusion for power generation.
 

DrPizza

Administrator Elite Member Goat Whisperer
Mar 5, 2001
49,606
166
111
www.slatebrookfarm.com
From the original story:
"I use that energy as I see fit, and not as the sun dictates," Arias explained.
As a result, the plant produces 60 percent more energy than a station without storage capacity because it can work 6,400 hours a year compared to 1,200-2,000 hours for other solar power stations, he said.
AFAIK, this is false. You're still harvesting just as much energy from the sun, it's just that you're choosing to output in the form of electricity at a slower rate so that you can spread the output over 24 hours. In other words, let's produce 20 MWatts 24/7, instead of 40 MWatts 12 hours a day. In fact, during storage, energy would be lost, thus by spreading the output, you're increasing your losses, albeit slightly. And, thanks to those pesky laws of physics, every extra step along the way also increases losses.

I'm not sure why you would want the extra capital investment in such a plant vs. making a cheaper plant that doesn't store energy and offsetting that energy at night with fossil fuels/nuclear; at least until you're somewhere close to providing more than 50% of all energy with "renewables."
 
May 11, 2008
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From the original story:
AFAIK, this is false. You're still harvesting just as much energy from the sun, it's just that you're choosing to output in the form of electricity at a slower rate so that you can spread the output over 24 hours. In other words, let's produce 20 MWatts 24/7, instead of 40 MWatts 12 hours a day. In fact, during storage, energy would be lost, thus by spreading the output, you're increasing your losses, albeit slightly. And, thanks to those pesky laws of physics, every extra step along the way also increases losses.

I'm not sure why you would want the extra capital investment in such a plant vs. making a cheaper plant that doesn't store energy and offsetting that energy at night with fossil fuels/nuclear; at least until you're somewhere close to providing more than 50% of all energy with "renewables."

I think it is a bit of marketing speech to get funding. If you tell people that they will only have 12 hours of solar generated electricity, they already walk away. If you tell them that you have to use fossil fuels the other 12 hours, they are going to ask you why to use such a thermo solar plant in the first place. And the "green" people will start arching their backs and start hissing at you for not being green.

247-worst.jpg


If you tell those same possible investors or politicians(who control funding) that you can provide 24 hours of pure solar energy, you get the "green" people on your side and other people who want to to draw the wallet because they can and because it will improve image.

enhanced-buzz-26063-1287295102-7.jpg


Even if the small section on the back of the marketing flyer explains that some efficiency is traded for being able to produce electricity 24 hours a day (albeit at a lower output) purely from (stored or not) solar energy.
 
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QuantumPion

Diamond Member
Jun 27, 2005
6,010
1
76
7.5 square miles = 200 MW, Sahara desert = 3.6 million square miles = 3,600,000 / 7.5 * 200 MW = ~10 TW.

The problem with nuclear energy is fuel. There simply isn't enough of it to suplant oil/coal/gas sources.

No. We have enough depleted uranium, already mined and processed, sitting around in stockpiles, to supply the world's energy needs for 500 years.
 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
72,508
6,126
126
From the original story:
AFAIK, this is false. You're still harvesting just as much energy from the sun, it's just that you're choosing to output in the form of electricity at a slower rate so that you can spread the output over 24 hours. In other words, let's produce 20 MWatts 24/7, instead of 40 MWatts 12 hours a day. In fact, during storage, energy would be lost, thus by spreading the output, you're increasing your losses, albeit slightly. And, thanks to those pesky laws of physics, every extra step along the way also increases losses.

It would seem to me that much would depend on the degree to which a storage system also provides insulation against heat loss. If a storage system with it's greater thermal mass storage capacity leaks less heat at night back into the environment then those savings will go into electric production at night. A non storage solar heat system will radiate and waste energy at night.