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Power Science

Canada to Build 40MW Solar Power Plant 402

Posted by Zonk
from the thinking-big dept.
IceDiver writes "According to an article in the Toronto Star, an Ontario company has been given approval to build a 40MW solar power plant near Sarnia in Southwestern Ontario. This is enough power for about 10,000 homes. The plant will cover 365 hectares (1.4 sq. miles) and is to be operational by 2010. OptiSolar, the company building the plant, claims to have developed a way to mass produce the solar panels at a dramatically reduced cost, making the plant competitive with other forms of power generation. 'Compared to coal, nuclear power, even wind, solar's squeaky-clean image comes at a high price. OptiSolar is selling the electricity to the province under its new standard offer program, which pays a premium for electricity that comes from small-scale renewable projects. In the case of wind, it's 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. Solar fetches 42 cents per kilowatt hour, nearly four times as much.'"
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Canada to Build 40MW Solar Power Plant

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  • and coal? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 29, 2007 @02:35AM (#18916899)
    6 cents.
    • by C10H14N2 (640033)
      If I converted to this, it would ramp my annual bill from $480 to $3200. Since we haven't had a significant nuclear accident since the Carter administration, which even then affected roughly NO ONE, I'll stick with my current supplier, thanks.
      • by Yaztromo (655250) <yaztromo@mac. c o m> on Sunday April 29, 2007 @03:23AM (#18917041) Homepage Journal

        If I converted to this, it would ramp my annual bill from $480 to $3200.

        No misunderstand the program. It isn't end-consumers who pay the $0.42/KWh, its the Province of Ontario, through the Ontario Power Authority. It simple gets pumped into the grid, and the consumers continue to pay the standard rate. The contract with the Province is good for 20 years.

        The idea is to spur development of renewable energy sources, while fossil fuel based plants are taken offline. It's a pretty sweet deal for the microgenerators (the program is only open to projects that generate a maximum of 10MW at a voltage of 50kV or less).

        Note that during peak periods, an extra 3.52/KWh is paid out, and the contract is indexed to inflation. And anyone in Ontario can apply to have their renewable resource microgenerator included in the program simply by filling out an online form.

        IMO, this is an excellent program. Ontario has been rebuilding nuclear capacity, has a lot of hydroelectric generation, and has been taking fossil fuel based plants offline (slowly). My family has some holiday property in central Ontario that goes unused for much of the year, and I've long thought that we should invest in some solar panels and a small wind turbine hooked into the power grid to generate some revenue. A program like this could very well make it worth it in the long run. Every such project, no matter how small, is that much less reliance needed on a fossil fuel-based plant somewhere.

        Yaz.

        • by Yaztromo (655250) <yaztromo@mac. c o m> on Sunday April 29, 2007 @03:27AM (#18917059) Homepage Journal

          Oops -- I forgot the URL to the programs website, for the interested:

          http://www.powerauthority.on.ca/sop/ [powerauthority.on.ca]

          Yaz.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          No misunderstand the program. It isn't end-consumers who pay the $0.42/KWh, its the Province of Ontario, through the Ontario Power Authority. It simple gets pumped into the grid, and the consumers continue to pay the standard rate. The contract with the Province is good for 20 years.

          Glad to hear that the Province of Ontario no longer has ANY taxation of its citizens! Wonderful news - I'll move there immediately!

          Oh wait, they still have to tax the population to pay for things like health, education, ro

          • by Yaztromo (655250) <yaztromo@mac. c o m> on Sunday April 29, 2007 @06:03AM (#18917625) Homepage Journal

            Glad to hear that the Province of Ontario no longer has ANY taxation of its citizens! Wonderful news - I'll move there immediately!

            Oh wait, they still have to tax the population to pay for things like health, education, roads, power subsidies?

            Somewhere this solar power plant is getting its $0.42/kWh, and if it's coming from the government, it's coming from your taxes. Essentially your tax dollars are funding this private company - you're paying $0.42/kWh minimum, whether it shows on your power bill or not.

            A few points:

            • As you said, taxation pays for health care in Ontario. Not all that far from the area in question is the Nanticoke Power Plant -- the largest coal fired power plant in North America. Pollution from fossil fuel fired power plants causes thousands of deaths in Canada per year, primarily of the elderly, who have to be hospitalized for lengthy periods of time due to respiratory problems. Pollution from fossil-fuel plants is already costing taxpayers. Reducing pollution will (in time) net a tax savings for taxpayers.
            • Most of the large scale power plants in Ontario are ageing, and will be in need of replacement in the next 20 years. The Government has stated its intentions to close Nanticoke by 2009. If new generation capacity is going to be built anyhow, who do you think is going to pay for it anyhow? That's right -- taxpayers.
            • Projects like this one will create jobs, which is a net increase for the Province when it comes to overall tax collections.
            • As seen in the blackout of August 2003 [wikipedia.org] (and I was living in Ontario at the time, and remember it quite well), Ontario's electricity grid and system of lots of large, distant power plants makes failure really easy. One of the potential solutions to mitigate the effects from such things occurring again is to have a lot more regional microgeneration plants. Encouraging the creation of such facilities can lessen the effect on the economy and the lives of citizens if such an event happens again.

            FWIW, I haven't lived in Ontario for a few years. I have family that still does, however. IMO, this seems like a pretty good investment on the part of the Province and on the part of taxpayers -- taxpayers get clean burning energy, pollution-related health care costs decrease, jobs are created, and with a bit of luck and ingenuity green power related industries move to Ontario due to its expended market. Sounds like a pretty good deal to the citizens of Ontario to me.

            Investments cost money. Governments have been investing in fossil fuel based power plants for decades, through either direct ownership or subsidies. Hell, chances are very good that the power in whatever region you're living in is or has been subsidized by tax dollars. Why start bitching about it just because in this case it's a green technology subsidy

            Yaz.

            • by Firethorn (177587) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @07:10AM (#18917873) Homepage Journal
              Nanticoke Power Plant is a 3.92GW plant with what appears to be a 70% load factor.

              In other words, even a hundred of these plants, with a combined cost of $30 billion dollars, wouldn't be able to replace Nanticoke. Meanwhile 4 Gigawatt nuclear reactors would cost ~4-8 Billion dollars and eliminate the need for nanticoke, complete with around a 30% increase in available power.

              Projects like this one will create jobs, which is a net increase for the Province when it comes to overall tax collections.

              Projects like this make sense if they increase economic activity, but building any kind of new power plant would do the same, and cheap power would help attract more new business than expensive power. Being miserly is the best way to increase business in many ways - providing the most services for the dollar.

              I agree with you on the idea of eliminating pollution, just on the how.

              Why start bitching about it just because in this case it's a green technology subsidy

              Because it costs around 8 times as much as other clean technology? And people complain about Haliburton*.

              *Not because I like fraud, but I also dislike waste. Rather than using this to 'spur' development, they'd be better off investing half directly into solar development and the other half building a few new nuclear reactors.
              • by Yaztromo (655250)

                Meanwhile 4 Gigawatt nuclear reactors would cost ~4-8 Billion dollars and eliminate the need for nanticoke, complete with around a 30% increase in available power.

                For the record, I am not against nuclear power. Ontario has nuclear power facilities, and are apparently setting up to bring 4 new reactors online by 2018 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darlington_Nuclear_G enerating_Station [wikipedia.org]).

                Ontario is a big place, however, with 1.5 times the surface area of the state of Texas. This is a very large area to s

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Dun Malg (230075)

              Projects like this one will create jobs, which is a net increase for the Province when it comes to overall tax collections.
              I'm rather ambivalent on the issue itself, but I would like to point out that the above line of reasoning is a variation of the Broken Window Fallacy [wikipedia.org] .
        • by drsquare (530038) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @08:42AM (#18918289)

          No misunderstand the program. It isn't end-consumers who pay the $0.42/KWh, its the Province of Ontario
          Paid for by the tax-payers. So frugal users who keep their electricity usage down are subsidising the bills of wasteful people who leave all their lights on 24/7.

          A better way to encourage renewable energy sources would be a tax on electricity based on its environmental damage. If would make renewable energy more viable and force people into using less electricity. But this wouldn't involve as many opportunities for back-handers.
          • by Sherloqq (577391)
            > Paid for by the tax-payers. So frugal users who keep their electricity usage down are subsidising the bills of wasteful > people who leave all their lights on 24/7.

            Yeah, but if the cost is passed on to others by means of electricity prices (the less you use, the less you pay) instead of Yet Another Services Tax (doesn't matter how much you use, everybody pays), *AND* you're the one on the receiving end by virtue of being paid by the province because you sell your excess generated electricity,

            1) you
      • by Dasher42 (514179)
        Like most things related to Big Oil and big car companies, you're being presented with an up-front cost for the renewable energy, and the subsidized costs you've paid for through your tax dollars. Our petroleum based economy is actually very costly, and it doesn't come down to dollars, but who wants to keep their hands on the tap.

        This is good news. This is a sane source of electricity that will help solar power gain the momentum for an economy of scale.
      • by vertinox (846076)
        Since we haven't had a significant nuclear accident since the Carter administration, which even then affected roughly NO ONE, I'll stick with my current supplier, thanks.

        I don't mind nuclear myself, but I can't build a reactor in my back yard (well maybe, but I don't think my neighbors would like it)

        With solar, I can put it in my back yard effectively offsetting my own power needs without paying anyone else in the process. Currently, it isn't cost effective to do so with the price of solar cells, but if the
    • by Heembo (916647)
      Coal is neither small-scale or a renewable project. RTFA.
  • Shame (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mrshowtime (562809) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @02:36AM (#18916901)
    I was shopping for home improvement stuff today and I put my hand on a 8x3 huge sheet of granite and was amazed at how much energy and heat was in that relatively thin piece. It got me to thinking why there has never been a real push for solar energy technology. Yes, in the past it has been cost prohibitive, but I guess I am asking why there has never been a "nuclear" level push behind solar tech and why isn't there a real push now that we have the technology available? I mean, come on, it's free, endless* energy! :)
    • Re:Shame (Score:5, Insightful)

      by zippthorne (748122) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @02:45AM (#18916929) Journal
      Footprint.

      Cheap, efficient, easily maintianable solar is not hard at all. All you need is mirrors, some slow electric motors, a working fluid, and a conventional turbine. Oh, and a lot of land not near NIMBYs, who for some reason will find a reason to be scared of everything.
    • by reporter (666905) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @03:10AM (#18917017) Homepage
      Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and Georgetown University conducted an extensive study of the cost of nuclear power generation via current and future nuclear technologies [sciencedaily.com]. The conclusion is that the cost of nuclear power falls in the range: "3 cents per kilowatt hour to nearly 14 cents per kilowatt hour". That cost is much lower than the solar-cell power plant and, on average, is cheaper than wind power. Nuclear power is almost as "clean" as wind power.

      Building a solar-panel power station is "cool", "neat", and "oh, so hip". However, it makes no economic sense. Solar power is about 3x the cost of the most expensive nuclear power.

      Nuclear power is the way to go.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Yaotzin (827566)
        Still, there's the little problem regarding nuclear waste. What the hell are we going to do with it?
        • Self feeding cycle or some such. If no one ever stands to make a profit from the safe disposal/containment/reuse of nuclear waste and other irradiated materials, the problem of disposal will never be solved. If there is a significant need there will be some greedy sob will find a way to fill it and get filthy rich doing so.
      • Building a solar-panel power station is "cool", "neat", and "oh, so hip". However, it makes no economic sense. Solar power is about 3x the cost of the most expensive nuclear power.

        Nuclear power is the way to go.


        Ok, its not quite as simple as that.

        Nuclear power by standard technology requires enrichment. Thats because they require a much higher percentage of U235 [wikipedia.org] in order to sustain a reaction than occurs naturally.

        U235 is only 0.7% of uranium (as it has a half life about one tenth of U238 [wikipedia.org]). You need 4% or more to do a conventional nuclear reactor.

        Enrichment also means throwing away a lot of U238, which will never be used in a conventional reactor.

        Now we can use U238 in a breeder reactor [wikipedia.org] (and Thorium, which converts to U233). But if you do that, its a whole different technology, and the costs [wikipedia.org] aren't as clear cut.

        If you were to try and run the world on conventional reactors, the supply of uranium would last us 20 years or so. If you can use breeders, you will get maybe a 100 years (depends how much we use). If you add in thorium, several hundred years.

        So the only price that is relevant is the breeder reactor price of electricity. Because there isn't enough U235 in the world to really get serious about using it this way.

        Breeder reactor technology is real, we can do it. Its a bit more expensive, but will no doubt get cheaper with use. Guess what? So will solar power.

        And, at the risk of being doom and gloom, guess which one will still be plentiful in the year 3000? There is a finite amount of fissile material on the planet. The sun should be good for about 500 million years or so, as opposed to 500 years.

        I know that there are energy storage issues for baseload, but there are solutions such as solar towers [wikipedia.org]. And open battery [wikipedia.org] storage.

        I'm not opposed to nuclear power, but in the longer run, its also a stop gap for solar energy (including wind & hydro as being solar in origin), geothermal and tidal energy. So that is where we need to spend the big dollars.

        My 2c worth.

        Michael
        • by kilodelta (843627) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @10:32AM (#18918881) Homepage
          The problem I have with nuclear power is that it is woefully inefficient. Using nuclear fission to generate steam that drives a turbine to produce electricity seems wasteful to me.

          As our understanding of the physical world increases, it should be possible to extract electrons directly from the items undergoing fission. Then I'd consider it efficient use.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by pclminion (145572)

            As our understanding of the physical world increases, it should be possible to extract electrons directly from the items undergoing fission.

            I am astonished by the number of physical misunderstandings you must have that would cause you to write such a sentence.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          > If you were to try and run the world on conventional reactors, the supply of uranium would last us 20 years or so.
          > If you can use breeders, you will get maybe a 100 years (depends how much we use). If you add in thorium, several
          > hundred years.

          Twenty years--lets look at that the number carefully. The current mineral inventory of uranium, coupled with current enrichment technology and usage gives you about 70 years [world-nuclear.org]. If one projects that number of reactors triples, then we can get the twent

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Waffle Iron (339739)
        Due to nonproliferation concerns, substantial increase in worldwide nuclear power use is a non-starter. It just isn't going to happen, so give it up and focus on alternative technologies. The hippies and environmentalists aren't driving this, the neocons are. If nuclear power were a viable option, we wouldn't be going batshit over Iran and its little nuclear industry. Now imagine every other country on earth demanding to control their own nuclear infrastructure: This isn't ever going be allowed to happen.
  • Ratio's (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kawahee (901497) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @02:38AM (#18916909) Homepage Journal
    "to power 10,000 homes ... the plant will cover 365 hectares"

    It appears the footprint per house of the solar panels is actually less than the footprint of a house by itself. Surely it should be mandatory/make sense for compulsary solar panelling on houses?
    • assuming its just solar panelling, i'd think it'd be a good idea. but if its anything fancier (like the mirrors pointed at a tower to boil water) then it might not scale to that size very well.
    • Re:Ratio's (Score:5, Informative)

      by Firethorn (177587) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @03:05AM (#18916997) Homepage Journal
      Are you sure about that? [google.com]

      365 hecters = 39.3 million square feet. The average [census.gov] size of new homes are ~2.4k square feet each, or 24 million square feet total. This doesn't count roof space though, as a two story house will have half the roof expected.

      It's close, but not a match.

      Hmm... 40MW over 10k homes only leaves 4kw average draw per house, or 16 amps of 240 during the day. Figure a 50% load factor(High end), that's 1,440 kw/h per house. At my local price of $.08/kwh $115.20 of electricity. I saw that Canada's subsidizing solar to the tune of $.24/kwh, so it'd end up being $345.60 of electricity.

      This is considered good how?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Firethorn (177587)
        I saw that Canada's subsidizing solar to the tune of $.24/kwh, so it'd end up being $345.60 of electricity.

        Excuse, me, I'm dyslexic apparently. $.42/kwh = $604.80

        Are they insane?

        $70-80 million for a 10mw install, this one is expected to run $300 millon.
        $80 million for 10mw = $8 a watt, in Canada I'd expect availability to limit the production factor to, at most, 40%

        Let's beat the nuclear drum a bit.
        Nuclear power = $1-2/watt, for a production factor that's above 80% today.

        For around four times what they're
      • by Kawahee (901497)
        I had a feeling that the math didn't quite add up. The Census data was a nice addition. Well rebuked.
        • by Firethorn (177587)
          Just remember that I used *new* home construction. As you can see in the census data, homes have gotten substantially larger over the years.
    • Re:Ratio's (Score:5, Insightful)

      by smallfries (601545) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @05:58AM (#18917613) Homepage
      Yesterday there was an article [independent.co.uk] in the Independent about a large wave powered station off the coast of Cornwall. The thing that struck me as odd is that in the UK the 20MW station will supply about 7500 "homes" - always a strange piece of statistics. In Canada the 40MW solar station will supply about 10000. Is this purely down to different levels of power consumption on either side of the Atlantic, or is the exchange rate for Canadian Watts pretty bad?
      • by Firethorn (177587)
        It depends upon your assumptions, of course.

        The canadian plant is dedicating 4KW per home. In US terms, this is over a $100 of electricity. More than most people would use except for those with electric heat.

        The UK one would be 2.7kw per home, so yeah, they're figuring on less power usage. Maybe the UK has fewer electric ranges/stoves/water heaters on average. Lights probably won't make much difference.

        Now, in either case there's also the question of whether the reporter figured the power factor in, and
      • Might it be that on average, Canada is colder? Not that I've ever been there, but what I see on TV makes me think of a land of ice and snow.
      • When people start dying from exposure walking from their driveway to their front door in Cornwall, I would expect power consumption to start going up.
  • I'm not impressed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by syncrotic (828809)
    Photovoltaic is an appropriate technology for the private rooftops of wealthy environmentally-minded people. They don't mind a 20 year ROI, because they're installing the panels to feel good about making a difference. I, as a consumer of electricity, do not want to pay $0.42/kWh: that's probably one of the most expensive electricity sources in north america.

    I especially don't want to pay those rates for a dead-end technology. It's one thing to build a pilot plant at subsidized rates if it can realistically
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kanweg (771128)
      Breakthroughs don't get big money funding, the only exception I know is fusion technology, and like 30 years ago, we still have 30 years to wait before it is believed to be economical. Let's hope they are right this time.

      It is nice if there is a single missing cause, and if we find and solve it we have cost-effective solar power. It is very rare for technology to work that way. Take chips. The transistor on a chip was a breakthrough, sure, but it took an awful long time to get me a 3 GHz Mac. All the time I
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dino213b (949816)
      Historically, in the US, projects that succeed have to be subsidized by the federal government. A prime example of big projects in the US that are "perceived as successful" are dams. Private construction of dams has failed time and time again (due to massive costs) until bureau of reclamation and USACE started siphoning from the federal budget for their construction. If you examine costs vs benefits on most dams in the US, you will see that a large number of them are "useless". Funding of these puppies has
    • You are absolutley correct PV power generation will never be a viable large-scale power source, but what it is extremely good at is being a small-scale power source. Why go cover a big piece of land with solar cells when there are millions of empty roofs around the country. Considering the prices of homes these days and the nominal amount of improvement in output and price of home PV systems, the only thing that is holding back a solar explosion is the attitude the customers, the power company, and the go
  • by Burdell (228580) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @02:58AM (#18916973)
    The nearby nuclear power plant here has three reactors, each of which can generate over 1100MW (one reactor is currently off-line but is on schedule to be on-line next month, now capable of up to 1280MW). Even closer to my house is the dam that can generate over 140MW.
    • I agree with you on the nuclear, however I don't think we should be so quick to put hydroelectric projects in the "non-polluting" column. They are actually hideously polluting, and unfortunately they create the sort of insidious pollution that's hard to get anyone to take responsibility for, and nearly impossible to reverse or clean up without demolishing the dam.

      By converting a free-flowing river or stream into a pool of water, you cause the level of dissolved oxygen in it to go down; this alters the balan
    • by BuR4N (512430)
      "The nearby nuclear power plant here has three reactors, each of which can generate over 1100MW"

      How much energy was/is spent building it, maintaining it, mining for its fule,transporting the fule and manage its waste ? You need to offset that before you can draw any conclusions about its efficency.
      • by Burdell (228580)
        Well, the same can be said about a solar power plant, but that wasn't really my point. To replace the nuclear plant with a similar solar plant, you would have to have a solar plant that covered 125 square miles (based on the size and power listed in the summary). That's not particularly practical.
  • The question that has been bugging me for a long time is: Is it even possible for us to use only renewable energy sources? I'm almost convinced we will never get enough energy out of renewable sources. Even now there are stories in the newspapers about locals having not enough food and water because their resources are being used for the production of alcohol for car fuel. Only a tiny amount of the earth's car poulation uses alcohol as (constituent of) its fuel. What if every car on earth has to run on bio
    • by Xiph (723935)
      Still, the rooftops do represent a resource, that we can use.
      So it won't give us 100% coverage? well, even if all roofs covered in solar panals only covered 10% of our needs, it's still better than those 10% being covered by coal plants.

      Yes, we do have to make more energy-efficient appliances and sadly yes, we do face big problems in the future.
      The problems we face might be solvable by nuclear power, but we also know that this has long term problems we don't want,
      I think it's best to at least get as much as
      • by Firethorn (177587)
        You'd be better off installing a solar water heating system than photovoltiacs. It's much cheaper and more efficient. With a pump and a sufficiently sized tank somewhere, you should hardly ever need to heat the water using a different source. That alone would cut electricity usage(and NG, propane) by quite a bit.

        By my calcs, it seesm that the solar project would cover about half a house's needs by converting it's roof to photovoltiac.

    • by mdsolar (1045926)
      There are more than sufficient resources to use renreable energy exclusively but we need to think differently about how power is managed. In my opinion, the base-load concept needs to be transformed into a fully demand-response-supply-management concept where stored renewable energy is held in reserve to handle time domain demand-supply imbalance. Here is an example of what I've been thinking about on this: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/04/smelling-salt s .html [blogspot.com].

      The issue of liquid fuels is a little di
  • by sarahbau (692647) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @03:30AM (#18917073)
    Why use photovoltaic panels for a power plant? They're nice for small applications, or for homes, but if you're building a power plant, something like the Solar Energy Generating Systems in the Mojave Desert makes more sense. They make 165MW and I believe only take 1,000 acres (only slightly more than the 365 hectares of this one). They've already been in operation over 20 years, but there doesn't seem to be anyone doing something similar.

    SEGS [solel.com]
    • by mshurpik (198339) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @04:12AM (#18917229)
      Yes. SEGS consists of parabolic mirrors that focus the sun's heat on a water pipe to create steam. Once you realize that solar rays can be focused to extreme temperatures, the idea of steam follows naturally.

      Mirrors+water+sun=very cheap and effective. I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes a major generation method. For a large scale app you would want a turbine, but on a small scale you could probably do some interesting things with just the steam itself.

      After all, the first solar app I saw as a kid was just to heat water for the home. Pipes+black paint+water pump=fewer oil deliveries. Why don't more people do this?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by joib (70841)
      Concentrating solar power works comparatively better in areas with little cloud cover, since they are entirely dependent on direct radiation, vs. normal solar cells which at least get some output from diffuse light.
  • Translation (Score:3, Funny)

    by pipingguy (566974) * on Sunday April 29, 2007 @03:37AM (#18917109) Homepage
    FTA: The Sarnia solar farm will be enormous by comparison, stretching across nearly 365 hectares, the equivalent of 419 Canadian football fields.

    For you metric-challenged Americans, that equates to about 25.74 Libraries of Congresses.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      We measure in NASCAR race tracks hereabout these days.

      Using Homestead Speedway as a baseline at 600 acres,
      that there solar plant will take 1.5 Nascars of space.

  • simcity (Score:4, Funny)

    by avoision (622708) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @03:39AM (#18917113)
    I sure hope that they didn't enable disasters or the space monster might take the solar plant out. Anyway, it'll fall down in exactly 10 years, so what's the point?
  • solar reminds me of the japanese business model of charging nothing for printers then raping you on the refills. they scream FREE SUN SHINE... subtitle "cost of setup wil bankrupt you". until a dramaticly cheap and cleaner to produce solar panel comes along, it's just a pipe dream
  • Not much is known about OptiSolar, though many of its private investors are Canadian. It was co-founded by Randy Goldstein and Phil Rettger, who previously founded the Calgary-based oil sands technology and project developer Opti Canada Inc.

    This is interesting, as Opti is currently finishing their Long Lake facility [opticanada.com] which uses new technology for heavy oil upgrading and energy-saving in addition to the SAGD [wikipedia.org] extraction method. Part of the $5 billion project is a huge oxygen plant which will help cleanly bu
  • Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShooterNeo (555040) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @04:12AM (#18917233)
    I think I need to inject some common sense into the arguments here. Yes, with current technology and costs, nuclear power may be cheaper.

    But think about it for a moment : in the long run (as in next 10-20 years), what form of energy is subject to the biggest reduction in costs?

    Solar : You make the panels. As soon as the technology stabilizes and we finally agree on a dirt cheap, efficient form of panel (there's about 20 different methods talked about) you build a plant that makes acres of it all day long. Every piece exactly like all the others. Fully automated. You truck them to a spot in barren wasteland, and dump them. Plug them in. A simple robot washes the grit off every now and then.

    I don't think it is unreasonable to expect a factor of TEN reduction in cost. After all, the raw materials are low grade silicon wafers and energy (which can be supplied by panels produced by the plant itself...)

    As for land : I calculated that at 10% net efficiency, we would need a 200x200 mile area of Arizona to power the entire United States. That includes all the energy used for transportation, and losses used in spinning up energy accumulator devices. That land currently sits idle, and while is a lot of area, there's still plenty of Arizona left (I used google earth to check this)

    Nuclear : while solar requires only a handful of educated people, and can't be screwed up catostrophically, nuclear will ALWAYS require a lot of skilled labor to handle and high liability. Even the most dummy proof pebble ped reactor design would still need all sorts of care to handle the fuel and maintainence on the plant. You can't cut corners on nuclear. You can't mass produce
    the plants as easily.

    Everything that comes into proximity of the reactor becomes nuclear waste. It all has to be carefully handled. There's hazardous environments, especially for a plant that does reprocessing, where hot spent fuel has to be handled and worked with.

    I like nuclear power : it's complex and cool and involves all sorts of neat things. Fusion is even cooler. But realistically, for the forseeable future solar is a MUCH better prospect. I believe had a few billion been sunk into a robotic factory to manufacture solar panels, we would not even be having this debate.

    (when I say forseeable...I mean it. There's actually a VASTLY more efficient way to do interplanetary, and even interstellar, travel that doesn't involve fusion or fission plants...)
    • by Kopretinka (97408)
      You're thinking Arizona, but forgetting Nevada - seems to be bigger and emptier. Or better yet, just cover the whole of Utah. And then there are other places in the world, like the Sahara, and we know Africa's economies could use abundance of cheap power (think refrigeration available everywhere, for instance).
      • Thank-you for the reminder. I picked Arizona because I know there isn't much there throughout most of the state, and it is a little closer to the equator. But realistically, a real system would be distributed - I just wanted to point out that we could get away with a patch of Arizona alone to power everything.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by grumling (94709)
          That's all well and good, we keep hearing the same thing... An area the size of (insert badlands state here) will power all the homes in the world. Last I heard, other than a few key locations (Las Vegas, Phoenix), there really aren't too many people in these areas. That means a lot of distribution needs to be installed. Sure, there's a lot there already due to the big dams, but efficiencies go way down once you start to push power on the grid. It is much better to generate power close to where it is consum
    • by DougWebb (178910)

      I read that nuclear engineers at a university in Oregon are developing a reactor that is a sealed box that can be transported on a flatbed rail car. You transport it from the factory to where you want power, and install it in a pool of water. It lasts for five years, at which time you send it back to the factory for maintenance and refueling, and you replace it with a new one.

      The reactor can generate enough power for 35000 homes, which I guess is 140MW. It costs 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, including fue

      • 1) Can you trust ANYONE with the keys to the reactor, or is it always a danger? (hint : it is still a nuclear reactor. It has EXTREMELY dangerous high level radiation inside it, and if someone were to deliberately blow it up it could make a lot of people sick)

        2) What does the plant look like that has to maintain these things for refueling? (hint : think lots of dangerous areas)

        3) Uh, you didn't include the nuclear waste disposal fee. To do this according to federal standards may cost several cents for
        • by Firethorn (177587)
          If it's like the Japanese 4S design,

          1) Can you trust ANYONE with the keys to the reactor, or is it always a danger? (hint : it is still a nuclear reactor. It has EXTREMELY dangerous high level radiation inside it, and if someone were to deliberately blow it up it could make a lot of people sick)

          It's sealed in multiple layers. The outside might be railcar sized, but the actual material is about the size of a log. There's literally no user servicable parts. The description was that the plant gets two pipes
        • by DougWebb (178910)

          1) It has no keys; it's a sealed box. As I understand it, on-site maintenance involves keeping the pool filled, and taking care of the electrical connection to the grid. The box is shielded so that no radiation can escape, and given the small size it can't have that much nuclear material in it. Yeah, blowing it up would be bad, so it needs physical security, but that's true of any power plant, chemical plant, most manufacturing plants, etc.

          2) I'll bet the plant is a lot cleaner and safer than coalmine, oi

    • by jez9999 (618189)
      (when I say forseeable...I mean it. There's actually a VASTLY more efficient way to do interplanetary, and even interstellar, travel that doesn't involve fusion or fission plants...)

      Are you talking about this [steorn.com]?
      • No. A trivially simple method involving momentum transfer. Basically, you fire rocks at the spacecraft and it catches them with a magnetic accelerator and fires them back. You avoid the rocket equation doing this.
    • Peak power usage is in the daytime, but it's been noted that a lot of power is needed at night too. Solar panels don't work at night.
  • by kmac06 (608921)
    So some people feel so guilty about using power, they are willing to pay 4x as much?
  • real cost (Score:2, Interesting)

    by EaglemanBSA (950534)
    Isn't 1.4 square miles of land a bit ridiculous for 10,000 homes? I mean - that's a powerplant half the size of my hometown to power an area not even twice as big. Solar technology still has a long way to go in terms of energy density. At least with coal there are some options to make it really quite a clean, reliable process - and for now, it's also a good way to get the US off of foreign fuel sources (we have enough to power the entire country for the next 150 years easily). See these links:

    Fischer-Tro [wikipedia.org]
    • by raygundan (16760)
      It's a huge chunk of space set up to power 10,000 homes, when it's a safe bet that the rooftops of 10,000 homes have more surface area than this power plant already. Some of them won't have a clear view of the sky, and some of them will be at lousy angles-- but I'm sure you could do it.

      I suppose centralizing it makes maintenance easier, though. Things like this seem like they would make more sense in the southwestern US. I'm sure we could spare a few square miles of desert, and the power production would
  • Ok, so then what is going to happen in the winter? How do they protect this thing from snow? (I live in Ontario.)
  • Hectares? (Score:3, Funny)

    by SirBruce (679714) on Sunday April 29, 2007 @09:35AM (#18918561) Homepage
    What sort of crazy measurement is that? In God-given units, that's it's 90.1934642 square furlongs or 144,309.543 square rods.

If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong. -- Norm Schryer

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