Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Compare cell phone plans using Wirefly's innovative plan comparison tool ×
Power Science

Future Looks Bright for Large Scale Solar Farms 325

Hugh Pickens writes "The economist reports that Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) systems that capture and focus the sun's rays to heat a working fluid and drive a turbine, are making a comeback. Although the world's largest solar farm was built over twenty years ago, until recently no new plants have been built. Now with the combination of federal energy credits, the enactment of renewable energy standards in many states, and public antipathy to coal fired power plant, the first such plant to be built in decades started providing 64 megawatts of electricity to Las Vegas this summer. Electricity from the Nevada plant costs an estimated 17 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), but projections suggest that CSP power could fall to below ten cents per kWh as the technology improves. Coal power costs just 2-3 cents per kWh but that will likely rise if regulation eventually factors in the environmental costs of the carbon coal produces."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Future Looks Bright for Large Scale Solar Farms

Comments Filter:
  • by Entropius ( 188861 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @12:19PM (#20711393)
    Concentrated solar power isn't competing with coal for cost-efficiency. Coal isn't an option, and we are (or should be) working to run the hell away from coal as quickly as possible.

    The real competition is other forms of clean power generation, like nuclear. Nuclear's costs are about the same as coal; why build a concentrated solar plant when you can just build a nuke plant?
    • by Icarus1919 ( 802533 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @12:22PM (#20711415)
      The nuclear leftovers have to go somewhere. And if something were to happen to a solar power plant, you don't have to worry about sunlight being scattered across the countryside. Nuclear radiation, on the other hand...
      • by Ferzerp ( 83619 )
        We've used coal for years. And how many people have died from the coal industry yearly?

        Eventually, we're going to have to get a fear of the word nuclear...
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mac1235 ( 962716 )
          http://www.google.co.za/search?q=%22deaths+per+year%22+from+coal&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&client=firefox-a [google.co.za] Either 10000 or 100000, depending which link you follow. Google is your friend!
        • by jdray ( 645332 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @01:22PM (#20711929) Homepage Journal

          Eventually, we're going to have to get a fear of the word nuclear...

          Absolutely. However, we have, AFAIK, around 500 years of coal reserves at our current rate of usage. We just need to figure out a better way to mine it. Natural gas availability is declining, with rising dependence on foreign imports of LNG. New nuclear technologies are important considerations, but not for an Executive Branch of oil men. Unfortunately, if the pendulum swings too far the other direction, NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) and BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) will put a stop to anything nuclear because it's scary.

          I don't understand where they get the number of 17 cents per kilowatt hour of production from this solar plant, unless it's ridiculously expensive to build. Solar, like wind and hydro, which are really just solar plants of a different nature, are mostly capital cost to construct, then operations cost (minimal) and maintenance down the line. Construction costs are commonly amortized over 20 years, so .17/kW, declining to .10/kW seems expensive.

          • by bhima ( 46039 )
            Our consumption of coal has far more consequences than most people have considered:

            The mining techniques we use are reprehensible, and the long term environmental damage incalculable

            The number truly ancient burning power generation plants is astounding and their output criminal

            The reticence to adopt "clean coal" technologies is remarkable

            The subsidies and tax breaks for the coal industries are substantial

            If you are basing your comments on the price being high I would guess that your personal bill is probab
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by HiThere ( 15173 )
              They're also measuring KWh at the generating plant, and ignoring transmission costs. I suspect, however, that most of the electricity from the Las Vegas plant is being used locally. Doing that with a coal plant would mean situating the coal plant near the use site rather than near the coal mine, and would result in, among other things, a vastly increased cost / KWh, because the coal would be much more expensive after being transported.

              Still, coal may well currently be cheaper under current laws and regula
              • It is kind of deceptive to compare a new solar plant (built today) with an old coal plant. The correct comparision is with new coal capacity which may come in closer to $0.04/kWh. With carbon capture and sequestration, $0.08/kWh might be expected. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070504151722.htm [sciencedaily.com]. Further, at present, solar competes with gas rather than coal because gas is used to meet peak demand. Gas costs less for construction than either coal or solar but it has volitile are rising fuel
      • Nuclear waste (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mike Van Pelt ( 32582 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @12:31PM (#20711505)
        But solving the nuclear waste issue (or, more accurately, permitting one of the solutions to the nuclear waste problem to be implemented) is not optional. We have to do it to dispose of the waste we've already got. So one of the solutions to disposing of this waste will ultimately be implemented, even if it's just shipping it all to France, where they are disposing of the waste quite handily, thank you very much.

        Once we dispose of existing waste, we can dispose of new waste the same way.

        • "Once we dispose of existing waste, we can dispose of new waste the same way."

          Unless it turns out that the ultimate disposal costs are far more than the power generation is worth.

        • I've read on Scientific American around one or two years ago that nowadays there's technology to build nuclear plants that use much more of the radioactive material than older designs, including lots that would be considered waste before, all the while leaving fewer and less radioactive hazardous wastes behind. If I remember correctly, current day buried radioactive waste are in fact fuel for these new technologies, so much that we would probably start digging and using them both for the sake of the energy
        • Re:Nuclear waste (Score:4, Informative)

          by renoX ( 11677 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @02:19PM (#20712479)
          >if it's just shipping it all to France, where they are disposing of the waste quite handily,

          Sigh, instead of making uninformed comment like this, would it kill you to research the topic first?
          A few facts:
          - France has currently *zero* long term storage location: our politicians weren't able to pick one (the not in my backyard effect).
          - Sure we have a good processing factory which is able to process the radioactive waste, it doesn't make radioactivity magically disappear and the 'waste from the waste' is sent back to the orginating country.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Alioth ( 221270 )
            I think the point is that the French will reprocess the "waste", which to them is not waste at all, but fuel.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by mdsolar ( 1045926 )
              In fact no. The plutonium is fabricated into MOX, but the uranium is stored because it is poisoned with U-236. Most of the reprocessing is just a precursor to long term storage and very little yields new fuel. The MOX is not subsequently reprocessed at all. http://www.wise-uranium.org/epfr.html [wise-uranium.org]. Considering that the French program devotes the output of three reactors to uranium enrichment, the energy return on energy invested is pretty low (less than 7) so that reenriching the spent uranium does not mak
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Ferretman ( 224859 )
          Nuclear waste has never really been a problem...people's FEAR of it has been the problem.

          If you want to "solve" the nuclear waste problem it's pretty easy:
          • Glassify the nuclear waste (well known process invented decades ago), essentially encasing it in blocks of non-reactive glass;
          • Stack these blocks up in a big pile in the desert. I think I read somewhere that all the nuclear waste ever generated would take up a space something like 1000 feet on a side;
          • Put a fence around the pile and guards ev
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by falconwolf ( 725481 )

          But solving the nuclear waste issue (or, more accurately, permitting one of the solutions to the nuclear waste problem to be implemented) is not optional. We have to do it to dispose of the waste we've already got. So one of the solutions to disposing of this waste will ultimately be implemented, even if it's just shipping it all to France, where they are disposing of the waste quite handily, thank you very much.

          Actually France isn't doing so well with nuclear waste:

          "Nuclear Wasteland" [ieee.org]

          Falcon

      • The best place for nuclear leftovers is.. back into the nuke plant. If it's still hot, it could still be hot. Stupid politics disrespecting breeder reactors.
    • by seanadams.com ( 463190 ) * on Saturday September 22, 2007 @12:31PM (#20711501) Homepage
      Coal isn't an option

      I take it you haven't been to China recently?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster ( 602015 )
        That's really the issue.

        It doesn't matter, in the long run, whether the United States with it's piddling 280 million or so consumers chooses the environmentally sound route. Besides, if anything our ongoing deindustrialization is going to reduce our contribution to the global pollution scene. On the other hand, if China, Mexico and other rapidly-industrializing third-world outfits don't start cleaning up their respective acts we're all going to wake up one morning wondering where we are heading, and why
    • by Bananatree3 ( 872975 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @12:31PM (#20711503)
      Nuclear power, though promising in terms of cutting emissions, does carry a lot of other hidden costs. Nuclear power for the US at a large level would require importing Uranium from other countries, as the US only has a small amount of Uranium ore. Whereas solar/wind/etc. would be generating the electricity right here on American soil without foreign imports.

      Uranium ore is also a finite resource, and like coal will eventually run out. Also, utilizing several technologies at once to produce power has its benefits. Relying on a single energy source for power doesn't have the same inherent security of having many different kinds of energy sources. My opinion is we should spend the mega billions needed for building a large Nuclear power network when you could spend that and develop a large, multi-pronged sustainable energy system that requires no imports.

      • by Mike Van Pelt ( 32582 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @12:44PM (#20711611)
        In the mid-1970s, a Japanese firm demonstrated extraction of uranium from sea water via an ion exchange process at a cost of about $200/pound (1976 dollars). That represents a ceiling price on the cost of uranium, as that's as close to an inexhaustible source as you can get.

        There's enough energy available from uranium that $724/pound (2006 dollars, according to the inflation calculator at http://www.westegg.com/inflation/ [westegg.com]) would not be a show-stopper.

      • Re:Used (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @01:09PM (#20711821)
        Depending on where you get your figures, as much of 50% of US nuclear power is generated from recycled Soviet uranium, either extracted from decommissioned warheads or excess manufactured product that was in the pipeline at the time of collapse. The US also has a large number of vintage-era nuclear weapons that are no longer considered militarily viable (the trigger mechanisms decay quite a bit) and so could be recycled. Finally, if the going ever gets really bad, we can always reprocess our spent fuel for Plutonium and/or use breeder reactors to make the stuff - this is the primary mode in which the Japanese nuclear industry sustains itself without outside supply, although the cheap price of Uranium makes them feel kind of dumb.

        In short, the US does not need to import a single gram of fissile material to run indefinitely. Solar/Wind/etc. . are fine ideas for the long term but do not meet our power needs today. We should absolutely invest in these alternative technologies and, while we are at it, invest in conservation and efficiency. Unfortunately, right now, we are making almost 50% of our power from coal that is massively environmentally destructive from the second it is strip-mined out of the ground to its large final carbon contribution. Nuclear power is the only technology currently available that can put a dent in coal usage. If you show me an alternative that can scale to 400 TerraWattHours, I'll withdraw that claim.

        References:
        http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/epm_sum.html [doe.gov]
        http://www.usec.com/v2001_02/Content/News/NewsTemplate.asp?page=/v2001_02/Content/News/NewsFiles/04-13-03.htm [usec.com]
        http://www.defencetalk.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-215.html [defencetalk.com]
      • Nuclear power for the US at a large level would require importing Uranium from other countries, as the US only has a small amount of Uranium ore.

        Australia currently has the world's largest supply of uranium but it is currently untapped. Negotiations are underway with China who is in need of a uranium supplier. Once the mines are developed there will be a lot more uranium on the market. Note that Australia has always been a good trading partner with the US so I don't think there should be any issues he

        • by Cecil ( 37810 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @02:26PM (#20712541) Homepage
          Uranium fuel is actually almost infinite. If supply ever became a concern, we'd just start reprocessing the waste to remove the neutron poisons instead of buying fresh new uranium (which is so ridiculously cheap that it's silly not to at this point).

          The amount of uranium that actually gets *used up* (the amount that gets turned into non-radioactive material, turned into neutron poisons, or especially the amount actually converted from mass to energy) is almost negligible on a macro-scale.

          There's also Thorium, which while a little trickier to use and has significantly less energy potential per unit, is so disgustingly plentiful that it would easily last us until the sun goes red giant (At which point solar energy is definitely the way to go *snicker*)
      • The USA carries about 3% of the world reserves (@$80/kg). At > @$100, we are carry something like 15%. We have mined the easy stuff. But we have LARGE quantities at the more difficult mining. In addition, we have LOADS of plutonium and "waste" that is to be buried. If we get the IFR going now, then all the "waste" will generate over 100 years of power for USA and that would be if we converted the entire country right now to 100% IFR (which is impossible). The advantage is, little waste left over.

        With al
    • by hxnwix ( 652290 )

      why build a concentrated solar plant when you can just build a nuke plant?

      Think about it. Rather than burning a limited supply of fossil carbon from plants that grew millions of years ago, we'd be burning an even more limited supply of fossil heavy elements that were generated by supernovae billions of years ago. Few people seem to grasp this, but the earth does not magically generate uranium - in fact, dwindling supplies have increased its price ten-fold in the last decade alone.

      Solar power and then fusion when it's ready would be a better idea. We could never hope to turn a

    • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @01:08PM (#20711809)

      Coal isn't an option, and we are (or should be) working to run the hell away from coal as quickly as possible.


      In principle I agree that coal is not a fuel of first choice (or second or third...) from an environmental perspective. It's dirty, dangerous to mine, hard to clean and has other problems besides. Unfortunately the two biggest manufacturing economies in the world (China & the USA) have HUGE coal reserves and are relatively poor in most other economically competitive fuels. (note the word relatively, obviously both have access to oil, gas, uranium and any other fuel you care to mention) Coal's simple abundance and the installed base of coal fired power plants means it's not going away any time soon. I'm fully in favor of regulating coal to be as clean as technology allows, even at some economic cost. But hoping that the worlds biggest economy will turn its back on a cheap, abundant energy supply, even if it is dirty and undesirable, is just not realistic.
      • by mattkime ( 8466 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @05:42PM (#20714147)
        >>I'm fully in favor of regulating coal to be as clean as technology allows

        The idea of "clean coal" is mostly a marketing gimmick.

        Even perfect coal burning will release mass amounts of CO2 and require continued mining.

        (Whenever miners die in a mine collapse, why don't people protest coal? _NOBODY_ has died from a nuclear accident in the US yet plenty of people are anti-nuclear.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SacredByte ( 1122105 )
      The final statement "... costs of the carbon coal produces.". Coal does not PRODUCE carbon when it is burned, it RELEASES it. Furthermore, if you take a picture of a 30 year old coal plant, and a 30 year old nuclear plant, you will see next to the coal plant a MOUNTIAN of coal that DWARFS the power plant; That is AT MOST a SIXTY DAY SUPPLY, and most of that is being released into the atmosphere. Look back at that picture of a nuclear plant; EVERY OUNCE OF FUEL IT HAS EVER USED IS STILL IN THAT PICTURE,
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OakLEE ( 91103 )
      Why shouldn't coal be an option? The NRDC has a great article [nrdc.org] on clean coal that effectively lays out the case for and against it.

      The pros of clean coal include (1) zero carbon emission; (2) almost none of the particulate emissions associated with traditional coal; (3) a 300 year supply of coal; (4) a significant chunk of that supply being in the US; and (5) minimal additional investment in plant upgrades since most coal plants are old and need to be upgraded already anyway.

      The cons of clean coal include (
  • You mean... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Icarus1919 ( 802533 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @12:20PM (#20711395)
    We're actually going to start charging industries for the environmental cleanups that tax payers have to pay for? What a novel concept.
    • Re:You mean... (Score:5, Informative)

      by RevHawk ( 855772 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @12:27PM (#20711463)
      No. That would make sense. Common sense and reason are dead in our country. Dead. We do absolutely NOTHING that makes sense. We never change ANYTHING. This must be what Rome felt like in the end...A few people jumping up and down screaming at the top of their lungs while the majority stumbles around blindly patting themselves for being the absolute best...
    • We're actually going to start charging industries for the environmental cleanups that tax payers have to pay for? What a novel concept.

      You pay either way, the cost shows up in your tax bill or your electric bill.
    • We already do it. Superfund is funded by a special tax levied on petroleum and chemical companies.
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
      No worries, those industries will just charge you the extra.
    • by Manchot ( 847225 )
      You know, I've always wondered why many self-proclaimed libertarian types are so against regulating emissions. Like it or not, we ultimately all share the same air and water. There's simply no getting around that fact. Each of us owns about one six-billionth of the atmosphere and oceans. Therefore, what gives corporations the right to dump their pollutants into my air? Should the government likewise allow local companies to dump their trash onto my land? That would clearly be an egregious violation of prope
  • by Mike Van Pelt ( 32582 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @12:23PM (#20711425)
    One bit of information I could not find in the story --

    How many acres of desert ecosystem are plunged into permanent shade to provide this 64 megawatts of power?

    • According to CNET news [news.com] 300 acres.
      • I forgot to mention, that's .47 miles squared. I think the desert'll be ok.
        • I'm sure it will, with this plant. But it only produces 64 megawatts. 64 megawatts is not all that much, compared to our total energy needs. To produce all our power this way would mean shading over 8,000 square miles.
          • by Bob Gelumph ( 715872 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @12:52PM (#20711665)
            So?
            New Jersey is 8,722.
            Just cover that...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xonstantine ( 947614 )
      Probably 1 acre would be 1 acre too much for the Earth First types.

      Can't use coal because it's a CO2 producer.
      Can't use nuclear because radioactive waste is scary.
      Can't use hydro because those damns endanger the snail darter minnow.
      Can't use tidal because it disrupts the spawning cycles of the crab.
      And now we can't use solar because it puts areas under shade.
    • It might cause a bit of environmental degredation but not much lives in the Mojave anyway, and the Mojave desert is unbelievably large, bigger than most NE states, so I don't think there much to worry about. We got plenty of unused land in the Mojave, so if we could get some energy out of it, that would great. M
    • How many acres of desert ecosystem are plunged into permanent shade to provide this 64 megawatts of power?

      We've already modified almost all of the prairie and forest land in this country to suit our needs. Why the sudden show of concern over one particular type of ecosystem?

    • How many acres of desert ecosystem are plunged into permanent shade to provide this 64 megawatts of power?

      Shade is a natural resource that many desert critters use to varying degrees. It is conceivable that this artificial shade may be of use to local critters. It may turn out to be an interesting thing for a biologist to study. Consider the old cars, plains, and ships that have been cleaned and sunk as artificial reefs.
    • In fact, one of the better places to build these are next to nuclear power plants. Skyfuel is looking to build a number of these, but they want to use salts for thermal storage. [skyfuel.com] I have coresponded with the CEO and suggested that they approach nuclear power plants. Turns out that they had the same idea and were in the process of doing so. The idea is to use the waste heat from the plant to drive up the temp of the salts. Then the sun is used to lift it further. Now, you have a great different in temp. In t
  • by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @12:34PM (#20711529) Homepage
    Sorry, but those costs suck donkey dick. Consumers aren't going to be very happy about doubling or tripling the cost of electricity, no matter how much better it makes people feel about screwing up the environment.

    This sounds like a waste of money on a technology without much hope of being economically viable. I'm quite certain that photo-voltaic is a lot cheaper than this, and wind power definately is. It sounds like there's a good reason why this technology was abandoned.
    • Why do you only care about the bottom line? There are a lot of external costs that are not factored into these 'costs'. No one adds the $6.5B per month we are paying in Iraq when computing the true cost of defending our access to the oil we are addicted to. No one adds the environmental impacts or lost miners lives for coal. If there were more investment in these technologies (rather than the last biggest project being over 20 years ago) the prices would come down.

      Of all people, the slashdot crowd, many wil
      • No one adds the $6.5B per month we are paying in Iraq when computing the true cost of defending our access to the oil we are addicted to

        I see this a LOT. The fact is, we import more oil from Russia, Algeria, and Nigeria [doe.gov] than we do from Iraq. About 4% of our oil comes from Iraq. We use less than 25% [cia.gov] of the oil that Iraq exports. Percentage-wise, the EU imports nearly twice as much Iraqi oil as the US.

        Maybe we should just hand the bill to the EU for protecting their oil supplies... Oh, that's right.

      • by afabbro ( 33948 )
        Why do you only care about the bottom line?

        Why don't you care about the poor?

    • by jbengt ( 874751 )
      Costs suck, but the price you pay for electricity is not just the cost of generation. Distribution costs, meter service costgs, taxes, etc., all get passed down to you the consumer.

      In addition to taxes and fixed fees, the energy charge I'm paying is $0.08275 per kWh (slightly less in winter months for what you use over 400kWh in that month). So $0.10 per kWh cost of generation would not double my bill.

      Also, most rates (most rates are commercial or industrial) include seasonal rate changes and some form of
    • It's interesting how we have to be held captive to the whims of big capital players when such proven and ideal technologies are already in existence. You notice that SEGS was one of the links here. Doesn't the SEGS story seem a little strange? Doesn't it seem like part of the story is being left out?

      If it worked so well and is still producing to this day with a parabolic revenue curve then why did they stop at 350MW peak? The answer is plain as day. The oil crisis ended. Back i
  • by bbn ( 172659 ) <baldur.norddahl@gmail.com> on Saturday September 22, 2007 @12:56PM (#20711699)
    Let me quote http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power [wikipedia.org]:

    "A British Wind Energy Association report gives an average generation cost of onshore wind power of around 3.2 pence per kilowatt hour (2005). Cost per unit of energy produced was estimated in 2006 to be comparable to the cost of new generating capacity in the United States for coal and natural gas: wind cost was estimated at $55.80 per MWh, coal at $53.10/MWh and natural gas at $52.50."

    3.2 pence is 6.4 cents. So why build a plant with technology that can only do 17 cents with hope that it might scale down to 10 cents?
  • I watched a documentary or special of some sort on the subject of solar power, and I was surprised to learn that, according to the program, the first (and longest running) solar power plant in the U.S. was built by the Carter administration.

    That's Jimmy Carter [wikipedia.org], the guy who was thrown up against an oil crisis [wikipedia.org] and decided to do what any rational, thinking person would do: develop alternatives. And not start any wars. ;-)

    I lived through those days, but I don't remember reading any headlines on the subject of a
    • That's Jimmy Carter, the guy who was thrown up against an oil crisis and decided to do what any rational, thinking person would do: develop alternatives. And not start any wars. ;-)

      Uh, Jimmy Carter invaded Iran. He went in with too few troops, and tried to micromanage things from Washington, and got our ass kicked. Of course you are correct in the sense that he did not start the war, the islamic fundamentalists started it and this same war is still going on today.
      • by jbengt ( 874751 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @04:03PM (#20713361)
        Carter did not start a war. He did authorize a rescue attempt that went bad when some equipment got fouled by sand, and a couple of helcopters crashed into each other in the darkness. The military has since developed technologies to deal with the those issues.

        And it cold be just as correctly (that is, not correctly at all) argued that the US started "the war" by backing the Shah and overthrowing Mosaddeq.
        _

        War on terror is a metaphor
        The war on Iraq is a mess
  • What a joke! (Score:2, Informative)

    by tjstork ( 137384 )
    62MW of Solar power. That's laughable, when your average gas turbine peaker cranks out a few hundred MW, and a big coal or nuclear station can crank out a 1000. Look at the energy portfolio of the USA, and its obvious, you need to have nuclear power if you want to get rid of coal.

    I would further dispute the idea that there is a "cost" of global warming that should be recovered by the government by raising taxes on carbon. If that is not a liberal act of theft, I don't know what is. "Hi, your act imbalanc
    • a billion people drown. My answer is: so what[...]look at all the construction jobs you'll get[...]New York, London, and other coastal cities are all old anyway and its time to just move on[...]Besides, you could take all of those disasters, and I'd almost rather have that, turning the whole world upside down, than give an extremist socialist liberal one thin dime.

      Well, perhaps you could run for office to implement your unconventional ideas. I don't know if the "immature sociopath" demographic will be abl

    • by Epistax ( 544591 )
      The real reason liberals are against nuclear power as a solution to global warming, rather than carbon taxes, is because, at the end of the day, they just want to steal your money for adding no value to the economy, just like they always do.

      I am a liberal.
      I am not against nuclear power. Specifically, I think we need to heavily invest in many new nuclear power plants using the latest designs (that is, less to no waste leaves the building).
      I don't want to steal anyone's money "for adding no value to th
  • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @01:18PM (#20711903)

    Since most of those captured photons will eventually be converted back into photons, via low pressure neon tubes.

  • by Made_for_Eternity ( 1160343 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @01:30PM (#20712009)
    The anti-coal fanatics need to get a grip. New environmental implementations on coal plants make these units very environmentally friendly. The united States is the Saudi Arabia of coal - If we want to reduce our foreign dependence on fossil fuels - we have an answer in coal. Coal plant construction is at an all time high - so statements that we are "running away from coal as fast as we can" are ridiculous. Wind and solar are good ideas in concept - but are not ready to supply even a fraction of the energy requirements used by the US. We enjoy relatively low cost energy in the united states - if we keep up the process that make it hard to build the necessary capacity to serve the needs - we WILL see energy prices increase drastically.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      New environmental implementations on coal plants make these units very environmentally friendly.

      No they don't. Coal produces the most carbon-dioxide of any major fuel. This is elementary chemistry, because coal is mostly carbon.
  • "Coal power costs just 2-3 cents per kWh but that will likely rise if regulation eventually factors in the environmental costs of the carbon coal produces."

    Analysts say it will also likely rise if monkeys fly out of my butt.

  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @01:35PM (#20712061)
    This is old and proven technology as there have been CSP systems in operation for over 20 years. They have increased efficiencies in the collection systems slightly over recent years with better glass insulators/collectors and better transmission fluids, along with heat storage mechanisms. But, those systems have been operating in the 90% efficiency range already yet the whole system runs at around 14% conversion efficiency. Fourteen percent is where Solar PV is and that number hasn't changed much in 20 years for CSP. Funding new CSP plants with tax $$$ is not what's needed and won't solve anything.

    From what I've seen, these people backing the CSP systems like or insist on steam turbine generating systems because that is what's used for coal, gas, etc. The existing utilities know how to spec these generating systems and their TCO( total cost of ownership ) is well known. Unfortunately, these are not so efficient and there seems to be opposition to other technologies for conversion from heat to electricity. It's an old school mentality which will keep this out of mainstream use and that is really what the existing energy industry wants anyways.

    So the only thing I have heard is that government funding making this an option because it is "green" technology. That is the wrong approach IMO. Until someone puts a $$$ value on carbon, health, environmental effects on a per KWh basis, this will remain more expensive than other energy industry owned power systems and remain a fringe and subsidized player. Again, just what the status quo wants. IMO.

    LoB
     
    • Toxicity and Tech (Score:3, Informative)

      by localroger ( 258128 )
      According to TFA the improvements are in simpler and more robust construction methods. Also, the manufacture of semiconductors is extremely toxic and high-energy; CSP plants use less toxic raw materials and more conventional manufacturing techniques. The manufacturing capacity to cover thousands of acres with PV cells would have to be developed; the capacity to cover thousands of acres with CSP exists already.
      • by Locutus ( 9039 )
        good point but at ~14% efficiency and $.17/KWh cost, CSP( or PV ) are not fiscally practical without subsidization funds.

        One could argue that the existing KWh pricing is already tax subsidized via huge DoD budgets to keep foreign oil flowing to the USA. But do you think the US energy industry is willing to start direct taxing of their products? I don't think so.

        BTW, my main point was that CSP needs to double their efficiency to 28% to be viable. Currently, electricity is purchased at around $.10/KWh so at a
  • Kramer Junction (Score:3, Informative)

    by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @02:08PM (#20712387) Homepage
    The first system referred to in the article is at Kramer Junction in the Mojave Desert. Links: 1 [wikipedia.org], 2 [solel.com]. Angelenos, next time you're passing by that way, keep an eye peeled. It's really cool.
  • Future Energy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zobeid ( 314469 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @08:08PM (#20715357)
    I think the most promising future energy sources, beginning with the best, are. . .

    1. Aneutronic fusion / IEC Polywell reactors. If this works -- as seems likely, based on experimental results thus far -- it could begin displacing *all* other forms of power generation within 15 years. The potential is mind-boggling. This could make coal, fission, natural gas, wind, and the majority of solar power and petroleum fuels hopelessly obsolete. Rapidly.

    2. Enhanced geothermal. According to a study from MIT, a relatively small R&D investment could open up enhanced geothermal energy production, at competitive costs, over wide geographical areas, including large parts of the USA. It could scale to meet a very large portion of electrical demand. An enhanced geothermal plant is conceptually similar to a nuclear plant, except that the atomic pile is safely tucked away under the earth's crust.

    3. Nuclear fission. If fusion doesn't work out, there's good old fission, and you can build it anywhere, even places where enhanced geothermal won't work. We've learned a fair bit about designing and managing fission reactors, but very little has been put into practice in the USA since we haven't broken ground on any new nuclear plants for several decades. We need to start building *now* just to hold our ground as aging plants come up for decommissioning.

    4. Solar. It's intermittent, expensive, and requires large amounts of land. And yet, the hype around solar is scary. Nuclear and geothermal have so many practical advantages, I have a hard time imagining solar providing most of the world's energy -- something all the faithful sun-worshippers expect. Still and all. . . Solar technology is being researched, progress is being made, and there's no question it will work at some price level. It may be useful for rooftop systems and assisting peak power demand, at the very least.

    5. Biofuels. This is an inefficient method of gathering solar energy, and it competes with food production for the same resources. Realistically, we're not going to power our whole industrial society off this stuff. However, it does produce concentrated liquid fuels, which are highly useful for certain tasks. There will probably be some kind of long-term role for biofuels -- especially if we can get away from food crops and move to cellulose or algae.

Take an astronaut to launch.

Working...