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Power Science Technology

Largest US Power Storing Solar Array Goes Live 377

Lucas123 writes "A solar power array that covers three square miles with 3,200 mirrored parabolic collectors went live this week, creating enough energy to power 70,000 homes in Arizona. The Solana Solar Power Plant, located 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, was built at a cost of $2 billion, and financed in large part by a U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee. The array is the world's largest parabolic trough plant, meaning it uses parabolic shaped mirrors mounted on moving structures that track the sun and concentrate its heat. A first: a thermal energy storage system at the plant can provide electricity for six hours without the concurrent use of the solar field. Because it can store electricity, the plant can continue to provide power during the night and inclement weather."
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Largest US Power Storing Solar Array Goes Live

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  • The plant doesn't generate solar power, the plant generates electricity.

    • The plant doesn't generate solar power, the plant generates electricity.

      Are you sure? TFS said it was a first. If the LHC can make a contain a black hole, then a small star should be doable. How else are you going to generate solar power at night. ;-)

  • by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @07:21PM (#45097215) []

    Interesting that the wholesale price of this electricity is 14c/kWh. The overnight residential rate in Phoenix is about 7c. I guess they're hoping to resell a lot of this to businesses during the day, or they're just going to eat the price difference (over nuclear, gas and coal) to meet the 15% renewable energy mandate for 2025.

    • by matthewd ( 59896 )

      They can sell it to California! I don't think they are building a lot of power plants here, and we'll definitely need some clean environmentally friendly energy to power the high speed train they are going to build. Besides PG&E and SCE get away with charging >.30/kWh to customers, so there is plenty of potential for profit there even at a wholesale cost of .14/kWh.

      If you doubt they would do this, consider that California once imported (and may still be importing) clean hydroelectric power from Cana

    • Re:14c/kWh (Score:5, Informative)

      by elashish14 ( 1302231 ) <{profcalc4} {at} {}> on Friday October 11, 2013 @12:35AM (#45098627)

      Unfortunately, the link you posted doesn't mention the timescale for energy generation. I am under the impression that, like nearly all solar energy technology, that the primary cost is up-front installation, and maintenance costs are virtually zero thereafter. Using this assumption, we have

      price / kWh = 2 (billion $) / (280 MW * t)

      This gives t = (2 billion hours) / (280e3 * [100 * price in cents/kWh]) as the amount of time it would take to break even, or with some simplification, 81.485 years / P where P is the price in cents / kWh at which you wish to sell.

      So if you were to sell at $.07 / kWh, it would ideally take 11.64 years to recoup investment (not taking into account additional costs and possible fluctuation in energy output). At double that price, it will take half the time. Either way, after that, I would say it's free energy. I don't see why there aren't more projects like this.

      • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

        and maintenance costs are virtually zero thereafter.

        Do you know how much Windex and paper towels they are going to go through cleaning 3 square miles of 3200 mirrors? They better buy the glass cleaner by the tanker full...

  • Anyone else out there thinking this?
  • Wait, what?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Loki_1929 ( 550940 ) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:31PM (#45097863) Journal

    China 2007:
    Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant
    $3.3 Billion for 2,120 MW
    $1.56 Million/MW

    US 2013:
    Solana Solar Power Plant
    $2 Billion for 280 MW
    $7.1 Million/MW

    And we wonder why we keep having to borrow money from them?!

  • The uninformed who spout off endlessly about how great green energy is rarely realize or talk about the cost to keep the power plants running at peak efficiency for a long enough time to recoup the initial investment. So what are the overhead costs? If they increase the cost of electricity to the consumer, are they going to care that there's a chance the Great Barrier Reef won't shrink as much especially since most of them couldn't afford to go see it?

  • by neorush ( 1103917 ) on Friday October 11, 2013 @07:51AM (#45100109) Homepage
    In 2010 there were 114,800,000 U.S. households, 114,800,000 / 70,000 powered homes = 1,640 of these facilities at 3 square miles per facility = 4,900 square miles! Airizona is 114,006 square miles, that is 4.2% of the state covered in panels....or roughly the entire state of Connecticut if you have some room for growth.
    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Friday October 11, 2013 @12:49PM (#45102673) Homepage Journal

      That's why solar arrays should go on the roofs of existing urban buildings -- the ground is already in use (no new ground need be destroyed**) and the power is produced where it's to be used (rather than requiring new transmission lines).

      ** If you haven't actually seen a desert solar facility -- they produce a scorched-earth effect locally and a heat/dust shadow for several miles downwind. They're extremely destructive of the desert ecology and environment, which is not nearly so lifeless as most 'greenies' and city slickers believe. Would they be so cavalier about it if, say, solar facilities were built in forest or wetlands? Putting 'em in the desert, which has a far harder time recovering from abuse, is elitist NIMBYism.

  • by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Friday October 11, 2013 @08:45AM (#45100353) Homepage

    A loan guarantee is not financing. The DOE has provided no money. The financing is from private institutions.

    The loan guarantee means the private institutions get paid even if the project fails, true. But why should the project fail? This is proven tech that's cost competitive. It would take some true catastrophe for the loan guarantee to ever be called on.

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