Should be less maintenance than coal plants which have solids handling systems but no better than gas plants which have commonalities in terms of converting steam to electricty but differ in how they generate the steam and recover lower grade energy. There is a huge difference in the land usage....a 2GW coal plant was proposed near my town and its footprint was tiny compared what any solar plant would require. There are huge economies of scale in power generation which is why we don't have pervasive household scale natural gas fired generators. People sometimes use them for backup but those systems are not robust enough for 24/7/365 operation. Solar is struggling with cost effectiveness and there may be a great opportunity for a well built standardized household scale modular unit with minimal installation cost using solar concentration for combined household electric, hot water, and heating. This would gain efficiency by saving on distribution costs and losses but would need either built-in storage (geothermal?) or interconnect with the grid for backup (and sell excess). I was in China and most rural houses have solar collectors that are used for hot water, maybe for household heat too, but those systems don't generate electricity.
Ann, The Kimerlina site uses CLFR (Compact linear fresnel reflective) technology to concentrate the sun's rays on pipes filled with an oil. The oil is used to heat water in a boiler to turn steam turbines for power generation. There is actually a pretty nice write-up in Wikipedia and a link to the company's promotional video "Tech Tour" of the plant that has some aerial views that give a sense of scale.
Scott, thanks for letting us know. 3M's photo makes the installation look huge and it's hard to get a sense of scale, so I thought nit would be cool to get input from someone who's actually seen an LAT. Any idea what type the Kimberlina facility is?
Ann, after a little research it seems that the solar power plant that I see frequently in my trips through Bakersfield are part of the Kimberlina solar power generating facility. This is a 5MW plant that has been operating since 2008. Power plants used to look like concrete boxes with tall smokestacks. This looks more like a cross between a spider web and an industrial process plant - all out in the open. At 70 mph on the freeway, it goes by pretty quickly, but it's still fascinating to see.
Scott, do you mean you've actually driven by the Sunray Energy facility in San Berdoo county? If so, and you every have a chance to stop and take a look, let us know what your impressions are, OK? Thanks.
TJ - You're absolutely right. To make the most of our resources, there is no one solution. It takes whatever appropriate technology makes the most sense - tied together through a smart grid. On a personal note, I've chanced to drive by the facility many times and always wondered what it was all about. Now I know. Thanks.
Don't worry, Warren, California isn't bankrupt yet; that's just the annual budget exercise you're watching. Meanwhile, that's an intriguing point you make about the ocean: it does store a huge amount of energy in the form of wave motion. I've read in the past about attempts to harness that energy. Does anyone know what the status is of those attempts?
TJ, I agree in general with your topographical analysis of alternative energy methods. California is actually three different states, when it comes to that division. I live in the PNW-like sector. In the southeast, we've got the desert, and then there's the very long coast.
What's the relative cost of ownership/maintenance of this type of solar technology when compared to other fossil fuel technologies? Are these units durable with few moving parts to break or do they typically have on-going maintenance issues?
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