Ann, a 25% reduction of cost in a primary part is a great thing. It is not clear from the article how big the 275kW unit is. A medium size coal plant typically puts out 400 - 500 mega watts of power. A typical nuclear factilty about 900 - 1,000 MW. So, that would be about 1,400 of these units to replace a medium size coal plant. Of course, the coal plant puts out that energy all the time, on demand. So, while this technology is interesting and useful as an augmentation, in areas with lots of sun, I wonder if it is economically viable.
TJ, I, too am surprised that California hasn't mandated that commercial roofs will use solar energy. But I'm even more surprised that Arizona, Utah and New Mexico haven't done so. I believe their desert areas get more usable sunlight hours per year than we do here in the golden state.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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, 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.
I just wish these things were available on a small scale for homes. But steam generation is not to be played with, unfortunately.
I am not thrilled that a bankrupt state gets involved in these things, but that is California's problem as long as they don't come crawling to the rest of the country to bail them out.
But politics aside, we could use more innovative electrical generation. Since the King will not let us use coal, and congress has made sure we keep the Middle East rich, the un-taxed sun seems a good place to go.
Too bad the ocean is so hard on equipment, as there is a lot of energy stored there from the sun and moon!
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?
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?
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.
Altair has released an update of its HyperWorks computer-aided engineering simulation suite that includes new features focusing on four key areas of product design: performance optimization, lightweight design, lead-time reduction, and new technologies.
At IMTS last week, Stratasys introduced two new multi-materials PolyJet 3D printers, plus a new UV-resistant material for its FDM production 3D printers. They can be used in making jigs and fixtures, as well as prototypes and small runs of production parts.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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