The largest solar plant in the world is currently in the works for an area near Gila Bend, Arizona (70 miles southwest of Phoenix). Abengoa Solar is building the 280 megawatt parabolic trough plant, called Solana. It will have up to six hours of thermal storage, which will enable it to provide power even after sunset or on cloudy days. According to Abengoa Solar, the energy produced will be enough to serve 70,000 households and prevent 475,000 tons of CO2 each year. It will reportedly eliminate nearly 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere each year.
Operation is scheduled to begin in 2013.
For more information, and a video, visit www.abengoasolar.com.
A frequent complaint about solar thermal generators and solar energy in general is that the technology fails to produce enough electric power to be economical. A team of researchers from Boston College and MIT have set out to change that, with a new type of solar thermal device that combines high-performance thermoelectric materials with spectrally-selective solar absorbers in a vacuum-sealed chamber that boosts conversion efficiency.
In English, this means more electric power from the same sized panel, while producing thermal power for other uses such as water heating. The results of this technology could have far reaching appeal, for industrial as well as residential. With the ability to simultaneously heat water and generate electricity, the hybrid panel has the potential for realizing payback much faster than any other device currently on the market.
Looking for more information? Check out the article “Solar-thermal flat-panels that generate electric power” from Solar Daily.
Today’s energy technology update comes from the golden state of California where Bruce Marshall of Marshall Hydrothermal has patented a system for harnessing thermal power and mineral resources from hydrothermal vents. Marshall Hydrothermal claims this is the first such system in the world. The design includes a three-meter wide insulated pipe, which could provide 20,000 megawatts of electric power – five times more than the largest US nuclear power plant – with no pollution or waste products (and since the superheated steam is located more than 200 meters beneath the ocean surface, it is unlikely to create an environmental threat in the instance of a tsunami). National Geographic estimates that hydrothermal vents can produce up to 17,000,000 megawatts of energy.
From the Marshall Hydrothermal website: “deep below the surface of the world’s oceans lies a vast and inexhaustible energy source, completely untouched by humans. Capable of providing enough power to make 20 GW+ generating stations a realistic expectation, its exploitation has only been awaiting the moment that a practical means of utilizing it could be developed.”
For more information, check out this video Marshall posted on its website: www.mevio.com/episode/192994/fen-091019.
During the month of March, we have had several small accomplishments which are worth mentioning. First, we’ve added new features and fixed bugs with the automation and controls suite. We’ve also found an inventor in California whose steam engine design we’ll be testing in the next few months as a candidate power system.
Fabrication and testing has begun for a bench-top-sized, salt water distiller test rig.
Our search for a location continues. The location has to have the perfect balance of solar, land, water and economic resources. A few candidate locations have been found outside the U.S.
We also briefly explored the possibility of producing hydrogen from solar thermal energy, using (mostly) off-the-shelf hardware. While this is currently probably too ambitious and complex for our means and Project: Boil the Ocean, it may lead to a future OMS project.
Multiple groups are in the process of developing small-scale solar thermal power systems for remote areas where utility power is not readily accessible. A not-for-profit group, STG International, based in Massachusetts is working to provide electricity and hot water to off-grid schools and clinics using solar energy technology. The for-profit Promethean Power Systems is developing a solar-powered refrigeration system for commercial cold-storage applications in off-grid and partially electrified areas in developing countries.
According to Popular Mechanics, these design concepts are using parabolic concentrators to collect solar thermal power. Utilizing an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) generator, the systems are able to produce electric and heated power. Total hardware costs for the STG system are only $3,000 for a one kilowatt electric power with water heating system. Automotive parts and other off-the-shelf components are used to keep costs low.
The approach of these groups is in line with what we at OMS and Project: Boil the Ocean are attempting, right down to the use of creative hardware parts for cost efficiency.
For you…for me…for the world.
Researchers in the U.S. and Switzerland have recently developed a solar prototype that can turn the suns energy into fuel. The reactor uses concentrated solar thermal energy to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, or carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and oxygen. To date, the device has only proven 0.7 to 0.8 percent efficiency, however, its researchers believe it has the capacity to become commercially-viable at 19 percent efficiency.
In other solar news, a bakery in California is using photo-voltaic (PV) panels to provide nearly 40 percent of its power. Alvarado Street Bakery has installed more than 1500 solar panels which provide 404 kilowatts of power.
For those of us who won’t be visiting California in the near future, an all natural desserts shop will be opening in Lakewood, Ohio this spring. The shop will offer tasty treats made from mostly local, organic and/or sustainable ingredients.
Today OMS brings you updates from the world of fusion power.
Michael Suppes from Brooklyn, New York, is developing a fusion reactor using only his home computer and $40,000 worth of parts that he purchased from Ebay and refurbished. Check out this video from Energy Now where Michael explains and demonstrates his current progress.
According to the blog Prometheus Fusion Perfection, “The Bussard reactor holds the promise of cheap clean abundant energy. A definitive energy solution. I hope to catalyze an open source movement to bring the Bussard reactor to fruition.” In other words, the author is developing one of the most promising sources of abundant energy for mankind, and he wants to give away his development efforts to the public as open source! What does the author say is the ultimate goal of this project? “Building the world’s first superconducting Bussard Reactor. Ultimately break-even fusion.”
We applaud all efforts toward making fusion power a reality.
Example of a System Concept
Operation Mustard Seed (OMS) has begun development of Project: Boil the Ocean. This project was initiated from the results of a year-long study into the feasibility of solar thermal power as an economical source of heat energy. The results suggested that solar thermal power could be competitive with cheap, nonrenewable coal and natural gas.
More than 70 percent of our planet is covered with salt water. This water creates a delicate balance of climate and biological needs necessary for all known forms of life.
And yet, not all of mankind has access to this precious, yet seemingly abundant source of water. Even in developed countries such as the U.S., fresh water shortages occur, leading to rationing and a predicted water shortage in the future.
If just a fraction of a percent of the salt in salt water were removed, it would be possible to sustainably supply all of mankind’s needs for fresh, clean water. As an added bonus, if we could harvest salt water in a sustainable manner it would have no measurable impact on Mother Nature or her natural processes.
Meanwhile, the sun bombards us with more solar energy in one hour than the world uses in an entire year. Tapping into just a tiny fraction of a percent of this abundant, renewable resource would provide an enormous quantity of energy.
Project: Boil The Ocean will attempt to apply ingenuity and just plain hard work during the next five years to develop the enabling technologies to make possible a sustainable harvest of our vast solar energy and water resources.
For you. For me. And for the world. Operation Mustard Seed.
The much talked about “cap and trade” portion of an energy bill that the U.S. Senate is drafting is no more. Senator Harry Reid, Majority Leader, said that there were simply not enough votes to include the measure (60 votes are needed to pass the bill). The bill will instead focus on energy efficiency and the ongoing saga that is the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Critics argue that with no required cap on carbon emissions, power companies will switch to natural gas, and one-third of coal-fired power plants in the U.S. could close. These plants would not be replaced until Congress passes guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions.
Normally this is the part of the post where we would offer the official Operation Mustard Seed opinion, but this is one topic we are going to stay quiet about, and let people come up with their own interpretations of the facts. Politics are a dirty business, and we feel that it is better not to have our opinion on the written record. (Although anyone interested in chatting politics and drinking coffee can head over to the “Contact Us” section of the “About Us” page and shoot us an email.) However, we will say that we are excited that Congress has finally decided to address energy efficiency, and we hope that it can swiftly and amicably put together a bill that is in the best interests of the country.
Cities from all over Ohio are jumping on the renewable energy wagon, and are introducing various projects into their municipalities. Just last week, the city of Painesville announced that it is working with NexGen Energy Partners, LLC to develop a municipal-scale wind power project on multiple sites across the city, with the potential to generate up to 3.2 megawatts of power. The partnership between NexGen Energy and Painesville marks the first time a municipality is partnering with a renewable energy developer for a distributed wind generation project of this size. According to the press release, the six to eight turbine project will be functional by the end of 2010, and have the potential to provide power to nearly 450 homes.
A quick glance over NexGen Energy’s press release page shows that the company is also partnering with many Ohio school districts for various renewable energy projects, including schools from: Seven Hills, Upper Scioto Valley, Bucyrus, Danbury, Ontario, as well as Ohio Northern University.