The 392-MW Ivanpah solar thermal plant in California near Primm, Nevada officially goes online today, with a dedication ceremony.
Celebrities include execs from the project’s creators NRG Energy, Bechtel, and Brightsource, and financial backers Google and the Department of Energy’s Loan Projects Office which provided a $1.6 billion loan guarantee. Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz is flying in to do the ceremonial honors. Grammy-nominated rock band The Fray, which used Ivanpah as the backdrop for their “Helios” album cover and a music video, reportedly will be performing.
Crescent Dunes in Nevada, another solar thermal plant, starts commissioning this week with a series of start-up procedures, testing the system slowly before coming online with full power. It stores excess heat in molten salt so energy can be produced at night too.
Ivanpah. One of the few new grid-scaler solar plants, in CA near Primm NV. Credit: ivanpahsolar.com/
A lack of federal tax credits, tight financing, and utilities not needing more solar to reach 2020 California goal has greatly slowed development of big solar. California has mandated 33% in-state renewable energy by 2020 and utilities say they will attain that so they don’t need to make additional purchase agreements for expensive renewable energy. This will accelerate the shift to distributed (rooftop) solar continues.
Of the 365 federal solar applications since 2009, just 20 plants are on track to be built. Only three large-scale solar facilities have gone online, two in California and one in Nevada. The first auction of public land for solar developers, an event once highly anticipated by federal planners, failed to draw a single bid last fall.
New Mexico has cut in half the amount of renewable energy utilities must use in the coming years, citing costs. Renewable energy proponents counter that the price of solar is dropping. However, those lower prices are due to at least in part state and federal subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives.
New Mexico energy regulators altered the state’s renewable energy law this week, infuriating renewable energy advocates who say the move will stunt the state’s growing solar industry. The changes made by the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) will permit utilities to use less solar energy.
Germany will soon produce enough solar power for most of the county from noon to 2 pm. This could destabilize the grid. Supply and demand must always be in perfect balance. Huge amounts of solar suddenly coming online means traditional power must cut back instantly (and then ramp up in microseconds when clouds block the sun) which is not something they are designed to do.
As Citi’s Jason Channell writes, “any further installations beyond this point could push structural solar power supply above demand and cause permanent mid-day grid instability.”
Here’s what he’s talking about (“double penetration” refers to Germany having doubled its solar capacity): Without batteries, that bulge is literally disruptive because it eats into conventional baseload generation, the backbone of current supply needs.
Germany needs a smart grid, which manages supply and demand better. Most of all, it need battery storage for excess solar power. Battery storage is improving. However it’s still expensive, barely deployed, and there’s a long ways to go and a short time get there.
Here’s a job that no one will mind being replaced by robots, meticulously cleaning solar panels 2-3 times a year in baking heat in deserts. Hell yeah, let a robot to it. Sunpower has bought Greenbotics, who builds these helpful robots, which use much less water than humans too.
Greenbotics is a leader in optimizing the performance of solar power plants through a cost-effective cleaning process. For the past two years, the company has used its proprietary CleanFleet™ robots and service offerings to wash hundreds of megawatts of systems in the Southwest and Western U.S. The robots can be configured for use with a variety of solar panels and mounting types, including fixed-tilt arrays and single-axis trackers and offer a less costly and greener alternative to manual cleaning methods, pressure washers and sprayer trucks. The robots use under a half a cup of water to clean each panel, which is approximately 90 percent less than traditional cleaning methods, making this solution optimum for solar systems built in desert conditions.
Solar Grid Storage has developed an energy storage system for solar power that not only powers the building and stores enough power for 4 hours, the local grid can use it to store or discharge electricity. Wow. This is a game-changer. Install enough systems like this and distributed energy becomes a reality everywhere.
The systems are installed and maintained by Solar Grid Storage and are leased to the end users. Utilities also pay the company because the systems help balance supply and demand, which is always crucial, but even more so with renewable energy, since it fluctuates in output.
This is the future of power. Microgrids and local power as well as gigawatt plants. Currently only one major utility allows this. Too many of the rest, with a few exceptions like Duke Power, are troglodytes who will change or die. This technology can’t be stopped.
Solar Grid Storage develops battery energy storage systems co-located with PV systems but separately owned and maintained by Solar Grid Storage. Our solution eliminates the need for PV developers to purchase a solar inverter, reducing installation costs and offering new benefits to the host. Solar Grid Storage finances the storage asset through revenues derived from multiple stakeholders. These revenues come from grid support markets that pay Solar Grid Storage to dispatch assets to maintain grid stability, and a series of new benefits, such as host emergency backup services, demand reduction, and peak shaving.
The Gemasolar solar thermal plant in Spain uses molten salt to store excess heat from the sun to power turbines at night. It recently produced electricity day and night for a record-breaking 36 days. Solar thermal uses heliostatic mirrors to reflect the heat of the sun to a central tower to heat water which powers the turbines. Many solar thermal system convert the steam back to water, thus hugely cutting water usage.
Molten salt is used in solar power tower systems because it provides a low-cost medium to store thermal energy and operates at temperatures that are compatible with steam turbines as well as being non-toxic and non-flammable.
Between rooftop solar for homeowners and big companies building microgrids, traditional power utilities are facing a major threat to their traditional monopolistic ways of doing business. We don’t need them nearly so much as we used to. It makes sense for big companies to have control over some or all of their power. Microgrid technology allows companies to easily switch between their own solar, fuel cell, or wind power and that coming from the utility. Smart utilities are gearing up to meet this huge change in distribution of power. Dinosaur utilities will fight it – and lose.
The 3,200 U.S. utilities are already facing what NRG Energy Inc. CEO David Crane calls a “mortal threat” to the industry. Forces including deregulation, green politics and an explosion of rooftop solar and other homemade energy — known as distributed generation — mean a reduction in the fossil-fuel electricity utilities sell.
Microgrids may be the mechanism through which this revolution in clean distributed generation will be carried out – - a portal for leaving the traditional power grid.
Changeable architectural elements create a variety of sensory conditions—closing to form a protective cocoon for occupants and opening to allow them to expand their space.
Two patios create a balance between interior and exterior and public and semi-public spaces.
The passive solar design, combined with an automated screen and awning system, provides shade to keep the living spaces cool and comfortable.
A patio herb garden draws water from a rainwater reservoir.
Generous storage, completely integrated into the walls, frees the primary indoor space from clutter
A centralized utility room contains all the automated mechanical systems the house needs, including a photovoltaics monitor, ventilation, plumbing, and hot water supply.
Two high-efficiency, air-water heat pumps supply cold and hot water for space heating and cooling as well as for domestic hot water.
An energy-recovery ventilation unit acts as a heat and humidity exchanger between exhaust air and fresh intake air to keep the living spaces comfortable and healthy.
Sustainable desert living is the goal of this entry. Capillary mats on ceilings circulate chilled water to provide radiant cooling. Envelope design allows greater thermal efficiency. Large openings blend boundaries between indoors and outdoors. Indoor flexspace reconfigures for various uses.
SHADE (Solar Homes Adapting for Desert Equilibrium) pays tribute to the interdependence of desert plant life while maximizing occupant comfort and flexibility. Solar energy, regionally proven passive heating and cooling, and intensive water management nurture a healthy and sustainable habitat, and flexible, modular spaces foster a broader community concept.