Two aphorisms come to mind:
"Optimists and pessimists both get what they expect."
"If you drive a car only looking in the rear-view mirror, eventually you
will run off the road."
To learn more about what is happening and what may be possible, it is a
challenge to keep our minds open to new possibilities. The news is helpful.
For example see the following from Forbes.com:
BP Solar to start building world's largest solar power plant in Portugal
09.13.2005, 03:59 PM
LISBON (AFX) - BP PLC unit BP Solar will begin building the world's biggest
solar energy power station in Portugal next year, Portuguese officials said.
'The construction of the station will begin in 2006, it is irreversible,'
Moura mayor Jose Maria Pos-de-Mina was quoted as saying by Lusa news agency.
The plant is expected to be completed in 2009 and will have a total cost of
250 mln eur. The town of Moura owns the majority of the firm which will
oversee the solar power station project, Amper Central Solar. The plant will
have 350,000 solar panels spread over 114 hectares near the southern town of
Moura and will be able to produce 62 megawatts, more than six times the
largest existing solar power station in Germany. 'This is a unique project
and the world's most ambitious in terms of final capacity,' said BP Solar
commercial director for southern Europe, Francisco Conesa, according to
For another example, see the appended news story from BusinessWeek.
It is helpful for example to read the current trade publications, such as
Environmental Science & Technology Magazine. Perhaps others on this list
could recommend publications worth being on our personal reading lists.
It is also useful to examine what companies are doing to commercialize
proven concepts. For example, the WilderHill Clean Energy Index (ECO)
provides a list of "pure" alternative energy companies at
http://www.wilderhill.com/about.html (scroll down to the list at the
bottom). There is an exchange-traded fund of stocks (PBW) that tracks this
index http://www.powershares.com/pbwfund.asp. You can research what these
companies are doing to transform the energy system. Beyond this list are
"greening companies" that are not pure "clean energy" companies, like GE and
Toyota, which are nonetheless making major moves to transition toward
cleaner energy. Both green and greening initiatives are quite interesting.
Dr. Stephen R. Humphrey, Director of Academic Programs,
School of Natural Resources and Environment,
Box 116455, 103 Black Hall, University of Florida,
Gainesville, FL 32611-6455 USA
Tel. 352-392-9230, Fax 352-392-9748
SEPTEMBER 12, 2005 • Editions: N. America | Europe | Asia | Edition
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Power From The Sunbaked Desert
Solar generators may be a hot source of plentiful electricity
Before President George W. Bush signed the federal energy bill into law on
Aug. 8, he got a firsthand glimpse of a technology that could transform the
deserts of the Southwest. Instead of a sandy wasteland, there would be
gleaming farms with thousands of giant dish-shaped mirrors measuring 37 feet
in diameter. Each dish would track the sun and focus its heat rays on an
oil-barrel-size contraption suspended out in front, harnessing the heat to
drive a 25-kilowatt generator. Advertisement
Plant enough of these solar-dish farms, Bush learned on his tour of Sandia
National Laboratories' National Solar Thermal Test Facility near
Albuquerque, and they could mightily reduce the need for electric power
plants that burn fossil fuels and emit carbon dioxide.
The day after the Presidential tour, Sandia's vision began to look a lot
more real. The supplier of the solar-thermal dish generators, Stirling
Energy Systems Inc. in Phoenix, won a major commitment from Southern
California Edison Inc. (EIX ) (SCE): For 20 years the utility will buy all
the electricity that Stirling Energy can generate at a 500-megawatt solar
energy farm that Stirling will build in the Mojave Desert near Victorville,
Calif. This could be the biggest solar installation in the world -- equal to
a typical coal-fired plant. And if local power lines can be upgraded to
handle more juice, Stirling could enlarge the facility to 850 MW -- and SCE
would take all of that, too.
Stirling's deal was made possible by several trends that are pushing
alternative energy into the mainstream. As oil has become more expensive, so
have natural gas and coal, the primary fuels for power plants. At the same
time, concerns about global warming have prompted lawmakers -- local, state,
and now the feds -- to unleash incentives for renewable energy. Wind power,
solar energy, geothermal, and biomass fuels are all benefiting.
If the dishes do well, Stirling Energy's 4,500-acre desert farm will usher
in new potential for Stirling engines, invented in 1816 by Church of
Scotland minister Robert Stirling. His engine is ideal for green energy
because it doesn't burn fuel internally. Instead, its pistons are driven by
heating and expanding a reservoir of gas, which then cools for the next
cycle. Using the sun's energy to heat the gas means zero fuel is burned.
Stirling Energy stands to rake in upwards of $90 million a year once the
solar dishes are generating 500 MW in 2011. For SCE, already the largest
purchaser of renewable energy in the U.S., the extra 500 MW will more than
double the 354 MW of solar power it tapped in 2004 from nine other
solar-thermal operations in the Mojave. It will also add almost 20% to SCE's
2,588 MW of renewable energy sources, including 1,021 MW of wind power. Last
year more than 18% of the electricity that the utility delivered to its
customers came from renewables.
Monster dish-shaped "heat antennas" are hardly familiar icons of green
power. People tend to associate solar energy with flat, glassy panels that
convert photons from sunlight into electric current. But such photovoltaic
cells don't produce power as efficiently as Stirling dish generators. Cells
typically convert just 10% to 15% of the sun's light -- and many cells
perform at just half that level. In contrast, Stirling dishes achieve almost
30% in Sandia's six-dish system. "Later this year we'll do even better,"
declares D. Bruce Osborn, Stirling Energy's new CEO and a longtime solar
Why hasn't Stirling Energy's technology made more of a splash in the power
business? "Our dilemma has always been how to get costs down," explains
Osborn. The dish assemblies now run $250,000 each. But that's because most
have been handcrafted in sporadic lots of one or two units. Building a group
of 40 or so would trim the cost to $150,000 each, Osborn estimates. With
real mass production, that could drop by 50%.
So when SCE said it wanted to buy more renewable energy, Osborn's outfit
proposed the 500 MW project as the means of moving beyond its chicken-or-egg
impasse. Producing that much electricity will require 20,000 dishes, built
in a steadily increasing flow over several years. "We're ramping up now,"
He expects to have 40 dishes in place for a 1 MW facility by the end of next
year, followed by 50 MW in 2008. The electricity will be delivered only when
the sun is shining, but that's when the utility's customers place peak
demands on electricity. "Our system is a really good match, providing peak
power at times of peak load," notes Osborn.
The price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) that SCE will pay is confidential and must
be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. But there's
little doubt that the contract will get a thumbs-up, perhaps as soon as next
month. One reason: SCE says the price it negotiated is so attractive --
"well below the 11.33 cents per kWh" it now pays for peak power -- that it
won't seek any subsidies from the state.
Subsidies have been a common means of jump-starting solar projects in
California and 46 other states. Early this year, Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger unveiled his Million Solar Roofs Initiative, calling for an
additional 3,000 MW of solar power by around 2017. If the Million Solar
Roofs Initiative passes next month, as expected, homeowners who install
solar energy systems will earn a 7.5% state income-tax credit, in addition
to other state incentives and the new 30% federal tax credit.
Consumers, of course, are unlikely to plant Stirling Energy's huge 37-foot
dishes in their backyards, even if they are the most efficient solar
generators around. But the technology dovetails nicely with California's
mandate that utilities must derive 20% of their electricity from renewable
sources by 2017 -- and Schwarzenegger would like to boost that goal to 33%
by 2020. Osborn says that 11 square-mile dish farms could produce as much
electricity as the 2,050 MW from Hoover Dam. "We're already looking at a
half-dozen one-square-mile sites in the California desert," he says, "and
there's lots and lots more territory there."
Theoretically, Stirling dish farms with a total area of 100 miles square
could replace all the fossil fuels now burned to generate electricity in the
entire U.S. What happens in the California desert over the next few years
could determine whether thermal solar power can help end the dominance of
By Otis Port in New York
From: Bioenergy and Sustainable Technology Society
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of John Hurford
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2005 4:04 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: FW: ASES Meeting - "Hydrogen Production using Solar Energy"
The big issue in all of these alternative energy sources is one of true
energy cost; not just dollars.
In other words, if you spend a megawatt of power to produce a device that
can only yield 0.75 megawatts over its lifetime, then the process is
inefficient. This has been the case with solar photovoltaic panels (this
according to the late Dr. Howard T Odum of UF's College of Environmental
Engineering and Sciences). This is also the case with batteries. It is their
portability that gives them value, not energy efficiency.
That is not to say that solar photovoltaic panels have no value. When used
with rechargeable batteries, they are excellent for remote lighting needs
where providing permanent AC power would be prohibitive, such as blinking
stop lights on remote rural roads. They are great for many low-power items
like calculators and clocks. But, thinking that this energy source can
produce the quantity of electrical power used in this county is naïve.
As an exercise, calculate the number of panels necessary to produce 1100
megawatts per hour of 240 Volt, 300 Amp service. Eleven hundred megawatts is
the power rating of just one of the nuclear units at the Crystal River Power
As to hydrogen as a fuel produced from other energy sources, the
thermodynamic efficiencies quickly indicate the negative energy result. If
we assume a 50% efficiency for each power conversion ( a generously liberal
value), we can see that as a primary fuel, Hydrogen is not the way to go.
Like solar panels; however, hydrogen fuel will have a niche where it's other
values out way the negative energy condition.
To illustrate the point, compare the thermodynamic efficiency for producing
one unit of output power from a hydrogen system and one unit of output power
from a diesel fuel system. Both system are primarily fueled by diesel oil.
Fuel 1 Power station 2 Hydrogen generation 3
Hydrogen conversion 4 Output
Four conversion steps at 50% efficiency require 16 units of input power for
one unit of output power.
Fuel 1 Power station 2 Output
Two conversion steps at 50% efficiency require four units of input power
for one unit of output power.
Therefore, for the same amount of useful output power, the direct use of
primary fuel yields the least consumption of the polluting energy source.
"Clean" hydrogen actual produces four times the pollution as the "dirty"
Bio-fuels are wrought with all of the same efficiency issues, and yield the
same green house gases as any carbon based fuel.
Producing "Green energy" from a waste stream, such as the Archer Southwest
Landfill, does reduce the amount of fossil fuel a community would consume,
however, the carbon dioxide issue still exists.
Conservation and improved efficiencies are the best methods for reducing
the quantity of fossil fuel.
This is not the end-all with respect to this subject, but considering the
issues raised, maybe the researches will consider the most rewarding paths
On 9/19/05, Marcelo Dias de Oliveira <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> That must be a really nice presentation.
> It combines the use of the most promising renewable source - solar
> energy, used for producing a fuel that might become very important in
> terms of environment emissions. Unfortunately I don't have at the top
> of my head some technical information to emphasize the importance of
> this approach, what of course will be given during the presentation.
> But I for sure recommend everyone interested in renewable sources and
> sustainable fuel production to attend this presentation.
> That is, if my recommendation is worth any attention.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Brian Becker<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Monday, September 19, 2005 5:42 PM
> Subject: FW: ASES Meeting - "Hydrogen Production using Solar Energy"
> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Solar Energy Society at UF
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of
> [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Monday, September 19, 2005 4:35 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: ASES Meeting - "Hydrogen Production using Solar Energy"
> Dear Members,
> ASES will be holding its first meeting of Fall 2005 tomorrow (Tuesday)
> at the Reitz Union. The highlight of the meeting will be a talk by Dr.
> Ingley on "Hydrogen Production using Solar Energy".
> Date : Tuesday, September 20, 2005
> Time : 6:00 PM
> Place : Reitz Union, #282
> Talk : "Hydrogen Production using Solar Energy" by Dr. Ingley
> We will also discuss about the upcoming Gainesville Solar Home Tour
> which is scheduled for October 2, 2005. For more information about the
> Tour, please visit www.mae.ufl.edu/ases <http://www.mae.ufl.edu/ases><
> If you have any questions, please contact us at [log in to unmask]<mailto:
> [log in to unmask]>