The photo shows the first commercial implementation of a new kind of
solar-powered electrical generation station (source: IEEE
The problem, of sorts, is that it is not in the USA. It is in
The system uses parabolic reflectors to heat a kind of oil.
The oil is circulated through a system that runs steam
turbines to generate electricity. But, is uses only part of
the heat for that purpose. Some of the heat is stored in huge
tanks of molten salt.
A short video that shows the Andasol 1 station, and the manufacturing
of the components, is here.
After dark, the heat from the tanks is used to keep the turbines
running. Thus, the station produces electricity even when the
sun is not shining.
This gets past one of the biggest problems with solar power.
It also reduces the final cost:
The developers say Andasol 1’s electricity will cost
11 percent less to produce than a similar plant without energy
storage—dropping from 303 euros per megawatt-hour to 271
euros per MWh.
Installations in the USA have focused on lower costs for the initial
installation. The storage system adds to the initial cost,
obviously, but reduces the total cost per megawatt over the life of the
The cost-effectiveness is increased even more, in areas that charge
higher prices for power delivered at peak times (time-of-day pricing).
Soon, they will build a system that uses the molten salt in both parts
of the system. That is, instead of using the solar arrays to
heat oil, then using the hot oil to heat the salt, it heats the molten
salt directly in the solar array.
The problem with the picture is that we produced the technology here is
the USA [at Sandia
view)], but Spain is getting the benefit. I have
nothing against Spain: more power to them, I say. But it is
very strange that we all would be ranting about dependence on “foreign”
oil, while ignoring the solutions that we ourselves have developed.
In other news, the US military is getting fed up
with the high price of oil. Every $10 increase in the price
of a barrel of oil leads to a $600 million/year increase in the
Pentagon’s energy cost.
In fact, the USA is the world’s leading producer of geothermal power.
But what countries get the greatest percentage of their power
from geothermal sources? Iceland
Philippines. Curiously, Alaska is the State with
the greatest geothermal resources, yet they are just starting
to make use of this resource.