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32 Comments

  1. “You can continue to produce power when clouds pass overhead with a power backup that uses a very small amount of natural gas. You get incredibly reliable power that is carbon-free.”
    Ha…what?

  2. You can continue to produce power when clouds pass overhead with a power backup that uses a very small amount of natural gas. You get incredibly reliable power that is carbon-free.
    It is possible to use a very small amount of natural gas simply by generating a very small amount of power. The part about “incredibly reliable power” and “carbon-free” is total nonsense. The power is made “incredibly reliable” by using carbon-based fuel!
    BrightSource is trying to displace the large natural gas plants that produce big volumes of power at very high costs for peak demand.
    Trying to do something doesn’t mean one will succeed. I can pull on my bootstraps all day, but will not succeed in flying. I just looked at the California Independent System Operator power demand forcast curve for today <http://www.caiso.com/outlook/SystemStatus.html&gt;. It projects the peak demand at 4 PM to 5 PM. A solar thermal system with movable mirrors could provide some power at those times in spring and summer. At best, BrightSource will be able to displace some very high cost power from natural gas plants with some extremely high cost power from a solar thermal plant.
    Any “help” the solar thermal plant gets from natural gas displaces no natural gas, or may even increase the use of natural gas if it displaces generation from a combined-cycle natural gas plant.

    1. The gas boilers are definitely onsite, mostly dedicated to warming up the system in the morning by the looks of it, and the solar heat is partly used to keep them in hot standby through the day – I guess the steam (or maybe the separated water) flows through them continuously through the day, even when they’re not burning gas.

  3. This is a fossil fuel plant with solar back up … the proper way to phrase this.
    The HRSG can be brought up quickly and shutdown quickly, they are designed that way. It’s likely they would be turned on around 4pm and shutdown at nght or later during the mornign peak at around 10 am when th sun comes back up. Seems a total waste. costs?
    David

  4. from uvdiv’s link:
    Natural gas fired boilers will be also be used to heat water to operating temperatures in the
    morning, and during transient cloud cover scenarios. The boilers heat rating and permit
    conditions will preclude operation for sustained periods of reduced sunlight. Applicants has
    stated that heat input from natural gas will not exceed 5 percent of heat input from the sun, on an
    annual basis, and not exceed four hours on any given day.

  5. I wonder if the collectors will be kept somewhere near operating temperature overnight because expansion and contraction stresses are not good for their longevity? How will they be kept at this temperature?

  6. Another question: many overall btu’s per average yearly kWh come from the solar plant, and how many from the gas “back up”? Inquiring minds want to know. Honest energy purveyors ought to tell.

  7. If an area wont’ do nuclear or coal.. then natural gas is the next best option by a mile. Given that the US population rises by 10% a decade, and a conservative estimate is electric demand per capita will rise by 1% a year.. in 2050 the US electric demand will be 207% what it is now. Which will require 1070 more GW of capacity to meet, if capacity utilization stays the same as now.
    With all the natural gas available now at relatively low cost, they have to be licking their lips at the prospect of scaling up. From the current what 200GW or so of natural gas capacity in the system?

    1. @aa3 – what low cost natural gas? The current price of natural gas – before any distribution costs – is 10 times as much per unit of heat energy as the current price of commercial nuclear fuel with all storage, transportation and waste disposal costs included.
      There also is not that large a supply and the RATE at which it can be extracted and delivered to the market is quite limited. The total size of the resource in the US, including all “proven, probable, potential and speculative” resources is about 2000 Trillion Cubic Feet (TCF). At our current rate, we use 23 TCF every year with about 1/3 of that going to electrical power generation. If you put a significant new demand on that supply, the price will escalate considerably before companies will invest in the additional drilling equipment. processing plants, and pipeline infrastructure required to increase the production rate. Even if there is gas in shale, it does not come out by magic; it is a capital intensive process, especially in reservoirs that have not yet been exploited.
      The gas marketers would love for the electric power providers to believe that gas is readily available. They would love for them to build a lot of new capacity that only works if they then buy more gas or oil. The companies that sell natural gas also sell oil and know that combustion turbines cannot burn other fuels without incredibly expensive gasifiers.
      If you have ever investigated the economics of operating a combustion turbine – even a thermally efficient combined cycle turbine – you should know that 70-90% of the total cost of electricity from those power plants is the cost of fuel supplied. Said another way, the gas companies capture 70-90% of the REVENUE associated with gas fired power generation, leaving only 10-30% to pay back the capital investment, pay for equipment maintenance, pay operators salaries and pay the taxes on the equipment. The only winners when gas is the fuel are the people who sell the gas, all other market participants, including the customers that use gas for other industrial processes and those who use it to directly heat their homes and cook their food, are losers.
      Gas use in the power market should not be expanded. In fact, wherever possible it should be displaced by nuclear energy to drive down the price of natural gas by shifting the supply and demand balance in favor of customers, not the oil and gas companies who supply it.

      1. The beauty of nuclear is once you get the plant paid off its incredibly cheap to run. With such low interest rates it is a no brainer to build nuclear.
        Natural gas prices have come down hugely though and look set to stay moderately priced for the forseeable future. And it is cheap and easy to build quite huge natural gas electric plants. With politically very powerful companies fighting to keep regulations low and push for more natural gas use.
        When you look at my estimates of needing ~1070 more GW on the grid by 2050.. there is room for scale up of everything. Nuclear could expand from 120 gw now to 360 gw in 2050. Since nuclear supplies 20% of the electricity on 12% of the capacity.. 360 gw of 2070 gw would supply ~29% of electricity in my scenario.
        But we would still need to build 830gw more of capacity by 2050, even with such an expansion of nuclear!

    1. It is to be regretted that some look to California for energy leadership and actually attempt to implement the “California” energy approach in their states.
      California currently does not have an energy policy that permits it to generate the power for current needs, much less any reserve capacity to accommodate future growth. California is one of the places in the Country that currently make building new nuclear power illegal. California has one of the largest and most costly State energy bureaucracies (California Energy Commission – California Air Resources Board) that deliver electrical energy at one of the highest rates in the Country.
      California is one of the few places in the Country that collectively decided to turn off a nuclear reactor (Rancho Seco) while it was still early (14 years) into its operational life to install solar voltaic panels as a power generation alternative.
      Don’t follow California or anyone who tolerates the State’s bad energy policy.

      1. Robert
        It was the customers of SMUD mostly in Sacramento that voted to close Rancho Seco where I worked at the time. If you look at the upper right hand corner of the picture you see a NG fired power plant.
        The purpose of solar PV is to distract from the amount of NG being used. It is called slight of hand.

        1. Thanks Kit P. I was not sure what the structure in the upper right of the photo was. Thanks for pointing out the larger picture.

          1. Just so you are not misinformed, that gas fired power plant is not at Rancho Seco. SMUD gave it a different name. SMUD may have held the record for doing a bad job of building gas fire power plants until recently when one blew up during construction testing.
            Also notice there is still room for more solar, why has not SMUD built more. In any case, the world is better off with SMUD not running a nuke plant. Too bad they did not sell it to those who could.

    2. @Kit P – When California’s poor energy choices require a $1.37 billion federal loan guarantee and a 30% federal tax credit in lieu of a per kilowatt-hour production tax credit, then all of the rest of the country gains the right to make comments and suggestions about the direction they should take.
      If California taxpayers are willing to subsidize a solar facility that is most likely a gas facility in order to make themselves feel better – that is their choice as long as they do not ask for federal money.
      Building very large collection systems for the intermittent pennies that the sun drops on the earth is just a bad idea no matter where it is done. Because of the impact of letting large equipment lie idle, the cost is always far larger than people want it to be. No technology is going to change the physical reality of night, dust, winter and clouds.

      1. Rod is correct. The crazy people in California can gripe about a new nuke plant near Baltimore. The crazy guy near Baltimore can complain about solar in California.

        1. @Kit P – you’re correct. The difference, though, is that the nuclear plant defended by the crazy guy near Baltimore will produce reliable, emission free power without the literal “smoke and mirrors” required by the “solar” plant in California. The nuclear plant will also pay Uncle Sam and his taxpayers for the loan guarantee that it needs and will most likely repay that loan.
          The “solar” plant will not pay for its guarantee and also requires a 30% cash grant at the beginning of the construction project. I’ll let readers figure out if my comments really are crazy.

          1. Rod you spend a lot of time complaining about the insignificant. So far we have learned that CST is an insignificant source of electricity. Maybe this time it will be different who knows.
            I do think that it is very likely that new nuke plants will be a significant source of electricity.

            1. @Kit P – you and I both know that CSP is an insignificant source of electricity. I am convinced that it always will be insignificant in terms of actual production, though we might waste a whole lot of money on out of the box ideas that will ultimately fail because the sun keeps on setting every evening.
              However, there are plenty of people in the world who have not had the benefit of your experience in producing commercial quantities of reliable electricity. Those are the people that I am trying to reach with my commentary.
              I agree that new nuclear plants will be a significant source of electricity. I want them to be even more significant than they would otherwise be by trying to convince people to stop wasting time and money on less promising ways to produce useful power.

              1. Rod you are just plain old wrong. In the context of hot summer days CST is very promising and it does not matter that the sun sets.
                Rod is just as stupid as those from California who claim that solar can meet the needs of New England in the winter. Location, location, locaotion.
                So what will we likely to learn from a new CST? It is not a very practical way to make electricity most of the time and most places. The environmental impact of a modern CST will be documented. That is not a waste of money.
                Rod should read the FEIS for both a CST in the California and new nuke near DC. In California, nukes are not considered an alternative because they are not a legal option and are not proposed for summer peaking. Near DC solar is considered as an alternative but is ruled out because it has much higher environmental impact.
                So Rod you do not sound so stupid when you talk about making electricity where you live. When Rod starts talking about how they should do things in the PNW and Southwest, he sounds like the aft end of horse.

                1. You’re losing it, Kit P. This grasping at straws to find any angle to attack Rod at all is causing you to collapse into cognative dissonance.

  8. At a utility conference I was told by an engineer from a large utility in California that recently a utility in California could not get a permit for a CCGT. The CA-EPA refused it based upon the utilities total amount of emissions. They needed the power and were paying a premium to import from out of state. Their solution was to provide a 20 year contract to a service company to annually, inspect, clean, adjust and provide data showing that emissions for each of the homeowners gas powered space heaters in their service district were “clean.” These reductions along with conversions to heatpumps and hotwater heated by heatpumps instead of gas provided enough reduction in emissions to support the operation of the proposed CCGT.

    1. @ColinG – You may be right about the insolation in the Mojave. I suppose it may also be true that American businessmen are less likely to be tempted by the potential for fraud than the people operating solar power systems in Spain and under investigation for selling “solar” power at night that was actually produced by running diesel generators. (End irony.)
      http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-04-12/spanish-solar-panel-trade-group-calls-for-fraud-investigation.html

    1. I think it is interesting that aa3 would use out of date link to demonstrate that he does not understand the planning cycle for new capacity.
      There is about 40 GWe of new nukes in the planning stage. One nuke plant is under construction so 1.2 MWe is under construction. Since the planning and construction cycle of nuke plants is about 10 years, picking four years for a planning period would mostly identify plants with a shorter cycle.
      It would not surprise me that aa3 would look at tickets sales in December to decide that hockey is more popular than baseball. Of course baseball and hockey both contribute of the needs of sports fans.
      In the same way nukes and NG contribute about the same amount of generation in the US. A rational argument can be made for both.

  9. “I think it is interesting that aa3 would use out of date link to demonstrate that he does not understand the planning cycle for new capacity.”
    I think it interesting that aa3 posts a link that shows the report release date is this year (based on 2008 info), the next proposed update to the report is next year, and aa3 draws no conclusions from it, but quotes only facts – and yet Kit P can infer enough from that to critique aa3’s comprehension.
    It would not suprise me if Kit P turns out to believe that criticism and name calling is only something to be dished out to others, not something to be heard and received about one’s self – and learned from.

    1. Bring it on 2dy. Teach me something! Maybe you did not notice aa3’s facts are not in his link. Furthermore, what is the point if these ‘facts’ if you can not draw a conclusion?
      I do learn a lot from other posters, which is why I take the time to tell some they are stupid. If I am wrong, I would like I would like to know but do not be surprised if I do not agree.
      For a 1000 points, can 2dt state what I just inferred about him?

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