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Archive for November, 2010

Concentrating Solar Power Plants are the big power plants that use mirrors to reflect sunlight on a fluid that creates steam to drive a turbine.  They have a major drawback that keeps them in the same realm with coal and nuclear plants.  They use water to cool and condense the steam.  And they use lots of it.  In fact, CSP plants require more water for cooling than nuke plants.  So, despite the benefits of no fuel costs and no dangerous waste or emissions, these plants are not yet perfect.  The problem is especially relevant because the ideal location for CSP plants is in the desert where there is plenty of sun.  No water in the desert!  The availability of fresh water is becoming a restricting issue in the permitting of new power plants everywhere.

Now enters Next era Energy, parent company of Florida’s big utility we all recognize as FPL.  NEE is building hegemony on megawatt-size wind farms and their PV farm in Florida is still the largest in the country.  Now the company has introduced a water saving technology at their new 250 megawatt CSP plant in California.  They’re calling it “dry cooling.”

Genesis Solar LLC, the subsidiary of NEE building the plant, says the introduction of the dry cooling technology helped them pass the California Energy Commission’s environmental scrutiny.  They say using fans to blow air over the closed radiator system will condense the steam inside the radiator and reduce the amount of water normally required by CSP plants from 1400 acre-feet per year to just 200 acre-feet.  The “Genesis” plant will be located on 1950 acres of public land with a thirty year lease.  The company will mitigate impacts to desert tortoise and Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat by funding 2000 acres of similar habitat nearby.  The new dry cooling technology will open the door for more CSP plants and help California meet the new 33% renewable standard by 2020.

Sam Kendall

Genesis Project Clears Federal Regulators LA TIMES

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Since 2006, when Assembly Bill 32 was signed into law, Californians have been planning their strategy to rein greenhouse gases back to 1990 levels by 2020.  The range of actions being developed will affect broad segments of their economy.  The Renewable Energy Standard has been boosted to 33% and a cap and trade plan will be announced in January, 2011.  The goal for single family solar hot water installations is set for 30,000 by 2018.  Other actions include direct regulations, monetary and non-monetary incentives and yes, even voluntary actions.  A massive shift is underway regarding how energy is viewed, regulated, produced and consumed in California.

Last Tuesday, sixty-one percent of California voters stood by these clean energy measures and rejected a proposal to put them on hold.  Proposition 23 would have suspended AB 32 until unemployment dropped down to 5.5% for four quarters.  Even with unemployment above 12% in the state, voters were not afraid.  Their courageous support for clean energy by rejecting Prop 23 is a win not just in their state, but for the nation as a whole.  Reducing environmental degradation and human sicknesses will have the double benefit of creating new green businesses and better job opportunities in the long run.

How fast these job opportunities materialize in other states is largely dependent on whether public officials are willing to let go of the dirty fuels and work on the hard issues of the clean energy transformation.  Results from a recent Kelton Research survey of solar / climate issues show that 70% of Americans want the government to tackle climate change, 80% want federal subsidies shifted from fossil fuels to solar and 94% believe it’s important to develop and use solar power.  The defeat of Prop 23 means Californians take atmospheric overheating and energy independence at least as seriously as slow job growth.  Their optimism provides promise for renewable energy initiatives across the country.

Sam Kendall

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