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Google Power Technology

Google Invests In World's Largest Solar Power Tower Plant 387

cylonlover writes "Google has chipped in a US$168 million investment in what will be the world's largest solar power tower plant. To be located on 3,600 acres of land in the Mojave Desert in southeastern California, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) will boast 173,000 heliostats that will concentrate the sun's rays onto a solar tower standing approximately 450 feet (137 m) tall. The plant commenced construction in October 2010 and is expected to generate 392 MW of solar energy following its projected completion in 2013."
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Google Invests In World's Largest Solar Power Tower Plant

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  • by w_dragon ( 1802458 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @03:40PM (#35811340)
    Over 10% is hardly a drop in the bucket.
  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @03:40PM (#35811344)

    is expected to generate 392 MW of solar power


    No, it's expected to collect solar power.

  • by Jeng ( 926980 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @03:43PM (#35811380)

    Not wind, Solar.

    Your linked article is about wind turbines, not solar power plants.

    I kinda doubt that bats will get cooked by the solar arrays since they tend to only come out at night.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @03:47PM (#35811410)

    Ah yes, the "eco friendly" wind farms...

    I guess environmentalists don't really care about distributed noise damage and stress (the very low frequency "thumps" wind turbine generates) to land animals and humans nor do they really care about significant decrease in bird populations.

  • by kevinNCSU ( 1531307 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @03:47PM (#35811420)

    $168 million sounds like a serious investment, until you consider that this thing is projected to cost $1.37 *billion*.

    You a Chemist? I don't know what the hell kinds of buckets you use but mine tend to carry more than 9 drops ;)

    168 mil / 1.37 billion = a little more than 12%. I'd consider 12% of my salary or budget a pretty significant investment, and if I was taking a test I'd consider a question worth 12% of the grade worth a pretty significant investment in doing well on it.

  • by metrometro ( 1092237 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @03:48PM (#35811436)

    > I wonder what would happen to the birds who fly into the beam near the focal point

    The question to ask is whether this would impact birds more or less than ecosystem-wide acid rain from a coal plant? I have no patience for people crying about largely ephemeral bird impacts from wind or solar power, but aren't bothered at all by the much bigger and well documented bird killer: cars.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @03:50PM (#35811452)

    Significant relative to birds dying of smog from coal plants?

  • by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @03:55PM (#35811512)

    forget cars, try cats.:D

    the less damage that is done by a power source the more people focus on the rare problems, unlikely scenarios or minor damage.

  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @04:00PM (#35811560)

    Do you have any idea how big the Mohave is? You could fit several European countries in it. It's not even the largest, just the one with (IIRC) the lowest rainfall and cloud cover with bonus points for being the closest to the major CA population centers.

    We have about 6 deserts in the US that could fit dozens of facilities this size with a minimal wildlife impact (they spread the concentric circles of mirrors out by about triple the mirror size). In fact I wouldn't be surprised if we could build mirror farms like this in rural deserts and end up with an area the size of France covered in mirrors. People really fail to grasp just how big the American southwest is.

  • by Mr Bubble ( 14652 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @04:28PM (#35811872)

    You are not factoring in the money it cost to mine the uranium, transport the uranium, store the nuclear waste and decommission the facility. Not to mention the costs of all the Fukushimas yet to come.

  • by anagama ( 611277 ) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @05:00PM (#35812204) Homepage

    How much will Palo Verde cost to decommission? How many years will the waste require cooling while providing nothing in return? Decommissioning the solar plant would require what, some long hammers, a couple bull dozers, bit of dynamite to topple the tower, some dump trucks and a few crews of workers going at it for a couple months?

    What about ongoing maintenance? I have no data but I'm guessing a bunch of mirrors is a lot easier to maintain than potentially deadly fuel and waste. Easier of course means cheaper.

    Construction costs aren't the only metric.

  • by sdguero ( 1112795 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @05:10PM (#35812314)
    The answer is obviously no. It is not even close to as cost effective as a nuclear plant. But our energy generation has been increasingly controlled by politics not logic the last 40+ years. We are are the point where cost effectiveness has no bearing. Nowadays its about what makes people feel good and what is flashing across CNN's ticker this week.

    If the cost of our society goes up because we are basing major economic decisions on off the cuff emotions it doesn't matter because things are too complex for the average voter to understand the implications. In the big picture, it means less resources for the rest of the world (aka more Americans in poverty, and more starving children in Africa). Right?
  • by anagama ( 611277 ) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @05:31PM (#35812520) Homepage

    So this ignored technology will never be cost competitive with nuclear? Focusing on construction costs is merely sleight of hand to get people to think other options are too costly -- like advertising a brand new BMW for $10k (fn1).

    It is perfectly reasonable to look at the slow motion disaster leaking into the ocean in Japan and think, there should be other options. Projects like this solar plant are going to result in improvements to the technology so that by the time we get to building the 50th, it'll be a rock solid means of energy production.

    As for economic decisions, who is going to pay the residents in a 20km radius around Fukushima for their stores, homes, businesses, and farms? Are your economic costs for nuclear power including the costs of something going wrong, of babysitting the spent fuel for a decade or so after the plant shuts down, for the damage caused by mining? Compare that to the worst thing this solar plant could do if it failed in the most spectacularly unimaginable fashion possible -- nuclear is way more expensive than you make it out.

    fn1: Includes the body only. Engine, transmission, wheels, electronics, paint, wiring, seats, carpet, head liner, lights, and everything else available as an option at extra cost.

  • Scale.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tacokill ( 531275 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @05:49PM (#35812682)
    This is the first major project that I have seen that comes anywhere close to reaching scale.

    A standard, normally sized natural gas combined cycle power plant is anywhere from 600MW on up to 1200MW and maybe even higher. For comparison, the nuke plant in Japan is 4900MW but there are several large super-critical coal plants in the US that are north of 1800MW. No matter what technology is used (nuke, coal, nat gas) it is safe to say a modern, operating power plant STARTS at around 600 MW or so (with maybe a couple of exceptions around the US)

    My point in bringing this up is that this is the first "green" project I have seen that has any sense of scale. 396MW is nothing to sneeze at. It is a substantial amount of power but more still needs to be done.

    So many of my green friends misunderstand or totally ignore the scale problem. They seem to think we can just put up mirrors and wind farms and all will be right in the world. They never stop to think about how much energy we actually need and compare it to how much energy can be captured by the green efforts. Unfortunately, there is a HUGE gap between those two numbers and no amount of "good faith" will close that gap. It's a physics problem that we haven't solved yet....but this plant is a step in the right direction.
  • by anagama ( 611277 ) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @06:24PM (#35812990) Homepage
    So you want to reduce regulations on nuclear plants? This of course is coupled with the government being the guarantor should something go wrong. Of course, you're a fanboi, so you don't see a danger of any moral hazard (to borrow a phrase of the financial metldown that occurred as a result of a lack of regulation and a lack of consequences for screwing up -- win win unless you're an average Joe).

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.