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Earth Power Science Technology

India Unveils the World's Largest Solar Power Plant (aljazeera.com) 177

Kamuthi in Tamil Nadu, India is now home to the world's largest solar plant that adds 648 MW to the country's generating capacity. Previously, the Topaz Solar Farm in California, which was completed two years ago and has a capacity of 550 MW, held the title. Aljazeera reports: The solar plant, built in an impressive eight months, is cleaned every day by a robotic system, charged by its own solar panels. At full capacity, it is estimated to produce enough electricity to power about 150,000 homes. The project is comprised of 2.5 million individual solar modules, and cost $679 million to build. The new plant has helped nudge India's total installed solar capacity across the 10 GW mark, according to a statement by research firm Bridge to India, joining only a handful of countries that can make this claim. As solar power increases, India is expected to become the world's third-biggest solar market from next year onwards, after China and the U.S.
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India Unveils the World's Largest Solar Power Plant

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  • Wow. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sims 2 ( 994794 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2016 @12:14AM (#53390409)

    So that's the largest solar plant in the world and it only outputs 648 MW?

    I'm having trouble finding something to compare this to since the nuclear plant near me generates 846 MW with one unit (total 1824 MW) course it was built back in 1974 at a cost of $901,500,000 so about $494,243 per MW (Back in 1974) about $2,423,384 per MW in today's dollars and this project only cost $1,047,839 per MW. Hmmmm. I wonder if you could find a way to make solar panels work at night for less than 2 mil per MW?

    • Try factoring in the maintenance cost - and cleanup - and fuel.
    • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2016 @01:25AM (#53390623) Journal

      So that's the largest solar plant in the world and it only outputs 648 MW? I'm having trouble finding something to compare this to since the nuclear plant near me generates 846 MW with one unit

      Unlike nuclear, there's NO REASON to have one single huge central solar plant, so it's a terrible and dishonest comparison to make. Let me put it this way... How much power do you get out of the nuclear power plant at your house? Maybe on your roof or somewhere in your yard?

      First you have to try and establish that having one big single central power generating plant is some sort of benefit. It's easy to argue that it's not, as distributed generation has fewer transmission losses, lower up-front build-out costs, greater flexibility (buy-up whatever land is available), etc., etc.

      • Is it that easy to argue?

        Remember the primary reason we centralise our energy generation in the first place:
        1. Economies of scale.
        2. Local management.
        3. Centralised expertise.

        What's stopping me running a nuclear reactor in my back yard? Other than it doesn't exist, I'm not a nuclear reactor operator. Likewise we have similar problems with local PV generation. You have a significantly larger cost in inverters due to economies of scale, you have large problems with grid management due to potential backfeeding

        • No. I was using residential PV installs only as one tiny example to put things in better context. There's no reason to debate the pros/cons of it here. Those issues are irrelevant to the question of whether solar power plants should be single multi-terrawatt beasts, or several smaller multi-megawatt sites.

          • There are many residential PV opportunities which do not lead to deaths, anyway, like sheds and carports. It doesn't all have to be on top of a house, and maybe it's not for everyone.

    • I don't get why people on a tech site like /. are so dumb.
      This is a POWER PLANT, not a house hold solar installation.

      I wonder if you could find a way to make solar panels work at night for less than 2 mil per MW?
      At night half of the POWER PLANTS at a grid are IDLE, because NO ONE needs the power. What ghe ruck is wrong with a solar plant not producung any power when no one needs it anyway?

    • I wonder if you could find a way to make solar panels work at night for less than 2 mil per MW?
      I don't get why people on a tech site like /. are so dumb.

      This is a POWER PLANT, not a home roof solar installation.
      Half the POWER PLANTS connected to the grid are IDLE at night, because NO ONE needs the power.
      Why you expect a solar POWER PLANT to produce power when a huge deal of the conventional plants are idle, is beyond me.

    • it was built back in 1974 at a cost of $901,500,000

      So? You couldn't build it for that today. Not even close. 1974 was back when we could still put men on the moon. We could do big things, and get stuff done. Those days are gone.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        We realized that the Rube Goldberg safety systems designed back then were inadequate.

        Interesting comparison to the moon landings. We were willing to lose people doing that. Not so much with power generation, especially when there are better options these days.

    • Yes but wait until a tsunami/earthquake/system failure/terrorists/ etc... hit your nuclear plant and their solar plant, and see who's crying louder.
    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      The problem is that nuclear plants have been getting more expensive over time, not less.

      Also, they don't have to pay for catastrophic liability.

      And even with government-provided catastrophic liability coverage (which nobody in the private sector would provide - a $200B payout for a Fukushima-style event would bankrupt anybody), there's few takers. Nuclear plants underwent a two decade lull when the last generation of nuclear plants turned out to be more expensive than expected before undergoing a "nuclear

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2016 @12:21AM (#53390441)
    I don't want to belittle this because India is one of the places where solar actually makes sense. But even there its capacity factor is only about 20% [eia.gov]. Compared to 14.5% for the continental U.S. and about 10% in Germany. Capacity factor is the ratio of actual electricity produced (after taking into account night, weather, angle of the sun, downtime due to maintenance, etc) to nameplate (maximum) capacity.

    So while it's capacity is 648 MW, its average electrical generation over a year will only be about 20% that, or a more modest 130 MW. Electricity costs about 8 cents/kWh in India [ovoenergy.com]. So payback time (excluding operational expenses and interest on loans) will be

    ($679 million) / (0.2 * 648 MW * 3600 sec/hour * 8766 hours/year * $0.08/kWh) = 7.47 years

    India is one of the better places for solar. (The 150,000 home figure seems a little screwy, since 648 MW / 150,000 homes = 4320 Watts, which is about 3.5x the electricity consumption of the average U.S. home. I suspect the 150,000 homes figure already took into account capacity factor, and is not "at full capacity" as TFA claims.)
    • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

      I don't want to belittle this because India is one of the places where solar actually makes sense. But even there its capacity factor is...

      not relevant.

      What is relevant is the Availability Factor. Solar power is available at its peak precisely when additional electrical capacity is required for air conditioning during the day. Which is why solar is appropriate for any city where the sun shines and air conditioning is required. India are taking the lead and good on them for doing so, they deserve our applause.

      If anything it makes *more* sense to use solar during the day time when additional energy is required for air conditioning as opposed

      • a state of the art coal plant is 35-40% efficient, how much heat is being produced to create 1Gw of electricity?
        I'm getting tired about the dumbness of the /. crowd.
        The amount of heat is always the same. Regardless if you convert/extract 1% or 100% into electricity.

        In relation to the insolation by he sun, all heat mankind produces and releases into the atmosphere is so low you can't even measure it.

        Aircondition ... aircondition? Except for the US, no one is using such absurd amounts of energy for AC.
        Solar

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      US solar capacity factors are vastly higher [eia.gov] than 14,5%. And you don't need to explain what capacity factor and nameplate capacity are, people aren't idiots.

      We don't know what the capacity factor of this plant is, but at around $1/W nameplate for almost-no-operations-costs power produced at peak consumption hours, it will be quite cost effective.

      Your calculation is not just wrong, but stupid. First off, hint, check your units in your divisor: where is seconds per hour coming from? You have nothing in second

    • by shilly ( 142940 )

      What's wrong with a 7.5 year payback period for large-scale infrastructure? What's the payback period for a typical nuclear, coal or gas plant? Most of them take more than 5 years to construct, for a start!

  • heat salt with the sun and you get a base load capacity (throughout the night)

    that combined with mini nuclear reactors seem to hold the answer to power generation... critiques ?

    John

    • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

      I think this is where molten salt solar and nuclear have similar issues. Both types of plants benefit from being large and are more efficient, the larger they are.

  • So it cost a good fraction of a billion dollars BUT it's a magical machine that basically spits out money so who cares? Except, does anyone know how long a modern solar panel like the one they'd be using lasts before it expires or degrades or whatever? Or even what the overall maintenance expense is? Because to me solar panels seem like a class AAA rated bond on steroid when it comes to ROI.
    • by hipp5 ( 1635263 )

      Except, does anyone know how long a modern solar panel like the one they'd be using lasts before it expires or degrades or whatever? Or even what the overall maintenance expense is?

      Consumer panels are usually warrantied to 80% capacity after 25 or 30 years. I.e. they'll work for at least 25 or 30 years, but you can expect to lose 20% of generating capacity by that time. Inverters are more like 5-7 year warranty.

      I would imagine a commercial plant, with professional management and maintenance, probably has a longer lifespan/

      Because to me solar panels seem like a class AAA rated bond on steroid when it comes to ROI.

      Yes, they will be very soon. The tech is reaching a point on the cost curve where it would be crazy to not build them purely based on cost. I suspect over the next 2

  • "we can't/shouldn't do anything about global warming because India and China aren't doing anything."

    • by ghoul ( 157158 )

      Actually Indian politicians have sold out to the west and are doing a lot about global warming. However India should not be fighting Global Warming. A hotter world means a better monsoon and more rains in India. India is water deficient a problem Global Warming could fix. Instead of Solar India should be putting in clean coal plants(clean as in the only emissions are CO2)

  • Kind of sad that they feel it is cheaper to have the panels cleaned by robots than by the hundreds of millions of underemployed poor Indians...

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