Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Solar Power Plants, Coming Soon

I really wasn't exaggerating when I said in a previous post that the market for alternative energy is the entire energy market currently dominated by oil and coal, and that this would come about (much) faster than people think.

The Silicon Valley is still aptly named as it becomes a center for solar technology. Except that we are developing other solar technologies in addition to photovoltaic panels made from silicon.

, a solar power plant company, has moved to the Silicon Valley from Australia and is being funded by top investors. They say their price for solar electricity is already competitive with current electricity prices, and that the entire U.S. electricity consumption can be generated with a solar power plant 92 by 92 square miles, in the Mojave desert. And it sounds like there are also a few competing companies already.

The solar technology is solar thermal instead of photovoltaic, which is actually kind of simpler. It's less expensive to manufacture, although less efficient in converting solar energy, but less expensive per unit of electricity produced. This is probably the biggest threat to investing in solar photovoltaic companies, but those are probably still preferable where there is not a lot of land.

I wonder about the cost of land in that figure, but maybe desert land is cheap or owned by the government? Ah, they answer the question with this:

Solar is one the most land-efficient sources of clean power we have, using a fraction of the area needed by hydro or wind projects of comparable output. All of America's needs for electric power – the entire US grid, night and day – can be generated with Ausra's current technology using a square parcel of land 92 miles on a side. For comparison, this is less than 1% of America's deserts, less land than currently in use in the U.S. for coal mines, and a tiny fraction of the land currently in agricultural use.

Already competitive prices also leads to probable lower prices in the near future. In addition, it sounds much safer than coal mining and better for the earth than this alternative to coal mines, .

I don't imagine a huge objection to sprawling the Mojave desert with a humongous solar power plant, relative to other ecological landscapes, but who knows.


Adit said...

so is it true that too much solar power will cool the earth because all the sunlight will get absorbed?

dancing dragon said...

Hehe, I haven't heard that one before, but if that were true, it would make it doubly effective as a solution to global warming!