Lacklustre results from the Colorado Integrated Solar Project

A common lament of those analysts wishing to get to grips with the real-world performance of solar thermal power plants has been, well… an absence of data. Trainer noted, in ‘Solar Thermal Questions‘:

It would be great to get some actual data on their year round performance. I have found it fiendishly difficult to get such data out of anyone; they seem not to want to make it public, and this makes evaluation of claims very difficult.

During the Equinox Energy 2030 summit, Jay Apt noted some issues with utility-scale PV farm performance, as illustrated in the figure below (from this paper):

Note that this is from a solar PV farm in the Arizona desert — one of the best locations in the US for this type of facility. The associated commentary said:

Observed rapid and deep fluctuations at time scales of 10 seconds to several minutes may indicate that a component of the intermittency is due to low, scattered clouds with significant opacity. We observe a number of examples of output power rising above nameplate capacity before and after deep drops in power. This may be due to focusing of sunlight around the edges of low clouds. If PV becomes economically attractive enough to be deployed at large scale, intermittency is likely to be matched with dispatchable power, storage, and / or demand response

The implied ramp rates to compensate for these types of fluctuations will be challenging. Indeed, some form of large-scale battery energy storage seems vital to maintain quality of the electricity output.

That is PV. Now, at last, I have some data on solar thermal performance. It comes from the final report of the Colorado Integrated Solar Project, which you can download here (25-page PDF).

First though, some details on the facility:

The world’s first hybrid solar/coal power plant has been built near Palisade in Colorado. Xcel Energy and Abengoa Solar are partnering on the demonstration project which uses solar parabolic trough technology to supplement the use of coal. Initially, it’s expected to reduce the emissions generated by the Cameo Station’s Unit 2 plant by three to five percent, but it’s thought that this could increase to up to ten percent.

The system focuses solar energy on mineral oil, which is then passed through a heat exchanger where it’s used to preheat the water used by the coal-powered part of the 49MW plant.

You can also go to its National Renewable Energy Laboratory page for further technical specifications on the plant. In short, the expected generation was 49 MWh per year for the 6 acre parabolic trough facility, with a 2 MW turbine capacity. The NREL page says:

A parabolic trough solar field provides thermal energy to produce supplemental steam for power generation at Xcel Energy’s Cameo Station’s Unit 2 (approximately 2 MWe equivalent) in order to decrease the overall consumption of coal, reduce emissions from the plant, improve plant efficiency, and test the commercial viability of concentrating solar integration.

How much savings of coal (or actually, CO2-e)?

…should the demonstration be successful, the implications are not to be sniffed at. A ten percent cut in coal consumption in coal fired power stations in areas with the appropriate weather and solar intensity would be a great boost to efforts to limit carbon dioxide emissions globally.

According to the performance review document, the fuel savings would come in three ways:

A reduction in fuel and emissions was expected from three operational changes brought on by the solar heat addition. The three operational changes that contribute to fuel and emissions reduction are: a reduction of high pressure steam extraction, increased available steam for generation, and supplemental heating of feedwater.

Sounds good. So what was the actual result? The system starts up once the Direct Normal Insolation (DNI) reaches 200 W/m2 and can keep operating for a while at DNI below this value (p6). The maximum temperature achieved is ~300C. The results of the integration were positive (p7),  with minimal impact on the coal plant operation.

The total coal savings for the project were 238 tonnes of coal fuel (p10), or a total emissions saving of 528 tonnes of CO2-e, for a facility that cost $4.5 million. Here are the details of the actual performance data:

Obviously not great, but how does this compare to their predictions? The following table of pre-operation forecasts tells the tale:

So, the expected coal savings, converting to tonnes, was 11,017 t of coal and 2,442 t of CO2-e. That is, the actual performance was 2.2% of the predicted performance in terms of fuel savings, and 22% of expected in terms of CO2-e reduction. The report tries to put a brave face on the results (p13):

Performance

Overall the performance related to coal and emissions savings were not as good as Abengoa predicted or what Public Service expected. There is reason to believe that these results are attributable to the small scope of the project as a demonstration project. However, the integration into the feedwater cycle of an existing fossil facility was successful. The project was not designed to maximize efficiency or performance. For example, to minimize costs, less insulation was used than what would have been installed for a 20 year design. Mirror washings were less frequent than would typically be performed to reduce O&M expense. As previously mentioned, Abengoa took this opportunity to test a new collector frame design; however, the results were that the redesigned system did not provide the anticipated solar energy collection efficiency instead the efficiency actually decreased.

Future Deployment

At this time, Public Service believes that it would be best to take a “wait and see” approach before deciding on further deployments of solar integration with fossil fuel feedwater systems. Though the Company believes it achieved a successful integration of the solar heating into the feedwater system, the situation regarding costs and efficiencies is fluid, making it difficult to make any definitive recommendations regarding future deployments at this time. Based on our costs for Cameo, the Company would conclude that the cost on an equivalent MWH basis is much higher than wind or PV solar.

However, as discussed below in more detail, technological changes have occurred and it is likely that costs will come down. The Company believes that the best approach at this time is to continue to monitor developments relating to CSP technology, as well as other renewable technologies, before deciding on any future deployment of CSP technology.

The report concludes (p14) with some hopeful statements about future costs decreasing and performance increases. I hope so too (but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride…).

There are similar serious proposals for Australia. such as at Liddell power station, where AREVA have said they will integrate a 38 MW solar bolier feed water  pre-heating to (putatively) save fuel, and thereby CO2-e. After the experience in Colorado, they may be having second thoughts, unless the subsidy is sufficiently high.

These results also highlight an inherent danger with the ZCA2020 plan — until we have good performance data from their proposed CSP solar tower facilities, we risk building our nation’s electricity future on a very expensive house of cards. As the old saying in science goes, ‘Data is King’. Let’s have more of it (real-world data), before we make any irreversible investment decisions, and before we arbitrarily rule out known reliable zero-carbon options like nuclear (for which abundant performance data exists, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, for commercial operations over decades).

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90 Comments

  1. Thanks Barry,. This is interesting. But either I am misunderstanding something or something is wrong with some of the numbers.

    A quick calculation of the cost per tonne CO2 avoided, using the figures you quote and http://www.nrel.gov/csp/solarpaces/project_detail.cfm/projectID=75 is:

    CO2 saving per year = 528 tonnes
    Capital cost = $4.5 million
    Turbine Capacity (Gross) = 2 MW
    Annual generation* = 384 MWh
    Capacity Factor = 2% (20% used in LCOE the calculation)
    Economic life expectancy = 20 years
    Discount rate = 10%
    Capital cost = $2,250/kW (seems too low)
    Fixed O&M cost = $60/kW-yr (average for Solar Thermals from the NREL calculator).
    LCOE = $165/MWh
    http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech_lcoe.html

    * This is for May to December. I assume it does not generate during January to April (see the low generation figures in December and May).

    There appears to be a mistake in the figures for capacity or estimated annual generation. The NREL states the estimate generation is 49 MWh/a, but that would mean the capacity factor is just 0.2%, which is about 1/10 of what it should be. Even the figure in Barry’s table, 384 MWh/a, gives a capacity factor of just 2%. Furthermore, the cost of $4.5 million for 2 MW seems far too low for solar thermal. I haven’t read the linked documents so I am probably missing something. Hopefully someone else can clear up my confusion for me.

    The LCOE figure I’ve calculated is probably wrong, but having started I’ll complete the exercise. Someone else may want to correct the figures.

    LCOE of solar thermal = $165/MWh
    LCOE of coal (say) = $50/MWh
    LCOE difference = $115/MWh
    CO2 savings per year = 528 tonnes
    Generation per year = 384 MWh
    CO2 savings per MWh = 1.375 t/MWh (this seems too high; it is almost as high as Hazelwood, a high CO2 emissions intensity brown coal power station)
    Cost of emissions avoided = $120/tonne ($165/MWh / /1.375 t/MWh)

    I don’t believe this figure because some of the figures are clearly wrong. The emissions avoidance cost would be much higher than I have calculated.

  2. Storage solves all intermittent problems, and frankly high frequency intermitence is fixed with scale, individual cloud covers don’t affect a huge farm.

    The real intermitency problems of Solar is the night cycle followed by completely cloudy days that lower production by 60%, but again storage.

    You look at yearly demand, look at yearly production per watt, build the farm according to the above, create storage adequate for the longest intermittent period, and you are set.

    With hydraulic pistons at 0.50 $/kWh storage in one-time capital costs, storage is practically free.

  3. It looks like the figures for the expected savings of CO2-eq are too low by a factor of ~10. Savings of coal and CO2-eq should be proportionnal but, looking at both actual and expected perfs, you do not get the same factor (and we should have more CO2 than coal since we add the oxygen weight).

  4. @Peter Lang, on 4 July 2011 at 1:40 AM said:

    The NREL states the estimate generation is 49 MWh/a

    That’s the rated capacity of the coal fired plant. 49MWh * 365 *24.

    The costs are all low because the project was designed to be a demonstration project rather then a long term commercial operation.
    In addition a stand alone solar thermal system would need it’s own turbine.

  5. If “low, scattered clouds with significant opacity” can wreck the plant’s output, then move half the plant to a location sufficiently distant from the existing site to be clear of the shadow of the offending cloud. Just make sure that future expansion of that facility takes place at a physically separate facility, not immediately adjacent. I’ll leave the scientists to suggest whether the site should be downwind, or perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction.

  6. In Australia there is not only Liddell NSW but Kogan Ck Qld where solar thermal boosts coal. The ‘solar flagship’ proposed for Chinchilla Qld will use trough collectors with a gas boost, notionally limited to 15% of the heat input but possibly more. No storage. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone wanted to tack one of these setups onto Hazelwood Vic.

    If we’re serious Australia has less than a decade to save 100 Mt a year of CO2 at low cost. These fumbles shows that no form of solar will get us there.

  7. Harryw2,

    You said:

    The NREL states the estimate generation is 49 MWh/a

    That’s the rated capacity of the coal fired plant. 49MWh * 365 *24.

    The costs are all low because the project was designed to be a demonstration project rather then a long term commercial operation.
    In addition a stand alone solar thermal system would need it’s own turbine.

    That doesn’t make sense. MWh is energy not capacity. If yo do the calculation you suggested (49MWh * 365 *24), the result is inMW*(h^2)

    Secondly, demonstration plants are almost always much higher cost than production plants, no lower cost.

    However, as I said I havcen’t read the documents yet so I must be missing something substantial. The figures don’t make sense to me at the moment. If someone has read and does understand perhaps they can explain what I’ve done wrong.

    TThe capacity factor I calculate at 0.2% on NREL figures or 2% on Barry’s table is clearly wrong.

    The capital cost of $2,250/kW is clearly wrong

    There are two very different figures for the energy generation per year: 49 MWh on the NREL site and 384 MWh in Barry’s table.

  8. > focusing of sunlight around the edges of low clouds

    That suggests an interesting possible amplification approach — put up a steam vent pipe on a multiply tethered balloon and keep its shadow centered over the array, maybe, to create a persistent, adjustable low cloud in the right location to keep this effect working?

    I recall this same effect has been mentioned in regard to sunlight/ultraviolet, something about added risk of sunburn when there are some kinds of scattered clouds reflecting UV between them and concentrating it on the ground, compared to clear sky.

    Perhaps it could be done with something more sophisticated, some sort of superfine mesh at the right interval that would bend light appropriately.

  9. Florida Power & Light is an unusual company because it operates large power scale plants using a wide range of generating technologies.

    To follow up my guest post on solar I have been actively seeking access to FP&L’s PV solar, nuclear, coal fired and natural gas plants. Thus far I have had zero success even though there is a 10 MW PV installation within a few miles of my house and a 25 MW one only 160 miles away!

    Even without gaining access I have gathered a few strands of operating information from FP&L employees, including the number of people required to clean and otherwise maintain the PV arrays.

    FP&L encourages its customers to install rooftop PV installations. The “offer” seems to be absurdly generous so I am working my way though the application process to find out what the catch is:

    http://www.fpl.com/landing/solar_rebate/residential_pv.shtml

    I completely failed to make rooftop solar work in North Carolina but it may be different in Florida.

  10. Environmentalist and Pothole, the issue here is not intermittency, its headline output, and neither storage nor increasing the solar field area will help with that.

    The total expected thermal output was 7690 MWh (if I’ve done my unit conversion from the 26231 MMBtu of the second table correctly). The actual thermal output was 384 MWh.

    This shortfall is extraordinary. Only 5% of the expected output was realized. What is wrong here? Its difficult to understand how such a large discrepancy could arise. Any or all of the insolation, solar conversion efficiency or thermal losses in transfer of heat to the boiler water would have to have been greatly overestimated.

    I can only conclude from this that Abengoa do not understand their own technology.

  11. Well, that’s an interesting read!

    … to minimize costs, less insulation was used than what would have been installed for a 20 year design. Mirror washings were less frequent than would typically be performed to reduce O&M expense. As previously mentioned, Abengoa took this opportunity to test a new collector frame design; however, the results were that the redesigned system did not provide the anticipated solar energy collection efficiency instead the efficiency actually decreased.

    Ok. So they had designed a system expected to get a certain performance. They then removed significant amounts of thermal insulation (I assume on the high-temperature lines, though maybe just the ‘cool’ side). This would result in significant heat losses, which could be very large, depending on the diameter & length of their pipes. A quick google suggests the numbers could be >1kW per metre of piping, depending on temperature of steam & pipe diameter.

    They then failed to clean the mirrors. And changed the design of the mirrors to a new design that didn’t work as well.

    No wonder they didn’t get results as good as they expected…

    The numbers seem very low, though – I wonder what their actual system uptime was? Was it shut down for lengthy periods for work on the prototype collector frames? Or did the prototype frames work so badly that the steam pipes spent more time out of the focal point than in it? That could easily account for an order or magnitude difference in performance, all by itself.

  12. PL, I agree that some of the data looks suspicious – I was just reporting what was in the the Final Report. For instance, it is unusual to me that the ratio of predicted to realised coal fuel savings was:

    524,760 / 24,287,963 = 0.021605764

    and for CO2-savings it was:

    1,162,953 / 5,382,610 = 0.2160574

    i.e. almost precisely 10x the difference. This rings alarm bells for me – but that is what the report says. If nothing else, these potentially nonsense data underscore again the (lack of) quality of CSP performance data that is currently available.

    If anyone else can shed light on these numbers, I’d be most interested to hear it.

  13. Barry,

    I agree 100%. I wasn’t meaning to criticise your post. It is excellent to expose these sorts of problems with the data being publshed. It demonstrates a lack of proper engineerring involvement in what is being published by the advocates. Just imagine the uproar if the nuclear or fossil fuel industries published such nonsense data.

  14. @Environmentalist

    you teased me with this “practically free” energy storage technology… As you didn’t provide any link, I asked my friend google to give me a lead. And indeed it did : http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/heindl-958931-hydraulic-energy-store-system/ and http://eduard-heindl.de/energy-storage/ (As I don’t speak German, google translate is also my friend…) .

    It seems to be your source as it reports the same cost of 0.50$/KWh. It doesn’t include the cost of the turbine though, and it may be more expensive than the author thinks. For such a turbine head, a Pelton turbine ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelton_wheel) seems to be the only possible design, but it is clearly not reversible, so one would need another installation to pump the water. Even if it has the same price than pumped hydro, it would be worth it, but it is a big if, certainly not as certain as you claim.
    One must be careful though, handling such a high pressure in rocks requires some precaution. The highest Pelton turbine in the world is in Switzerland, it has a pressure head comparable to Pr. Heindl’s idea (~200 bars), but a rupture in a Penstock in 2000 caused an flodding of a 1 km2 area, with 3 deaths (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bieudron_Hydroelectric_Power_Station) . It took ten years to repair.

    No free lunch then, but I had great fun looking at this idea and I will keep an eye on it. If it works, I would enjoy to see one built in French Brittany (lots of granite there and a deficit in power production). This way, the French wouldn’t have to sell nuclear electricity on the cheap during the night to preserve Switzerland hydro resource, so that the Swiss can sell it back as renewable energy to the Germans during the day (how do you call that ? electricity laundering maybe ?)

  15. The reference above by Karl shows some interesting data.

    Capacity factor for onshore wind in 2010: 15%
    Expected capacity factor onshore wind 2020: 23%

    This seems very optimistic, an improvement in performance of 50%. (1.5x). Upsizing turbines alone won’t get such a big improvement so its clear that big assumptions on innovations and operational improvements are assumed here. Or, perhaps the government thinks that the winds will be better in 2020, perhaps with some sacrifice of a few nuclear engineers the wind gods will be pleased. Ahem.

    Capacity factor for PV in 2020 is expected to be 9%, not much improvement and seems realistic (minor improvement susch as thinfilms diffuse harvesting improvement etc.).

  16. I would add that a “granite piston” would be a great installation close to a nuclear power plant : NPP are usually built on solid bedrocks, as it would be close, the transmission cost to the pump would be very low, it stores a lot of water that could be available, after filtration, for emergency cooling purpose, and finally it would provide electricity for the emergency cooling systems if, for some reason, the diesel failed.

    For the same last two reasons, the inside of the piston would be a great location for interim nuclear waste storage…

  17. Great to have real data to chew on. Some of the time axes on the graphs are a bit primitive though. Fancy using time axis ticks of 50000 secs starting from 1400000 secs from 1 Jan 2007!

    If you work that out, they’re plotting array power output on two adjacent days, 16-17 Jan 2007.

    Ah well. At least they’re not plotting velocity in furlongs per fortnight.

  18. Barry Brook – “Now, at last, I have some data on solar thermal performance. ”

    Do you think that a badly designed and built feedwater heater is a valid dataset for solar thermal? SEGS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Energy_Generating_Systems) has been operating for decades and in the references for the Wiki are several papers that I am sure you have access to.

    From the paper you referenced: “For example, a significant improvement that was not available even two years ago is the direct heating of water into superheated steam with a heat exchanger or heat transfer fluid.”

    The Areva Solar Flagships project is a Ausra Frenel solar generator that uses direct steam that has be running at Kimberlina for a few years now. So the improvements detailed in the paper are already being implemented making your example even less representative.

    “As the old saying in science goes, ‘Data is King’. Let’s have more of it (real-world data), before we make any irreversible investment decisions,”

    Just because you do not have it does not mean it does not exist. Investment bankers in the US are making decisions on the available data and are investing in solar and wind and not nuclear. AS no new nuclear has been built in the last 30 years so the mass of operational data there is on nuclear is telling them that nuclear is a bad investment.

    Additionally your statement applies to the IFR. Until real world data is in about this technology we can safely discount it not hail it as the savior of humanity.

    “The implied ramp rates to compensate for these types of fluctuations will be challenging. Indeed, some form of large-scale battery energy storage seems vital to maintain quality of the electricity output.”

    This can be done quite cheaply with a range of current technologies that are being deployed even where there is no great penetration of renewables. The most obvious is just Ultracaps. CSP had thermal inertia even without storage that PV does not have. This can be introduced electrically quite cheaply with Ultracaps to give the 1 to 10 minute ride-through.

    For longer the CSIRO developed a combination Super Cap and Lead Acid battery called the Ultrabattery:
    http://www.furukawadenchi.co.jp/english/rd/nt_ultra.htm
    Of course due to Australian’s industry myopia it is being developed overseas.

  19. Translation from Engineer-Delivering-Bad-News-Speak to English of the “Lessons Learned: Future Deployment” conclusion on page 13 of the “Colorado Integrated Solar Project Final Report”:

    At this time, Public Service believes that it would be best to take a “wait and see” approach before deciding on further deployments of solar integration with fossil fuel feedwater systems.

    There is no way we will scammed like this again.

    Though the Company believes it achieved a successful integration of the solar heating into the feedwater system, the situation regarding costs and efficiencies is fluid, making it difficult to make any definitive recommendations regarding future deployments at this time.

    That useless contraption cost an absolute bomb!

    Based on our costs for Cameo, the Company would conclude that the cost on an equivalent MWH basis is much higher than wind or PV solar.

    We could have greenwashed the coal plant with a windmill for a fraction of the cost!

    However, as discussed below in more detail, technological changes have occurred and it is likely that costs will come down.

    I am high as a kite.

    The Company believes that the best approach at this time is to continue to monitor developments relating to CSP technology, as well as other renewable technologies, before deciding on any future deployment of CSP technology.

    This project is dead, as is the next person who walks through the door with a renewable energy project proposal.

    The optimum location for solar thermal technology would be in the San Luis Valley. However, the Company does not have generation facilities in this area.

    Thank Christ.

    Notwithstanding that present recommendation, the Company gained vital information, knowledge and expertise about concentrating solar system design.

    Oh yeah, we learned a painful, expensive lesson alright.

    In the event we employ this technology in the future we will be much more informed regarding the design details and its impact on solar energy collection efficiency.

    If those Spaniards show their faces in these parts again they’ll be hog tied, drawn out to the hills, and left for the mountain lions.

    [With apologies to John Gruber]

  20. Ender, your kimberlina plant costs 15 million for 5 MWpeak, it gets 20% capacity factor so you pay 15 million for a 1 MW average output, no storage so that’s intermittent output. $15/Watt, that is a lot of money for unreliable power. You can get reliable nuclear powerplant for 1/3 to 1/2 that money, and use 10x less materials per average Watt.

  21. @Peter Lang,

    The Cameo Plant in Colorado was scheduled for retirement. The ‘test’ of the Solar Thermal System tied to a coal fired boiler was only meant as a test. There was never any expectation that it would run longer then a year.

    I would agree that MWa is a confusing term.

    In the US we have nameplate capacity, summer capacity, winter capacity and Average capability

    It’s used elsewhere though. NW Council electricity statistics -
    http://www.nwcouncil.org/energy/powersupply/Default.asp

    NW Council defines MWa as
    Capability is the maximum amount of energy the plants are capable of producing over the course of an average year

    It recognizes the fact that even if demand were present, most generating sources can’t produce 100% of nameplate year round as the ‘perfect conditions’ to operate at nameplate capacity don’t actually exist in the real world year round.

  22. The “Expected Coal Savings” column in the second Abengoa table seems to correspond approximately to a continuous (or average) 2MWe output in summer, using a rough scale of 1 ton of coal -> 1 MWh electricity. However, even with high turbine efficiency, a 6664m^2 solar thermal array could only produce 2MWe peak in summer. So I’m confident that those figues are wrong, and are probably high by a factor of ten, which would then fit in with other figures and suggest that the plant performed at about 20% of expectations, not 2%.

    20% of expectations, though, is still very poor.

  23. Ender (Stephen Gloor),

    Just because you do not have it does not mean it does not exist.

    Well, this begs the questions: why it ot publically available since the public is footing the bill?

    Instead of providing a long diversionary discussion (with N/A=0)*, why don’t you provide actual numbers on:

    • Average capacity factor,
    • Minimum capacity factor (for periods of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 30, 60, 90 days – such as we have for all conventional generating technologies and also have for some solar PV stations; e.g. http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/16/solar-power-realities-supply-demand-storage-and-costs/ )
    • Capital cost
    • Fixed operating cost
    • Variable operating cost
    • Levelised cost of electricity (LCOE)
    • Emissions avoided
    • Cost of emissions avoided
    • the energy storage capacity needed to make the system baseload capable with 95% availability
    • The cost of the storage per MW and per MWh of storage capacity

    This can be done quite cheaply with a range of current technologies that are being deployed even where there is no great penetration of renewables.

    I’ve been hearing that song from the advocates for government subsidies in RE for over 30 years. It has no credibility. Show me the numbers.

    That renewable energy advocates and nuclear haters(personal opinion of person’s motives deleted) demand the equivalent figures from nuclear. Why are such figures not available for solar thermal after 30 years of subsidising these schemes at enormous cost to taxpayers for next to no return on the investment?

    * Numbers/adjectives ratio

  24. Karl-Friedrich Lenz, on 4 July 2011 at 2:23 PM:

    The figures for a similar installation in Florida operated by the same company (FP&L is owned by NextEra Energy) come out even higher at a capacity factor of 24%. However, this appears to be a result of over engineering. While I was visiting the plant, output hit 100 MW compared to the nameplate capacity of 75 MW, so a more realistic figure would be 18%. See:

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/05/15/solar-power-in-florida/

    Other things being equal I would expect the Mojave desert to be a better location for thermal solar than Florida, so 21% sounds reasonable for Harper Lake.

  25. Peter Lang – “Well, this begs the questions: why it ot publically available since the public is footing the bill?”

    In the US the public is not footing the bill as the Government has provided tax credits and loan guarantees exactly the same as it has for nuclear. I am not responsible for the lack of data and have experienced in myself trying to get data on WA wind farms – I got the same stone wall. Apparently someone is getting the numbers as bankers do not loan money on whims and generally demand hard figures. As CSP is getting finance the numbers must be there for the people that need it. Your 20 questions is your standard diversionary tactic and I will as usual not respond to it.

    “I’ve been hearing that song from the advocates for government subsidies in RE for over 30 years. It has no credibility. Show me the numbers.”

    You are already seeing the numbers. Gemsolar with storage was built for Euro 171 million and has an advertised CF of 60%. It is expensive however it is a FOAK using molten salt as the working fluid. At least it is an operating commercial plant where data can be gathered and hopefully released someday.

    The Ultracaps you can buy from Maxwell:
    http://www.maxwell.com/products/ultracapacitors/product.aspx?PID=75V-POWER-MODULES

    You can ask them about costs. Ultracaps are ideal for the 10 sec to 1 minute transients. There is nothing magic about them – the cappies in the power supply of the PC that your are typing on are doing exactly the same job albeit on a smaller scale.

    (Comment, by PL, to which you refer, was deleted as per BNC attribution of motives comments policy)
    I am a “nuclear can save the world” hater just as I am a “renewables can save the world” hater. I just do not agree that a different method of boiling water is the answer. I believe that we need to do a lot more than just replace our electricity supply for 20% of the world’s population that has access to reliable power. I realise you like people in pidgeon holes as you seem unable to imagine anything different however I am not in the hippy greenie slot that you put me in. I simply prefer renewables as they fit with the lower energy society I believe is necessary for our society’s continued existence.

  26. Ender (Stepehen Gloor)

    Your 20 questions is your standard diversionary tactic and I will as usual not respond to it.

    That is your standard diversionary tactic. You write a pile of nonsense, no figures, accuse everyojne else of what you self practice incessently, but wont provide any figures.

    Here were my questions that I beleive are asking for the sort of information that should be publicaly available from projects that are being largely publically funded (no matter how you wan to spin it).

    Instead of providing a long diversionary discussion (with N/A=0)*, why don’t you provide actual numbers on:

    • Average capacity factor,
    • Minimum capacity factor (for periods of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 30, 60, 90 days – such as we have for all conventional generating technologies and also have for some solar PV stations; e.g. http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/16/solar-power-realities-supply-demand-storage-and-costs/ )
    • Capital cost
    • Fixed operating cost
    • Variable operating cost
    • Levelised cost of electricity (LCOE)
    • Emissions avoided
    • Cost of emissions avoided
    • the energy storage capacity needed to make the system baseload capable with 95% availability
    • The cost of the storage per MW and per MWh of storage capacity

  27. Peter Lang – “That is your standard diversionary tactic. You write a pile of nonsense, no figures, accuse everyojne else of what you self practice incessently, but wont provide any figures.”

    (Deleted inflammatory comment) my original comment was to question this example that Barry has provided. It is not representitive of CSP plants and therefore no conclusion about CSP’s suitability or otherwise can be drawn. It does not support the conclusion that nuclear is better just nuclear seems to have better data.

    I noted that I had the same problem when trying to get data – I have the emails I received from the WA wind farm operators. Apparently the data is commercial in confidence which is not environmentalists fault greenie or otherwise. (Deleted inflammatory personal comment)Greenies are not locking up data – corporations are. I agree that the data should be more available and would welcome such a move. (Deleted unsubstantiated personal opinion -please supply refs to support your assertion.) we will need all low carbon power sources in the future assuming we have one. Nuclear will have its place however it will not be the savior of mankind as you seem to want to dream about.

    Again no-one responded to the remark I made about tried and true technology. At least half of this blog is devoted to a technology that is not even out of the lab and has never been tested in a commercial utility environment as an integrated unit. At lease the newer solar plants are being rolled out in commercial units and one day we may have some data on them. So until the IFR has some hard data perhaps you should reserve your criticism for people that promote solutions without any data at all.

  28. Peter Lang – ““That is your standard diversionary tactic. You write a pile of nonsense, no figures, accuse everyojne else of what you self practice incessently, but wont provide any figures.””

    I also provided links to technologies that are commercially available to mitigate the problems with PV panels. They need a flywheel and this should be legislated in the AEMO rules. PV plants should have 10 or 20 minutes storage before they can connect to the grid. Equally wind farms should have a mandatory >20 minute ramp down/up time with storage providing the slope, discharging on the way down and charging on the way up. In this application Ultracaps are ideal as they last for millions of cycles and can be discharged to zero without damage.

    Implementation of large amounts of PV should not be too great a problem if they incorporate small amounts of commercially available storage. No-one will spend any money unless they have to so such rules will have to drawn up and implemented. That would also be a good time to draw up rules for mandatory disclosure of data.
    MODERATOR
    Please be aware that, except on Open Threads, links/refs are required to support your assertions. Further violations of the citation policy may be deleted and you will be asked to re-submit with refs.

  29. Ender (Stephen Gloor),

    Windora Solar PV power station, Queensland
    http://ecogeneration.com.au/news/windorah_solar_farm/011780/

    Commissioned October 2009, state of the art solar PV. Here are some figures.

    Windorah (PV) Qld units
    Capacity (nominal) 0.13 MW
    Energy p.a. 360 MWh/a
    Capacity Factor 32%
    Capital Cost $4.5 A$ mil
    Cost per kW $34,615 A$/kW
    Cost per average kW $109,500 A$/kW.a/a

    Calculate cost per CO2 avoided:
    LCOE (est) $1445 $/MWh
    LCOE of coal (approx) $50 $/MWh
    LCOE difference $1,395 $/MWh

    fuel savings (est. max) 30,000 L/a
    fuel savings (est. min) 100,000 L/a
    CO2 emissions savings (min) 80 t/a
    CO2 emissions savings (max) 268 t/a
    CO2 avoided (min) per MWh 0.2 t/MWh
    CO2 avoided (max) per MWh 0.7 t/MWh
    Cost per tonne CO2 avoided $6,238 $/t CO2 avoided
    Cost per tonne CO2 avoided $1,872 $/t CO2 avoided

    So, a current state-of the-art solar PV station costs roughly $4,000 per tonne CO2 avoided.

    I am surprised it is this bad. Please correct my figures if wrong. If my figure is correct, or your revised figure is above about $20/tonne CO2 avoided, I suggest you should admit that solar PV is not a viable way to reduce emisisons.

    In fact it is so far away from being a viable option we should stop all subsidies for PV now.

    The same goes for other renewable energy schemes.

  30. Peter Lang – “In fact it is so far away from being a viable option we should stop all subsidies for PV now.”

    So what you are suggesting is that because one solar farm is inproductive that all solar farms are unproductive and should be stopped?

    Again this is off topic – if you have a reference that shows that this CSP plant is a valid example or can disprove that Ultracaps cannot smooth the output of a PV farm then please provide them. Until then please stick to the topic and not go off on anti-renewable rants that are logical fallacies.

    Logic Fallacies:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasty_generalization.

    Reference supplied as requested.

  31. Ender,

    No. You hjave it back to fron. There is not evidence I’ve seen that indicates that solar thermal or PV is viable or can ever be viable.

    If you have such evidence (other than the wishfulw thinking of RE advocates) then it is up to you and the RE industry to make it available. My belief is the information is not being made available because the RE ihdustry shows that RE is not viable.

    If I am wrong, then show the numbers.

  32. Enh. The rapid fluctuations aren’t that big a deal. If we want to have a lot of renewable power, then most of the renewable power is going to get cycled through mid-long term storage anyways. Remember: if your system is sane, then your peak output will be about 1/Capacity Factor times your average output, and a large fraction (if not the bulk) of the power generation will come at near-peak production. Once you have anywhere near CF% of the total grid demand in renewables, then you have to cycle a lot/most of the power through storage or spill it.

    So the penalty for cycling all of it (rather than the minimum amount) through the storage isn’t that problematic. Maybe a 10% efficiency penalty over the optimum, with the advantage of a much more robust system. Of course, that route means there is no way to pretend that the efficiency loss for cycling through storage doesn’t apply, but honesty should be an advantage.

  33. Ender (Stephen Gloor)

    Here is another example of totally uneconomic solar thermal – Gemasolar, Spain.

    http://www.nrel.gov/csp/solarpaces/project_detail.cfm/projectID=40
    http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=BEI/09/224&type=HTML
    http://www.solarpaces.org/Tasks/Task1/Task%20I.pdf

    Gemasolar, Spain;;
    Commissioned date;Dec-10;
    Capacity (nominal);17;MW
    Energy storage;15;h
    Energy pa;100,000;MWh/a
    Capacity Factor;67%;
    hybrid%;;
    Capital cost (M);€ 230;
    Currency;€;
    Base cost year;2009;
    Exchange rate;0.6;
    Escalate costs by (% pa);3%;3%
    Capital Cost;$395;A$ mil
    Cost per kW;$23,225;A$/kW
    Cost per average kW;$34,587;A$/kW.a/a

    I don’t have the O&M cost so cannot calculate the LCOE. I don’t have the emissions avoided so cannot calculate the cost per tonne CO2 avoided. However, from the capital cost per kW ($23,225/kW), it is obvious that the cost per tonne avoided will be very high, just as all other solar and wind plants are.

    I could keep going. But that is sufficient to demonstrate that, from the limited figures that are available, it is clear that these technologies are ridiculously costly.

    No, it is up to you to provide some reliable, authoritative (i.e. not from RE advocates) operational data and costs. What is needed are the figures to answer the questions I provided in my earlier comment on this thread. We do need to know the minimum capacity factors for 1, 3, 5 days etc, because we need sufficient storage to cover for the worst case option.

  34. @ Ender, re: supercapacitors

    Supercaps have been used as backup in appliances for many years and their potential to provide short term smoothing has been widely promoted. However, their energy density remains well below that of commercial batteries, although some of the lab caps have achieved densities comparable with lead acid batteries.

    As you alluded to, electrolytic, ceramic, polystyrene and tantalum capacitors are widely used in all electronic equipment, but they are almost always used to provide DC smoothing (over periods of 1/50 second) and AC coupling for audio/RF signals – with the exception of small backup caps for memory backup, they are almost NEVER used for ‘storage’ in most appliances.

    For dedicated storage applications, unlike batteries which retain a stable voltage, the voltage curve is exponential over their charge/discharge curve, and they cost 5 to 10 times more than a lithium ion battery.

    http://www.ethiopianreview.com/index/20111/403276

    Their real benefit in conjunction with a traditional battery is to absorb the transients and improve the battery life.

  35. Ender (Stephen Gloor),

    Just to reitterate. Renewable energy advocates, like yourself, are continually trying to claim that renewables are economically viable now, baseload capable now, etc. So it is up to you to support these claims. I’ve just provided figures for two of the star solar plants and they both demonstrate that solar is uneconomic – by a very large margin. I have seen no evidence, other than renewable energy advocates’ spin ansd wishful thinking, to show solar is viable, or can ever be viable.

    If you have evidence (other than the wishful thinking of RE advocates) to demonstrate it is viable, it is up to you and the RE industry to make it available.

    My belief is the information is not being made available because the RE ihdustry knows that RE is not viable.

    If I am wrong, then show the numbers.

  36. Much of this discussion is focussed on the transients and intermittency and is therefore missing the point. As I wrote in my first comment way up thread the intermittency is not the issue here.

    The problem is that the total power output is so low. Smoothing will not help with this, whether it be by ultracapacitors, flywheels, or any other means. The discussion around the smoothing technologies is completely off track.

    The second, major, problem is that Abengoa’s modelled output of the solar field is about twenty times higher than actual output! This is a serious problem. A discrepancy of that magnitude indicates the technical organization within Abengoa does not understand their technology at an engineering level. They were completely unable to determine the fundamental performance parameter of their product. This is a technology that cannot be designed with.

    Somebody spent $4.5m to buy that promised performance I can tell from reading the report they are not happy.

  37. Peter Lang – “Here is another example of totally uneconomic solar thermal – Gemasolar, Spain.”

    Once again you stray off topic however suffice to say the Gemsolar is a FOAK plant pioneering molten salt as a working fluid:

    http://energy.worldconstructionindustrynetwork.com/news/torresol_energy_constructs_gemasolar_csp_plant_in_spain_110526/

    The cost reported here is 171 million Euros which gives a cost of approx USD $10 000/kW which is not too bad for a FOAK plant.

    http://www.pv-tech.org/news/torresol_commissions_19mw_gemasolar_csp_plant_with_central_tower_and_therma

    This reference also supports the Euro 171 million cost. Only one of your references mentions costs at all and is at odds with the references I supplied.

    As the definition for overnight cost is this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overnight_cost

    CF does not come into this calculation, a point I have been trying to correct with you for years.

    “My belief is the information is not being made available because the RE ihdustry shows that RE is not viable.”

    That may be true however your belief does not make it true nor does inflating figures for the cost of renewables the way you do. For cost per kW overnight or all up the cost is the capital cost / nameplate or capital cost + finance / nameplate.

    “No, it is up to you to provide some reliable, authoritative (i.e. not from RE advocates) operational data and costs.”

    No its not as I only commented that this plant is not representative. You took the thread off topic with renewable bashing. I don’t actually have to do anything at all as I never asserted in this thread whether solar is economic or otherwise.

    I also commented on the tried and true caveat the Barry mentioned and applied it to other speculative technologies that are popular on this blog. I noticed that you have not mentioned that at all. In fact you have responded to very little to what I said – instead you seem to just be ranting about how bad renewables are which gives nobody any information. You will note that I refrained from responding with nuclear bashing as this would be off topic.

  38. Graham Palmer – “Their real benefit in conjunction with a traditional battery is to absorb the transients and improve the battery life.”

    Very true and this is why our CSIRO developed the Ultrabattery which I referenced before. Low cost and a huge increase in battery life by combining a super capacitor and lead acid battery in one package.

    http://www.csiro.au/science/Ultra-Battery.html

  39. John Morgan – “The problem is that the total power output is so low. Smoothing will not help with this, whether it be by ultracapacitors, flywheels, or any other means. The discussion around the smoothing technologies is completely off track.”

    The smoothing referred to the solar PV part of the article that mentioned transients. The text is:

    “The implied ramp rates to compensate for these types of fluctuations will be challenging”

    I am asserting that these challenges 1 to 10 minute transients are able to be coped with with relatively low cost Ultracapacitors available off the shelf. I do not have exact figures however PV plants should have this type of storage.

    The low output of the CSP plant is because of design mistakes Abengoa made. Perhaps they do not understand solar power however as they are a commercial company such problems, if they exist, will come out with the failure of the company. it is not an black mark against solar thermal only a company’s poor implementation.

  40. Ender, the Gemasolar plant gets 63% capacity factor:

    http://theenergycollective.com/nathan-wilson/58791/20mw-gemasolar-plant-elegant-pricey

    Also your 242 million dollars (171 million euro) is only part of the financing. Total project cost is 419 million dollars.

    Combine those facts and you can get an average watt delivered cost: 33 dollars per Watt average. That is a lot of money even for first of a kind. Molten nitrate salt heat transport is used widely in industry and the heliostats have been around for decades; this is hardly cutting edge technology, its just existing techs integrated into one facility.

  41. @ Ender : Ultracap works, Here in France, the Bolloré group is developping some interesting ones, with an announced 95% efficiency in energy storage http://www.batscap.com/en/supercapacitor/conception.php and an extremly long lifetime. Their specific energy is not good however, so they’re only adequate when the weight and volume used is not too much of a problem.

    But ultracaps only solve the intermitency problem. You are getting some serious rebuttance about the actual performance of *recent* solar PV units. You can’t just push aside the data because you don’t like it. You’ve got to at least explain why those projects didn’t get it and don’t efficient PV.

    When I see the German project, I’ve got to wonder if they shouldn’t do biomass rather than solar, given the climate. The biomass is definitively growing strongly, solar not so much :-)

  42. Biomass, no way we’ve got a shortage already and we’re ruining the worlds forests as a result. Way too diffuse to use as a large scale fossil fuel replacement.

    We moved away from biomass as the dominant source of commercial energy supply a long time ago – for very good reasons. Just run any numbers on the land required and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

    And ultracaps are expensive. Good for grid regulation, not good for cheap bulk day to day electricity storage.

  43. @Ender

    “Very true and this is why our CSIRO developed the Ultrabattery which I referenced before. Low cost and a huge increase in battery life by combining a super capacitor and lead acid battery in one package.”

    You say “low cost” – what is the cost? Some supercaps are 5 to 10 times more expensive than lithium ion.

    http://www.ethiopianreview.com/index/20111/403276

    The CSIRO batteries are innovative are a step forward, but where can you buy these “low cost” battery/caps and what is the warrantied life?

    Similarly, the King Island Vanadium Redox battery smooths the wind output (battery does not provide ‘storage’ as it only provides 3% of system capacity), and is innovative technology but remains horrendously expensive at $20,000/kW.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huxley_Hill_Wind_Farm

  44. Ender (Stephen Gloor)

    Once again you stray off topic however suffice to say the Gemsolar is a FOAK plant pioneering molten salt as a working fluid:

    No, Stephen, I am not off-topic. You are avoiding the issue. The issue is whether or not solar power is economically viable, or whether it ever will be. You are trying to argue it is, but you continually avoid providing any actual performance or actual costs figures for existing plants. So far you rubbish everyone I provide the figures for, but have not offered up the ones you base your beliefs on. You have been doing similar since you first stated commenting on BNC over a year ago. Likewise, the solar energy advocates continually try to argue that solar is viable now and is baseload capable now. But they and you wont provide figures to support your argument.

    So it is you avoiding the issue rather than me being off topic.

    Why don’t you show the numbers that demonstrate that solar is viable, or man-up and admit they do not exist. We all know that is the case anyway, so you might as well just fess-up.

  45. Ender (Stephen Gloor),

    In case you don’t understand my questions requesting the figures that would allow us to determine the true cost of solar power that has the generating capabilities required by the electricity system, perhaps you could fill in the missing number here for existing, operating, solar plants:

    The cost of CO2 emissions avoidance is: $x,xxx / tonne CO2 avoided.

    Provide a few examples, or mean and standard deviation for a number of plants.

    Also please advise the basis of your calculations.

    Surely, after 30 years of subsidising solar power it would be reasonable to expect to have the figures needed to do this calculation on the existing, operating plants.

  46. How much would it cost to smooth out transients in a PV plant with supercapacitors?

    Those Maxwell supercaps are ~$80/2600 F (or $20 used), or 32 F/$. They go up to 2.5 V

    Energy stored in a capacitor is E = 1/2 CV^2 joules, where C is capacitance and V is voltage across the terminals.

    Putting those numbers together gives 100 J/$, or $36 000 / kWh.

    The output plots at the head of the article show transients of ~20 minutes where the output drops by 2000 kW, so lets design for 30 min transients. So you need to cover a transient of 1 MWhr. That would cost ~$36m in capacitors.

    I don’t know how much that 4.6 MW Arizona facility cost. Assume Peter’s 0.13 MW Windorra plant has similar transients taking out the same fraction of generation. Then the cost scales with nominal capacity, so you’re looking at $1m in capacitors and $4.5m in balance of plant.

    The capacitors also require some complex and expensive power electronics to integrate them into the plant -they don’t supply energy at constant voltage like other sources. So add that cost in. Also consider that not all the energy in the caps will be recovered – you can only recover the energy down to the lower operating voltage limit. So add a few more capacitors to the bill. On the other hand, maybe you replace some of the caps with batteries to cover the longer dropouts.

    Rough estimate then, with many caveats, is those ultracaps will add ~25% to the cost of the plant.

  47. Pumped hydro is the least cost energy storage by far for the amount of storage that would be required to make solar power baseload capable. See the chart called “System Ratings” here: http://www.electricitystorage.org/ESA/technologies/ Notice that only pumped hydro can deliver the power and delivery duration needed. The chart beside “Capital Costs” compares the cost per MW and cost per MWh capacity for the various energy storage options. Again, only hydro is viable.

    The question is, how much hydro storage capacity would be needed, where could we build them, and how much area would be inundated?

    This puts some scale on the amount of storage needed to make solar baseload capable:
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/16/solar-power-realities-supply-demand-storage-and-costs/
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/10/solar-realities-and-transmission-costs-addendum/

    It shows the land area that would have to be inundated by the reservoirs to provide the amount of storage necessary.

    It also provides a perspective of the cost involved (at least ten times the cost of nuclear to do the same job).

    It is a limit analysis, so take it that way. However, the costs are in the same ball park as the estimated cost for the Zero Carbon Australia by 2020 plan:
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/08/12/zca2020-critique/

  48. after 30 years of subsidising solar power it would be reasonable to expect to have the figures needed to do this calculation on the existing, operating plants.

    Two problems with that.

    1) the technology of solar power has changed enormously over the past 30 years. The cost has also plummeted dramatically, although it’s still around 3-4 times that of fossil fuels (that don’t pay external costs) – except in remote areas, such as Windora, where the cost of diesel generation makes solar PV almost competitive – if you assume a 20-year plant life, it’d be fairly close, I think – ignoring prospects for further rises in the price of diesel, that is!

    2) If you include both direct subsidies and the unpaid external costs, solar has been the pauper compared to fossil fuels over the past 30 years. Actually, that’s probably the case even excluding the externalities, given the est. $12billion/year of FF subsidies & tax breaks here in Oz.
    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/billions-spent-on-fossil-fuel-incentives-20110228-1bbsn.html
    I mean, it’s estimated that the FBT exemption on company cars alone cost more than all the renewable energy support in Australia.

    Of course, if you include the externalities, then the cost of FF triples or even quadruples, and total ‘subsidies’ worldwide are well into the $trillions. Per year.
    Add that up over the past 250 years for the real picture.
    The reason FF provides ‘cheap’ energy, is that we don’t actually pay most of the cost. Our children & grandchildren will. Imagine what that’ll do to the world economy. Paying not only for their own energy, but 3/4 the cost of the energy use for the prior 200 years of modern civilisation.

  49. Peter Lang – “Why don’t you show the numbers that demonstrate that solar is viable, or man-up and admit they do not exist.”

    Its not a question of manning up or anything like that. I am a bit surprised that the moderator is allowing your off topic discussion for so long. I have admitted that the figures are not available and that the corporations that build these plants should have more data available. However I cannot make them.

    I suggest that you keep your comments on-topic and not stray off.

    Now how about actually responding to what I said rather than rant about your own agenda. Some of the other people here a quite capable of this and you really should model your responses on theirs.
    MODERATOR
    I can’t see how the discussion is off-topic. Surely the topic is about finally getting some solar power data.
    How do you see that as “off-topic”?

  50. Bern,

    2) If you include both direct subsidies and the unpaid external costs, solar has been the pauper compared to fossil fuels over the past 30 years.

    That statement is complete nonsense. Pure spin. Fossil fuels produce electricity and energy for transport and heat. Solar power does not. It is just a drain on the economy to keep(pejorative deleted) Green advocates happy – not that any amount of subsidies would be enough to keep them happy.

    You have to realise that funding spent has to be considered in terms of return on investment. There is next to no return on investment from subsidies for solar and probably never will be.

    The financial and economic aspects of the energy and GHG reductions debate are continually ignored by the Progressives – except when it suits them to talk about nuclear being uneconomic – which of course is due to 50 years of Progressive activists preventing its development.

  51. John Morgan – “How much would it cost to smooth out transients in a PV plant with supercapacitors?”

    I am not sure if you saw them however Maxwell have packaged modules specifically for different industries. The include a lot of the electronics required to run the packs.

    http://www.maxwell.com/products/ultracapacitors/docs/MAXWELL_ACTIVE_CELL_VOLTAGE_MANAGEMENT_ELECTRONICS_REV1.PDF

    Additionally all solar PV plants already have complex electronics changing the DC output of the panels to AC for the grid. The Ultracaps are usually connected across the DC bus where the variable input of the PV panels is coped with by the MPPT trackers that solar inverters have.

    I think your 30 minute requirement for Ultracaps is extreme. The Ultracaps would mainly be there for the 1 second to 1 minute transients. From Figure 2 of the paper this would filter the output of the arrays and not cost much more than 5% of the cost of the PV panels. For 30 minute storage batteries are far cheaper and probably not required.

    Where I am at the moment I cannot edit posts very well so if you want exact figures I cannot really do a detailed post at the moment.

  52. Ender (Stephen Gloor)

    I suggest that you keep your comments on-topic and not stray off.
    Now how about actually responding to what I said rather than rant about your own agenda. Some of the other people here a quite capable of this and you really should model your responses on theirs.

    How hypocritical coming from you. Look back at your rants and abuse on these threads and ever since:
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/08/does-wind-power-reduce-carbon-emissions/
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/16/solar-power-realities-supply-demand-storage-and-costs/

    Furthermore my comments are right on topic – the viability of solar power. The opening sentence of the lead article says:

    A common lament of those analysts wishing to get to grips with the real-world performance of solar thermal power plants has been, well… an absence of data.

    So it is you that is off topic and trying to avoid discussing the critical issues and using FUD.

    You’ve been trying to divert from what’s important from your first comment (addressed to Barry) here: http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/07/03/lacklustre-colorado-solar/#comment-130879

    Just because you do not have it does not mean it does not exist.

    And now you admit:

    I have admitted that the figures are not available and that the corporations that build these plants should have more data available.

    You have now admitted there is no evidence to support your argument that solar is economically viable, or ever will be.

    My case rests. The recommendation follows: Subsidies and mandating of solar power should be stopped.

    QED

  53. Cyril R – “Also your 242 million dollars (171 million euro) is only part of the financing. Total project cost is 419 million dollars.”

    You should note that I commented at that post. It is the only one that mentions 419million and that is only for a Daily Mail article. Every other article I have read on it agrees on the financing of 171 million euros. If you have other references that back up the 419 million cost then please post them. Also as I noted in my comment CF has no place in cost/kw calculations. There is a standard for these types of cost comparisons to avoid ambiguity. To included CF you have to do much more work and model a couple of years of operation to arrive at a cost/kwHr.

    “Molten nitrate salt heat transport is used widely in industry and the heliostats have been around for decades; this is hardly cutting edge technology, its just existing techs integrated into one facility.”

    Yes put pumping them through a 900deg collector and keeping it molten all the way up the tower and back presents some engineering challenges not seen before.

  54. Peter Lang – “Furthermore my comments are right on topic – the viability of solar power. The opening sentence of the lead article says:

    A common lament of those analysts wishing to get to grips with the real-world performance of solar thermal power plants has been, well… an absence of data.”

    Yes Peter but I was referring to laypeople like you and me. If you have a commercial reason or can pay the money the data would be readily available. There is a big difference between a blog post and a multi million dollar investment.

    My comment was that the data that Barry presented is not representive of the vast majority of solar thermal plants that are operating today.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_solar_thermal_power_stations

    This list is pretty comprehensive and I cannot find even one other feed water heater. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that the data presented here is representive of only a tiny minority of solar thermal plants and no conclusions can be drawn from it.

    Again I point you to the fallacy of hasty generalisation that I posted before. Nothing in this data supports your truly wild assertion that all solar funding should be stopped nor does it support your assertion that solar thermal is not viable.

    Again I am not sure where the moderator has go to however I thought such things were a thing of the past here.

  55. Moderator:

    From this statement in the article:

    “Now, at last, I have some data on solar thermal performance. It comes from the final report of the Colorado Integrated Solar Project, which you can download here (25-page PDF).”

    Yes at last you have some data however I am asserting that this data is unrepresentive of solar thermal plants – no more no less than this and Peter Lang has presented nothing to rebut this by showing that feed water heaters are common or that the performance of this feed water heater is similar to others.

    I sympathise with his and Barry’s lament about lack of data however unless you have a good reason they lock the data up as they are entitled to.

    Rants about solar energy being not viable do not rebut the argument I posed that the data is not representitive.

  56. @Bern

    According to a joint OECD/IEA/OPEC survey, although fossil fuel subsidies are much greater in absolute terms,

    The per unit basis subsidies to renewables and biofuels are equal to US cents 5.0 per kWh, compared with US cents 1.7 per kWh for nuclear power, and US cents 0.8 per kWh for fossil fuels.

    http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=0CBoQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.oecd.org%2Fdataoecd%2F55%2F5%2F45575666.pdf&rct=j&q=oecd%20world%20bank%20report%20subsidies%20renewables%20fossil%20fuels%20per%20unit&ei=J9YTTvrNBeWEmQX0_vTKDg&usg=AFQjCNH3r8RBKulTcJnpeTORuFXg94kU0w&cad=rja

    Most of us would agree that subsidies should be scaled back to ensure truly competitive markets. Agree that company car concessions are inefficient, but don’t hybrids and electric vehicles also qualify for company car concessions? And why is a 60 cent feed-in tariff for solar compared to the 4 cent wholesale price paid to coal and gas generators not a grossly inefficient subsidy? As PL has noted, at least the conventional generators create a valuable product that, although the recipient of sometimes questionable grants, contributes to the net wealth of the nation.

  57. Ender,

    Every other article I have read on it agrees on the financing of 171 million euros.

    I don’t know what you are selecting as your sources.

    This is the source of the figures I used for Gemasolar.

    Try this: http://www.nrel.gov/csp/solarpaces/project_detail.cfm/projectID=40, and http://www.solarpaces.org/Tasks/Task1/Task%20I.pdf

    230 million Euro = A$383 million

    I included the links in my original comment along with the basis of estimate of Cost per kW and cost per average kW.

  58. Ender

    Yes at last you have some data however I am asserting that this data is unrepresentive of solar thermal plants – no more no less than this and Peter Lang has presented nothing to rebut this

    To the contrary, you have not substantiated your assertion and I have given you two examples and could give you many more to show that solar power is not economically viable. We also know, as you admit, there are no figures available to show it is viable.

    Therefore, you are being mischevious by your line of attack here.

  59. Just caught up with all this latest solar guff. Thanks John Morgan for the best laugh in years. Brilliant stuff. Had a letter to the Australian published today urging the ALP and the Coalition to join forces and reach a bipartisan position on nuclear power and then get it through both houses without the Greens. They will have been sidelined by such a move which is where they deserve to be on the future energy issue.

  60. Total project cost for Gemasolar is 260 million UK pounds.

    Financing round of 171 million euros for Gemasolar.

    Both statements are correct. However, it is not my fault that journalists don’t understand that big projects like these are NEVER funded from one financing round or source. Journalists are good at quoting each other in error without checking their numbers. The 171 million euros was needed to get started; 260 million pounds is the total project cost. See the reference I posted upthread.

    Data from solar PV does exist, here is one example from the rooftop system at the Massachusets Museum of Contemporary Art:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/03/01/703151/-Live,-From-the-Massachusetts-Museum-of-Contemporary-Art:-The-Solar-System\

    http://www.sunviewer.net/portals/MoCA/

    As you can see the performance is dismal.

    There is also data on the German PV nationwide, modelled based on a large number of real system outputs so quite realistic:

    http://energyfromthorium.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=39&t=2689

  61. Peter Lang – “To the contrary, you have not substantiated your assertion and I have given you two examples and could give you many more to show that solar power is not economically viable”

    Great however that is not the question. The question is whether this example of data is representitive of solar thermal power in general. I never asked or posed whether solar power is viable nor did Barry in his post. As far as I can see he simply said there is a dearth of real world data that makes it difficult to assess whether solar power is viable to which I agreed.

    The other examples you posted that of Windora and Gemasolar also do not prove anything. You have inflated the figures for Gemasolar and Windora was an unfortunate white elephant equally non representitive of mainstram solar projects. As an example of solar thermal it also does not fly as it is a concentrating solar PV plant not thermal.

    Conceeding the cost of Gemasolar as 230 million Euro’s converting this to US dollars gives a range of USD$365 million at .63 to USD 283 million dollars (.81) depending on when you converted your money. This puts the all-up cost in a range of 18.25/W to 14.5/W which is nothing like your inflated figure and still not bad for a FOAK plant.

  62. Ender,

    (inflammatory comment deleted)

    The important issue is whether or not solar is economically viable or ever will be. You seem to be doing all you can to divert from the real issue and bury the fact that it is not viable by introducing irrelevant nonsense about capacitors and the like – but without doing any of the cost analysis for your proposals.

    You still have not provided any numbers to back up your statements. (Incivility deleted)
    The fact that there is no actual performance and cost information available for solar supports the contention it is not viable and its advocates are hiding the facts from public scrutiny.

    Your FUD gives a similar impression.

    Regarding your last paragraph, I gave costs in 2010 A$ using the conversion rate of A$1 = 0.6 EUR. I provided that up thread. The 230 EUR is in 2009 EUR so has to be escalated to 2010. I did used 3% escalation. I made all that visible in the figures I gave up thread. Did you even bother to look. (Incivility deleted)
    The total project cost in 2010 A$ is $395. Divide by 17 MW gives A$23,225/kW.
    (Deleted personal opinion of others)
    MODERATOR
    Peter – please do not continue to personally attack individual commenters in this manner or I will delete all of the next post by you that contains such instances, instead of only the unsavoury content.

  63. Ender, the gemasolar plant is 33 dollars per Watt average delivered output. That is massive even for a first of a kind plant. For example the first of a kind European Pressurized Reactor at Olkiluoto, infamous for its cost overruns, is around 5 dollars per average Watt delivered. And it doesn’t suffer downtime when there’s more than 1 day of cloudy output or during, uh, winter. Spain has surprisingly bad weather for weeks every year, and winter output versus summer is also quite large a difference.

  64. Peter Lang – “The important issue is whether or not solar is economically viable or ever will be”

    It may be however not for this discussion as this is not about solar viability or anything like it. However if it was I think that the dataset presented is too small and unrepresentitive to draw any conclusions.

    http://www.torresolenergy.com/TORRESOL/gemasolar-plant/en

    “Characteristics of Gemasolar:

    Rated electrical power: 19.9 MW”

    Now I am pretty sure Torresol who built the plant know what it is rated at and this is the rated power – 19.9MW which is close enough to 20MW.

    In my mathematics 230 million Euro / 20 000 000 watts gives a cost per watt of 11.5 Euro per watt. Again it not out of the ballpark for a FOAK plant. You can convert it to any currency you like however you cannot divide it by the CF because this is deceptive and not to the standard.

    “a) you haven’t a clue what you are talking about”

    That may be so however I do have enough of a clue not to make fallacious statements and draw wild conclusions from too little data.

    “b) there is no evidence that solar thermal is anywhere near economically viable, nor that it ever will be”

    Unfortunately the same lack of data constrains you. Neither of us has the data to prove it either way. The really important thing is that Torresol, in the economic conditions that Spain offers, has enough data to conclude that Gemasolar is economically viable and built the plant. Furthermore it is building more of them. What happens on BNC is irrelevant unless of course there is some requirement to check with Peter Lang before new projects are allowed.

    “c) answering the questions I put to you way up thread and that you have continually dodged answering”

    Which I have no intention of answering because none of them actually concern what this article is about. I have no more intention of answering them than I have if you had asked what color your house is, what you dog’s name is or any other irrelevant questions you could muster.

    To conclude the only questions that I will answer is if you provide some data or reference that shows that the CSP plant mentioned in the article that we are ‘talking’ about IS representitive of the current fleet of CSP plants or that it is totally impossible to economically smooth the output of PV plants to make them better grid neighbours.

    You bullying tactics and confronting manner in no way change the fact that you are off topic and actually cannot engage anyone on questions they ask, rather you use topics as a platform for your anti-green rants and your carefully selected data that ‘supports’ your unshakeable belief that renewables are no good.

  65. Ender, on 6 July 2011 at 10:01 PM said:

    Now I am pretty sure Torresol who built the plant know what it is rated at and this is the rated power – 19.9MW which is close enough to 20MW.

    If you look at the annual expected output 110GWh the average capacity is closer to 12 MW. There is obviously a substantial seasonal variation.

    Almost all energy sources make some kind of economic sense somewhere. How good the correlation is between production and demand have to be part of the evaluation process of how valuable something is.

  66. Ender, you must adjust for capacity factor, otherwise its not an energy to energy, apples to apples comparison. It is not dishonest at all to demand this, the opposite is true; it is dishonest from renewables enthusiasts to not adjust for capacity factor and in so doing continue to do apples to oranges comparison. The very reason why molten salt is added to the plant is to improve capacity factor and dispatchability. But if you don’t adjust for capacity factor it may appear that the non-storage plant is a better option simply because it has a lower nameplate/Watt cost.

  67. While this paper (below) is not a record of current capital or operating costs of solar PV, it does show that (i) costs are on a predictable downward trajectory (ii) the implications fro when technosolar reaches coal-fired grid-parity with the next couple of decades.

    Arguing on a current cost basis seems rather irrelevant. If the question is “what is the (true non-distorted all externalities acocunted for) grid-parity cost for solarPV”? let’s look closely at what conditions are required to achieve that.

    http://www.business.ualberta.ca/UjjayantChakravorty/~/media/University%20of%20Alberta/Faculties/Business/FacultyAndStaff/MBEL/UjjayantChakravorty/Documents/Research/chakjrtsejpe.ashx

  68. Re: Monju: Much like the solar project described here (and numerous other demonstration units), Monju is an example of how NOT to pursue a commercial unit (fast reactor, in Monju’s case, but many of the guiding principles are relevant across technologies). For a start, the oxide fuel and loop design are just the wrong ways to go for sodium-cooled fast reactors; the US went there, did that (with CRBR and others), and then turned their focus to the metal-fuelled pool-design IFR (EBR-II), which ran flawlessly for 30 years. In my honest opinion, the sooner the Japanese close down Monju, dump the loop design and move from oxide to metal fuels, the better. All they need to do is support a PRISM demo. Monju gives them plenty of additional reasons to do this.

  69. If you are an Areva Renewable partner you can purchase the 5 years of plant performance data from Kimberlina and 8 years of Liddell, their MATHLAB model tool and DNI data (5 minute IIRC) for over 50 sites around the world.

    DESERTEC have DNI data I believe for some sites in Australia – I’m unsure as to the resolution.

    As part of the SolarDawn CLFR project I believe UQ will be publishing data as well.

    We have 5 minute DNI data for over 4 years NNE of Kalgoorlie.

  70. Pingback: Solar combined with wind power: a way to get rid of fossil fuels? « BraveNewClimate

  71. Pingback: Solar combined with wind power: a way to get rid of fossil fuels? « PassiiviIdentiteetti

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