Google, Chevron Build Mirrors in Desert to Beat Coal With Solar

Along a dusty two-lane highway in California's Mojave Desert, 550,000 mirrors point skyward to make steam for electricity. Google Inc, Chevron Corp and Goldman Sachs Group Inc are betting this energy will become cheaper than coal, Bloomberg reported.

The 1,000-acre plant uses concentrated sunlight to generate power for as many as 112,500 homes in Southern California. Rising natural gas prices and emissions limits may make solar thermal the fastest-growing energy source in the next decade, say backers including Vinod Khosla, the founder of computer maker Sun Microsystems Inc.

Costs for the technology will fall below coal as soon as 2020, the US government estimates. JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co invested last year in the biggest solar plant built in a generation; Chevron and Google are funding research; and Goldman Sachs is seeking land to lease as demand outpaces wind turbines and geothermal.

``Solar thermal can provide a substantial amount of our power, more than 50 percent,'' says Khosla, who along with the Menlo Park, California, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers led a $40 million investment in solar power producer Ausra Inc. ``This is an industrial-strength solution.''

Developers need to overcome limited power lines and the need for energy storage systems, while lobbying for the extension of tax credits.

``They have to prove their technology,'' says Reese Tisdale, senior analyst at consulting firm Emerging Energy Research, which estimates solar thermal will lure more than $85 billion in investments by 2020. ``There need to be some significant technology jumps.''

The Ardour Solar Energy Index, covering all forms of solar power, climbed 55 percent in the 12 months through yesterday, outperforming an 8.5 percent decline in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.

Unlike photovoltaic solar panels that convert sunlight to electricity, solar thermal focuses sunrays with mirrors to heat oil in glass pipes to about 700 degrees Fahrenheit (370 degrees Celsius). The oil turns water to steam, which spins an electric turbine.

Nine solar thermal plants built in the California desert from 1985 to 1991 still operate, with Juno Beach, Florida-based FPL Group Inc running seven. They have combined capacity of 354 megawatts, enough to power 230,000 Southern California homes.

Development slowed when Congress eliminated tax credits for alternative energy in the early 1990s. Laws put in place in 2005 give solar investors a 30 percent tax credit.

At FPL's solar thermal site in the Mojave, 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, sunshine beats down 340 days a year. The parabolic reflectors have an efficiency of more than 90 percent, compared with 80 percent for a typical bathroom mirror. FPL uses 4,000-gallon (15,000-liter) trucks to spray water weekly to clean the surfaces, seven feet (two meters) off the ground.

``There's always been a solar resource here,'' says Harvey Stephens, a production manager and one of 100 workers at the plant. ``It's just that it hasn't been cost-effective enough.''

At noon on a typical workday, technicians in a two-story control room monitor a dozen screens showing the heat generated by each array of mirrors. As temperatures creep past 700 degrees, icons blink to red from green, indicating the center is ready to feed electricity to the California grid.

Temperatures and power production drop as clouds blow across the sky. Solar thermal companies are trying to develop backup heat storage using pressurized boiling water or molten salt that can be warmed to more than 1,000 degrees.

Solar power ``fits with our peak demand very well as long as the sun is cooperating,'' says Michael Yackira, chief executive of Sierra Pacific Resources, the company that owns utilities serving Las Vegas and other Nevada cities. ``When it's cloudy, when it's raining, when it's dark, it doesn't produce power.''

A solar thermal unit that begins operation in 2010 will produce power at 14.2 cents a kilowatt hour, almost triple the 4.8 cents for a plant using pulverized coal, the Energy Information Administration estimates.

Costs for solar thermal may fall as low as 3.5 cents a kilowatt hour by 2020, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Energy Department. Meanwhile, coal expenses may rise. Congress is considering limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. The purchase of pollution permits may be required under a measure the Senate will begin debating next month.

Ausra's plants will produce electricity at 10 cents a kilowatt-hour starting in 2010, and the price will fall to 8 cents a few years later as it adopts systems with fewer parts that will be less costly when widely deployed, the company says.

``We are going to beat coal,'' says Bob Fishman, Ausra's chief executive officer. His company has a contract with PG& E Corp.'s Pacific Gas & Electric for a site in central California.

Chevron, Goldman Sachs, FPL, PG& E and other companies have filed more than 50 applications with the Bureau of Land Management to lease government-owned desert property for solar power systems. Chevron, which has invested in the solar thermal builder BrightSource Energy Inc in Oakland, California, and Goldman, the biggest US securities firm, declined to comment.

Google's philanthropic division put $10 million into eSolar, a start-up in Pasadena, California. Dan Reicher, a former Energy Department official who manages the unit's climate and energy initiatives, said there will be more such investments.

Subscribe to Trend in Google News! Subscribe
Truck collides with passenger bus in Baku (PHOTO)
Truck collides with passenger bus in Baku (PHOTO)
Nizami Ganjavi International Center hosts side event as part of UN General Assembly's 76th session  (VIDEO)
Nizami Ganjavi International Center hosts side event as part of UN General Assembly's 76th session (VIDEO)
Indian gov't says 75 pct of stolen heritage returned during last seven years
Indian gov't says 75 pct of stolen heritage returned during last seven years
Loading Bars
Latest
India rejects net zero carbon emissions target, says pathway more important
Australia eases COVID-19 travel advisory ahead of border reopening
Barcelona sack coach Koeman after loss to Rayo Vallecano
US, Turkey hold new talks to 'resolve F-35 dispute'
EU top court fines Poland 1 mln euros per day amid legal row
Turkey reports 26,896 daily COVID-19 cases
US tells Iran ‘window will not remain open forever’ to revive nuclear deal
Portugal's parliament rejects budget, snap election looms in 2022
Better future awaits Karabakh Armenians as citizens of Azerbaijan after opening of Fuzuli Int'l Airport - Russian expert
Chronicles of Victory: President Ilham Aliyev interviewed by Russian Interfax agency on October 28, 2020 (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Chronicles of Victory: October 28, 2020
Blinken says he ordered reviews of State Dept's evacuation efforts out of Afghanistan
Moderna COVID shot could be used in U.S. children, teens within weeks
London launches Europe's biggest scheme to drive polluting vehicles off roads
14th batch of Sputnik V vaccines delivered to Iran Embassy in Moscow
Tariffs for renewable energy drop in Kazakhstan
GD leaders address supporters, promise Georgia's development
Opening of Fuzuli Int'l Airport landmark event for Azerbaijan and dev't of region- Russian expert
Japanese Noritsuisu Co. Ltd preparing to launch new project in Uzbekistan
Kazakhstan’s mining company opens tender on spare parts for truck
Uzbekistan to build its first digital control system substation
Turkey unveils its economy sectors attracting foreign investors
Azerbaijan reveals TOP-10 banks in terms of income for 3Q2021
Azerbaijan’s TOP-10 banks in expenditures terms for 3Q2021 revealed
TBC Bank to financially support Georgian farmers
Kazakhstan draws up national project for energy complex dev’t by 2025
Kazakhstan discloses deterioration degree of local power grids
Cairo-Moscow flight returns to airport due to suspicious message in cabin
Norwegian Air to lease 13 Boeing planes
McDonald's sales soar on higher prices, newer menu items
Iran supports development of constructive relations with Azerbaijan - FM
Iran’s PMO declares volume of essential products available in ports
TOP-10 Azerbaijani banks in terms of net profit for 3Q2021
Azerbaijan inks new deals with several states on investment in its Alat FEZ - ministry
Kazakhstan increases mobile internet speed in September
IMIDRO reveals data on iron ore concentrate production in Iran
Renaissance Capital forecasts inflation in Georgia to slow down
Azerbaijan talks possible vaccination of adolescents prone to catching COVID-19
Kazakhstan considering introducing carbon tax
India, Kyrgyzstan hold first strategic dialogue, discuss Afghanistan
Uzbekistan Railways modernizing railway carriages to increase passenger traffic
Japanese TEPCO plans to continue investment in Georgia's energy sector
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price rebounds
Iran`s TEDPIX on the rise after week of decline
Teva Pharm Q3 profit misses estimates, to sell $4 bln in bonds
OPEC ready to strengthen co-op with Turkmenistan
Kazakh Energy Ministry working on building nuclear power plant
Uzbek Ministry of Finance to cancel fees for purchase of used cars in 2022
Indian Railways changes policy, PSUs to now compete in open market for tenders
Turkey's leather exports to Iran up in value for 9M2021
Azerbaijan confirms 2,300 more COVID-19 cases, 1,248 recoveries
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens
Georgia and Spain eye to launch direct flights between capitals
Azerbaijan, WB ink new loan agreement
Iron ore concentrate production by giant Iranian companies up
Turkmenistan starts experimental growth of papaya in Mary region
IMF revising India's growth forecast is 'gross under estimation': N K Singh
Turkish KOSGEB talks interest in implementing projects in Azerbaijan's Karabakh
Decarbonization of economy to transform Kazakhstan’s fuel and energy complex – minister
Kazakhstan's trade indicators with EAEU member states for 8M2021 unveiled
Kazakhstan records decrease in renewable energy tariffs
Bank Keshavarzi Iran provides loans for construction of greenhouses
State Grain Fund of Azerbaijan transferred to jurisdiction of State Reserves Agency
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev congratulates President of Czech Republic
Iran resumes rice imports
Israel government foreign currency bonds to trade on Tel Aviv bourse
Putin, Finnish president to discuss bilateral cooperation, global issues — Kremlin
Uber partners with Hertz to offer 50,000 Tesla rentals to U.S. ride-hail drivers
Turkmenistan and Iran to expand trade ties
Equinor slightly reduces equity production of liquids and gas
Nar upgrades another sale and service center (PHOTO)
Achieving carbon neutrality in Kazakhstan requires big investments - minister
Amount of loans issued by Bank Keshavarzi Iran increasing
Azerbaijan’s liberated lands to soon become example of modern production for entire region – Erdogan
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for October 27
Equinor expects 2% increase in 2021 liquids and gas production
Iran, Uzbekistan seek to boost ties both regionally and internationally
Iran`s Raisi reaffirms will to boost ties with Turkmenistan
AIIB helps strengthen healthcare infrastructure in India
Turkmenistan, Iran discuss issues on boosting transport communication
Turkmenistan, Iran interested in intensifying contacts in regional, int’l structures
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan consider resumption of passenger rail transport
Amount of addressed state social benefits proposed to raise in Azerbaijan
Iran determined to pay off gas debt to Turkmenistan – Iranian minister
2nd ICD – CIBAFI Webinar Discussed the Emergence of Cryptocurrencies and its Potential for the Growth of Islamic Finance Industry
Georgia, Poland to co-op in railway sector under EU-funded project
Kazakh gold extracting venture opens tender to buy spares
Equinor’s non-current assets drop in Azerbaijan
Saudi Arabia licenses 44 companies to open regional headquarters in Riyadh
Central Bank of Iran unveils details of oil exports
Reps of Turkish National Defense University visit Azerbaijani military educational institutions (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan may increase need criterion next year
India among top 10 in the world for cliate technology investments: report
Turkmenistan launches production of filament lamps
Azerbaijan to increase budget financing of healthсare sector in 2022
Turkmenbashi complex of oil refineries open tender for construction of hydrogen production unit
Equinor reduces liquids output from Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli
Activity of most filling stations in Iran resumed
Turkmenistan increases imports of Turkish leather goods
Turkey discloses cargo traffic via local ports from US in 9M2021
All news