For decades, the solar energy industry has struggled to become cost-competitive with other sources of power generation. Recent technology innovations and creative ways of installing solar generation are beginning to enable solar power to increase its share of the electricity market.
(Web supplement to "Assessing the Earthquake Risk of Enhanced Geothermal Systems.") The future of geothermal energy will be driven by six primary technologies, but each will pose its own challenges.
Sempra Generation has conjured up a market plan for producing merchant photovoltaic (PV) power that is inspired. Working with First Solar, Sempra has developed a finely tuned and standardized 1-MW PV power block that can be replicated as needed. Sempra built the modular PV plant on land adjacent to an existing gas-fired plant to shorten the development period, piggyback the power directly to the grid, and enable existing staff to manage the combined plants’ operation.
By 2008, the 19-year-old wood-fired Rio Bravo Rocklin Power Station’s operating performance had been significantly degraded by boiler erosion and corrosion caused by (among many other problems) poor fuel. After much consideration, the plant owners elected to invest in a comprehensive upgrade to restore the plant to its as-built performance. Today, the plant operates very reliably. A newly implemented predictive maintenance program should continue to drive down operating costs and further reduce the number of forced outages.
After decades of struggling with serious air contamination issues and large financial losses, this Pennsylvania waste-to-energy facility, which was built in 1972, was in need of an extreme makeover. In the wake of an unsuccessful $84 million retrofit attempt in 2005, the faltering facility’s last hope lay with a Covanta project team that took over its operation in 2007. After almost two years of hard work, the facility is now producing up to 17 MW while achieving its environmental compliance goals and earning substantial revenues.
In June, the 2.3-MW Hywind facility, the world’s first large-scale floating wind turbine, was towed to a North Sea location with a water depth of about 220 meters (722 feet) and began operation. Over the next two years this turbine will be subjected to strong wind and waves in a harsh ocean environment in an effort to thoroughly test the innovative technology.
The tractors and combines on Indiana’s farms are getting some competition from a new harvesting technology — powerful turbines that harvest wind. This March the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm opened its first phase, which consists of 222 wind turbines with a total capacity of 400 MW. Phase II is currently under construction and will use 133 wind turbines with a total capacity of 200 MW. A future, third phase will add another 150 MW and give the completed facility a total capacity of 750 MW, which will make it one of the largest wind farms in the world.
Denmark in September inaugurated a 209-MW offshore wind park — the world’s largest to date — off the west coast of Jutland, in the North Sea.
A solar thermal demonstration power plant in Jülich, Germany, that was developed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), was formally handed over to its future operator, the Jülich Department of Works this August.
Since Robert Stirling invented the Stirling engine in 1816, it has been used in an array of specialized applications. That trend continues today. Its compatibility with clean energy sources is becoming apparent: It is an external combustion engine that can utilize almost any heat source, it encloses a fixed amount of a gaseous working fluid, and it doesn’t require any water — unlike a steam engine.