A Solar Field in Andalusia

The problem with generating electricity from all renewables is that there is no safe and environmentally friendly way to store electricity. With photovoltaic panels the electricity can onbly be generated in daytime and mostly electricity is need at night in larger quantities than in day time. That means that all PV power has to be backed by fossil fuel electrical generation (you cannot use nuclear because it takes too long to start up and switch off a nuclear plant) and there are inevitably very large emissions created when the fossil fuel plant and stops.

It seems that there might be a way of alleviating the problem of storing electricity, not by storing electricity itself but by converting surplus power generated into heat and storing the heat at very high temperatures. The stored heat can them be used to power steam turbines to generate electricity at times when the PV plant generates none.

Near Seville in Southern Spain in the province of Andalusia a practical plant has been built by Gemasolar. A field of PV panels has been established around a central tower. In the day time the PV generates electricity which is inverted and fed into the power lines. Surplus electricity is converted to heat and stored in storage tanks containing molten salts where the heat can be stored at temperatures that might reach 500 degrees Celsius. When the PV arrays are not generating electricity the heat is used to create steam and drive turbines. The molten salt can provide enough steam to provide 15 hours of electricity without back up or feeding in further power. The system might well double the electrical power that can be usefully obtained from the PV solar array.

I do not yet know the efficiency of the system but if the system does perform efficiently we could see acres of places like the Sahara desert given over to solar fields and molten salt tanks producing significantly reliable electricity for Europe. There will be tremendous loss in transmission over such long distances and, of course, the destruction of vast areas of desert landscape and life. It will also be uncomfortable to locate European power plants so far from home in regions which are not renowned for stability.

The probably more practical and cost efficient option would be for smaller scale plants to power lower communities in Southern Europe. Combined with traditional solar water heating and space heating systems like those that my company Genersys supply, using existing solar thermal technology could make many Southern European communities energy independent, clean and energy self sufficient.  Jim Morrison might have rewritten his song

“Andalusia with solar arrays you bring me power again and again”

3 Responses

  1. It’s all about the climate scare machine.

    On the skeptical side, Exxon chipped in all of $23 million over ten years, but it’s chump-change. The fossil fuel industry doesn’t like carbon legislation, but it’s not life or death, unlike the situation for wind and solar, which would be virtually wiped out without the subsidies provided by the scare.
    The US government has poured in $79 billion and then some. But the pro-scare funding is pervasive: for example — the Australian government spent $14 million on a single Ad campaign, and another $90 million every year on a Department of Climate Change. The UK government paid for lobbyists to  lobby it, and the BBC “partners” with the lobby groups. The EU doesn’t just subsidize renewables, it also pays them to push for more subsidies. Even the dastardly Exxon paid more than 20 times as much for a single  renewables research project than it did to skeptics.

    Last year in carbon markets $142 billion dollars turned over, and $243 billion was invested in renewables. If the carbon market idea went global it was projected to reach $2 trillion a year. Every banker and his dog has a bone in this game. Why wouldn’t they? Curiously, some just can’t see the vested nterest of global financial houses and government bureaucrats in these policies. Andy Revkin suggests that the opposition to the alarmist juggernaut is “well coordinated” and“not contentious”. But how well coordinated are the IPCC? Which think-tank has two week ong  junkets for tens of thousands of people ncluding media reps from all over the world? Not skeptics.

    The money side of the equation is so lop-sided, and eggregiously dominated by pro-scare funding at every level, that skeptics can thank Dunlap-McCright for bringing it up. your minor millions and vague allusions to “influence” and up the ante a magnitude, so to speak. Yes, let’s talk about the vested interests?

    More at link below,

    http://joannenova.com.au/2011/10/map-the-climate-change-scare-machine-the-perpetual-self-feeding-cycle-of-alarm

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