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back to article Spanish firm brings 20MW solar ‘ranch’ online in Arizona

A new 20MW solar ‘ranch’ has officially opened in the deserts of Arizona as part of a major push by Spanish firm Iberdrola Renewables into the US energy market. The Copper Crossing Solar Ranch in Florence, Arizona, is one of the bigger renewable energy installations in the US and covers 144 acres of scrubby desert. With less …

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Trollface

Hmm...

Can a technology that has a power source that consumes about 620 million tonnes of hydrogen per second, really be described as green?

Mind you it would explain my last electricity bill.

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HMB

No one ever called the sun green. When studied it's usually called "oh my god my eyes, my eyes!! I can't see anything any more ohhh... my eyes!!!"

Shall we just go with white?

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Too Much Shade

Won't all that shade in the desert kill delicate plant and animal life?

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Anonymous Coward

Optional

Personally I'd guess there's plenty of desert left and so for the moment I'm more interested in seeing if all that shade can't turn that patch into something more amendable to producing things we can eat or at least turn into fuel. Then again the Sahara might be an even better place to try that sort of thing since it's rather bigger and growing.

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No, because it's a desert.

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Boffin

Only 3400 homes?

I'd like to see the business model.

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Pirate

No, you really wouldn't...

Because then they would have to kill you.

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Anonymous Coward

"enough power for around 3,400 homes a year."

Is that fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between energy and power in the press release, or is it locally introduced?

Power: typical proper unit on a domestic scale is kW, typical loose unit is "enough to run nnn homes".

Energy: typical proper unit on a domestic scale is kWh, typical loose unit is "enough to run nnn homes for a year".

The young people of today...

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"power for around 3,400 homes a year"

That really should be "power for around 3,400 homes" PERIOD. After all, we're talking about power here, not energy. It's bad enough that PR folks and mainstream journalists fail to grasp basic concepts of physics; a technology-related publication really ought to do better.

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Happy

Maybe

they will supply a different set of 3400 homes next year? Y'know, to make it fair and all?

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Meh

Subsidy

The article didn't mention subsidy, and I've yet encountered a green project without one. So how much government subsidy did Iberdrola Renewables got from Department of Energy and the rest of the government entities?

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Flame

I'm guessing,

it's less than the annual subsidy to any one of the major (massively profitable) oil producing companies.

(Flames for burning oil installation.)

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Silver badge

Forgone revenue is not the same thing as money taken from tax payers,

particularly when it matches with all other corporations which receive similar tax breaks (including socialist green companies).

And oil companies are barely on par with your local grocery store in terms of actual profitability. But then I guess flames like you don't actually care about facts, only their own self-righteous indignation.

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Boffin

For those complaining about Power vs Energy

The "20-megawatt (MW) facility is expected to produce approximately 54 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually"

Can't find how much the entire project cost, but you could dig up the how many cents per kWh at retail and get some rough idea on return on investment.

Back of the envelop estimate, would look at ~4000 houses spending ~$1500 per year on (peak?) 'leccy during the day, then retail income would be ~$6m per year. Land is cheap, running costs (other than glass cleaning) is cheap so the big cost other than transmission infrastructure (regardless of power source) would be 66K x $n for the panels. Guessing at ~$500 per panel, that is a something like $30m +.

Will take a while for ROI, but if they had to pay for the carbon emitted by a coal powered equivalent, then seems not unreasonable.

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Interesting numbers, let me add some more:

The average American uses 250 kWh/day (source: Without the hot air) which means that 54 million kWh is enough for 591 Americans. This 250kWh includes all transport, heating/cooling, embodied energy in stuff, food, electricity...

The average European uses half that Energy, so we could supply twice as many from that facility.

I wonder how do they store that energy for night time?

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Anonymous Coward

Don't need to store it

They really don't need to store it. Americans think that deserts are a great place to live so there's plenty of A/C use around to use everything the panels can produce.

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Boffin

I wonder how do they store that energy for night time?

Probably don't have to. I would guess with the local climate, air-con would be the biggest power consumer for the industrial/business users they are targeting.

So drive the air-con during the day off solar, then continue to use coal/gas generation (or whatever they had before) for base load overnight.

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Air conditioning

A huge part of the electrical demand in US desert areas is air conditioning during the daytime. This demand drops considerably during the night. The solar generation matches this load profile quite well. The conventional generation is still needed but the daytime peak requirement will not be as high as before.

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Storage

Well, they don't. That is the MASSIVE problem with a lot of renewables - they aren't dependable.

However, if we can replace a gas power plant with a solar one we are saving emissions. Only works in places with dependable good weather though. Then the nuclear/coal plants that can't be switched on and off at will carry the load at night.

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Yag
Joke

obviously...

They will force the convicts of the 12 prisons to run on threadmills to supply power for the nighttime...

May be even more efficient than the solar panels

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Def
Bronze badge
Joke

Re: I wonder how do they store that energy for night time?

Torch batteries.

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Anonymous Coward

good point on A/C

Arizona has subsidised aircon for poorer families in the past.

http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/0729heat-airconditioning29.html

for anyone who claims that UK FIT tariffs are a green tax, paying for aircon for people in the US (or heating for people in the UK) are the opposite. It's probably cheaper to help the people move to more temperate zones.

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Boffin

Storage?

This os one of the arguments in favour of solar-thermal using molten salts (which can retain their heat for several hours after sunset). According to wikipedia, solar thermal collectors can have an efficiency of up to 41%, although I would imagine that this drops once you introduce the additional step of thermal storage. I don't know how the set-up costs vary between an array of panels and an array of mirrors and a collecting tower though.

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Stop

18.5% efficient eh?

Lofty figures. Wonder if that's at optimum temperature. The hotter a solar cell, the lower the efficiency, which is why a solar cell in a British summer could give just as much power out as one sat in the desert sun.

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10 watts/square meter

I look up acres and annual kilowatt hours on these plants. This new site gets 10 watts/m**2, which is not bad for photovoltaic panels. BUt solar-thermal plants are getting 30.

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Anonymous Coward

I always thought the sun was green.

http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Archive/assets/images/2002/Nov-18-2002/solar_spectrum.jpg

it's just that our eyes amplify in the yellow and red areas.

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Bronze badge

I think his little solar farm is out classed by this....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-vvbMdJ4EA

...we need more of these.

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Anonymous Coward

Nothing personal Mr Orwell, but for those of us corporate wageslaves behind netnanny/websense etc, would folk *please* add some detail other than just a youtube url?

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Bronze badge

Apologies AC10:47...

It was a link to a video of the redoubtable James May visiting and explaining the Solar Tower array in Spain, quite a remarkable piece of energy tech. I strongly reccomend that you watch the video when you get back home.

In the meantime, here's a paper (pdf) on the subject.

http://www.iea.org/impagr/cip/pdf/issue36solarp.pdf

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Am I missing something?

Covers 144 acres and generates enough power for 3400 homes, is that good? Seems like an awful lot of land for only 3400 homes, you'd probably fit 3400 homes well within 144 acres and put the panels on the roofs.

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Mushroom

You could stick a decent sized coal/gas/nuclear plant in that area of land and get a hell of a lot more than 20MW. Sod carbon emissions, I want power and lots of it 24hrs a day. The more compact the plant the better.

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its about 1/25 acre per home (which I'm sure you worked out yourself - not trying to be patronising) but my point is - that sounds pretty good to me. Thats about 160m2 per house, or a square of panels just under 13 m to a side.

So yes, you could get a house and garden comfortably enough on that plot (well, a UK house and modest garden anyway), but I read this as the panels being in places people didn't want to live, so it sounds like good use of land.

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Childcatcher

"homes per year"?

Outrage! Outrage!

Are you just journos or or real technologist?

Just loose the Godzilla units.

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Coat

Muphry's Law strikes!

'loose'

Pfft.

Unless, of course, you were referring to releasing some sort of crack commando squads of giant mutant lizards? Cry havoc and loose the Godzillas of war?

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Childcatcher

Don't tell me

If the customers "including the state’s execution unit" do they use the electric chair? Are we talking about "if the sun don't shine you get a pardon" or execution by God?

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Ru
Childcatcher

Uh, a "Youth Rodeo"?

I daren't look that one up on a work PC, that's for sure.

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Bronze badge

they don't actually "ride" teenagers - just lassoo 'em.

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Bronze badge

Don't worry

they don't actually "ride" teenagers - just lasso 'em.

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Silver badge

Why ...

If that's a photo not an artist's impression ... why is there so much space between the rows of panels? I appreciate you need access for maintenanance and to clean dust off the panels occasionally, but the space they've left seems totally excessive.

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Silver badge

That's so you can get a clear camera shot of the Doctor being chased by a Dalek

the next time the Beeb comes over here to shoot an episode.

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