Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Sun Provides

At the dorkbot meeting on Tuesday, after the excellent robot behavior basics presentation and the interactive electric circuit art demo (which my kids loved), Solar Richard was on hand to talk about lighting up the Narrows Bridge with LED’s and solar panels. I have yet to visit his solar home, which I plan to, and would love to take a look around.

His story of being able to allow extension chords from his neighbors to draw from his supply after the storm outages this year was inspiring, and his recounting that we have funds to light the Narrows Bridge is great news. I believe I remember correctly that his fingers are crossed for July 4th of next year for the project to be up and illuminating.

Solar is not just photovoltaic cells either. While he was demonstrating the lights, which he powered from “Yesterday’s Sunshine” (the hand drawn label on the battery), the New York Times was running a story on Nevada Solar One, which is operating out of Boulder City, Nevada.

This parabolic trough, 64 megawatt (MW) power plant, is the first large solar thermal power plant to be built in 15 years and it will generate approximately 129 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar electricity annually according to a Pressbox release. That amount is enough to power 15,000 American households or possibly even one casino. OK, I made up that last part about the casino. We tourists to sin city will continue to foot the bill for those lights.

Nevada Solar One is big, forty seven miles of mirrors, but the power from the solar thermal energy costs 12 to 14 cents to produce as opposed to 18 to 40 cents on the solar cell side of things.

We don’t have the long desert stretches to handle the thermal approach, but even in the cloudy days, the solar cells are storing up energy. Enough that when the hardly noticeable, small array is put in place for the bridge lights, we may be seeing enough power to not only provide Tacoma with a visual delight, but also deliver some right back into the grid.

Looking forward to the next dorkbot meeting in September.


FYI, the company that built the Nevada plant is Acciona Energy. Practice your Spanish and check out the other projects they have going around the world. If you’d rather brush up your German, check out the site which provided information for me on the Solar One project.

You can find more information in the “SCHOTT Memorandum on Solar Thermal Power Plant Technology”, available for download on

1 comment:

kevinfreitas said...

For those who weren't there, we have a video up over at showing the proposed LEDs in action.

Hopefully you have seen the press release from the EDB about Infoblox renewing its lease in Tacoma for another six years. Growing from sixty...