World’s First 24/7 Solar Power Plant Powers 75,000 Homes
The 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant in Nevada is the first utility-scale concentrated solar plant in the world. Photo credit: SolarReserve
Crescent Dunes is the first utility-scale facility in the world to use molten salt for power energy storage capabilities, a technology also known as concentrated solar.
With a concentrated solar plant such as Crescent Dunes—including other plants like it around the world—more than 10,000 movable mirrors, or heliostats, reflect solar energy to a central, 640-foot tower that heats up salt to 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit.
This salt is used for two purposes, as SolarReserve points out on its website. First, it retains very high levels of heat, making it like a thermal battery that can be used night and day, whether or not the sun is out. Second, when electricity is needed on the grid, the molten salt gets dispatched through a heat exchanger to create super-heated steam to power a traditional steam turbine.
This process is similar to a conventional fossil fuel or nuclear power plant except with zero carbon emissions or hazardous waste and without any fuel costs, the California-based solar company says.
"The whole project cost slightly under $1 billion and SolarReserve holds a 25-year contract to supply power to NV Energy for $135 per megawatt hour," OilPrice.com observed. "The tower produces 110 megawatts of energy for 12 hours a day according to the company, which works out to roughly 1 million megawatts per year. This in turn implies a gross [return on assets] of ~13.5 percent—not bad as investments go."
The method is different compared to photovoltaic technology, which harnesses the sun's rays on panels that convert sunlight into electricity. While photovoltaic arrays have many benefits and the technology has been well-tested and proven, its biggest problem is when the sun is not out.
As EcoWatch mentioned previously, a solar system’s peak generation hours do not coincide with the utility’s peak load hours after 5 p.m., meaning power companies turn to high-carbon peaking turbines in the evenings, thus decreasing the environmental benefits of solar panels.
The facility will generate solar power for 75,000 homes in Nevada during peak demand periods, day and night. Photo credit: SolarReserve
"The plant is noteworthy for what it accomplishes—it is the first truly 24-7 solar plant in the world. For many applications that is a very big deal," OilPrice.com adds about the Crescent Dunes project. "Having to build a second power plant to back up a solar array is not an ideal solution to say the least. Thermal solar resolves that issue all while letting facilities like SolarReserve’s store 1,100 megawatt-hours of energy."
Residential or grid-scale battery systems, such as the ones manufactured by Tesla, are an another emerging solution to solar storage issues but the technology is relatively new.
Solar thermal plants are setting up in sun-spoiled deserts around the world. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the California Mojave Desert is the largest concentrated solar plant in the U.S., spanning 3,500 acres and has 377 megawatts of net generating capacity. The facility, however, is experiencing widely reported "engineering hiccups," including a fire that broke out in May.
Dubai's massive Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is another notable concentrated solar plant that will hold the distinction of being the world's largest once it's operational in April 2017. The facility aims to produce 1,000 megawatts by 2020 and 5,000 megawatts by 2030. The solar park also broke the record of having the world's cheapest solar on May 1 when five international companies bid as little as 2.99 cents per kilowatt-hour to develop the plant's latest phase of work.
Besides Crescent Dunes, SolarReserve is developing two other concentrated solar plants. The venture is building the Redstone Solar Thermal Power Project in the town of Postmasburg in South Africa, which will be the first concentrated solar plant in Africa. The other is the Copiapó Solar Energy Project in Chile which will combine both concentrated solar and photovoltaics, making it the first facility of its kind in the South American country.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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