Saturday, February 11, 2006

Schott Glass of Germany To Build Hyper-heat Solar Electrical Power Plants

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Schott Glass Werk is launching a new super-heating solar energy system that produces electricity. This is one of many possible projects that will be started in the next ten years if there is any money for it which is why I am so concerned about America running up huge debts to buy junk.

From Reuters:
People will soon cool their homes with power from the searing desert sun, according to companies investing in a little-used solar technology.

Deserts are becoming hot spots for solar thermal power in which futuristic troughs concentrate the sun's rays and create steam to run power-producing turbines at power plants. It is a different technology than rooftop solar panels.

Tiny experimental plants built in the 1980s in California ran into problems when energy prices dropped.

But as oil, natural gas and electricity costs soar, companies are racing to build commercial solar thermal plants that are the size of conventional power plants.

"Now the industry starts again," said Burghard von Westerholt, head of thermal solar for private German specialty glass company SCHOTT.
The system is pretty simple, actually. Using tubing inside parabolic mirrors, the water heats to 400 degrees C and then is used as steam to run turbines. Schott's homepage for this technology:
To generate these high temperatures the solar radiation is focused linearly on the SCHOTT PTR70 Receiver by means of parabolic mirrors. Thermal oil flows through the receiver and is heated to about 400°C. A 50MW power plant requires a collector field of 60km receiver length and about 360,000 m² of mirror area. As a result of the maturing of the technology and the desire for safe energy supplies, the planning and construction of solar thermal power plants is increasing throughout the world. As of 2005, three new power plants will be constructed in Spain and the USA alone.
The history of parabolic solar heating systems is very entwined with my family since astronomers at Mt. Wilson observatory first played with it way back when my mom was a child there and my grandparents spent many days up at the observatory, working.

My grandfather first worked there when transportation was via mules.

Dr. Abbot rigged up a parabolic solar hot water heater up on the mountain. As is typical of all astronomers, he loved to tinker with things and this was one of his pet projects. It was wound up every hour at the base which meant climbing up and down the steep stairs, everything on observatory mountains are steep, I spent my childhood hiking up and down zillions of stairs as well as steep mountainsides in the thin atmosphere, sucking for air. Anyway, he would trot up and down, merrily, winding up the counterweight timer. This was the sort of thing he could rig up since this is the same way older telescopes could be run so they could track with the stars they were focused on.

This set up is probably one of the first modern water heating devices of this nature, namely, that tracks the sun and uses a parabolic mirror. After Abbot retired, no one used it and the only curious people to view it in later years was my own father who asked why it wasn't used and the staff confessed, no one wanted to hike up and down the stairs to wind up the gears. Soon afterwards, the director of the observatory sold it for scrap, to my father's regret.

It is no surprise to me that Schott has worked at a similar system since the Schott business in Germany and my dad go way back, to WWII, when my father rescued the Director himself as he fled the fighting on a bicycle with his wife in tow.

My father stopped him and asked him his name and when he heard it, he said (auf deutsch)"Hop in, you are just the person I am looking for," and talked mirrors and lenses the rest of the way, ignoring the noise of battle just beyond the hills.

So when my father became enthusiastic about setting up a large parabolic mirror solar array, it was natural for Schott to find it interesting, too.

I am very happy conditons are such, a large system is now being set up! About time! It would be a horrible disaster for our great-grandchildren if we suck out all the oil and gas and waste it! So the time is now, not next century, to change. But we need more than just a series of such systems, we need an integrated hyper-structure to cope with comfortable living in the future!

This is why combining geo-thermal heating/cooling systems with Passive solar heating/cooling homes.

Whatever systems we end up using, all of them cost more than oil at $12 a barrel. The fact of life is this: the costs of this cheap oil were hidden from view, often deliberately. The downside has been terrible. Just like, in hot summer times, the ozone levels shoot up and we suffocate not to mention global warming from rising CO2 and asthma from particulate matter.
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