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October 11 News: Solar-Thermal Power “Will Compete on Price” with Coal and Gas by 2020, Torresol Says

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A round-up of the top climate and energy news. Please post additional links below.

Eurofighter Helps Solar Mirrors Compete With Gas, Torresol Says

Solar-thermal power plants using technology from the Eurofighter jet will compete on price with natural gas- or coal-fired generation within a decade, according to a Spanish company that’s spending $1.3 billion on the gear.Torresol Energy Investments SA opened a prototype plant this month near Seville in southern Spain that uses an alloy developed for the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-18 Super Hornet engines. The metal is used to hold molten salts heated to 565 degrees centigrade (1,050 degrees Fahrenheit), hotter than an atomic plant’s fluid. The main heat receiver is made by a venture of Spanish manufacturer Sener SA and Rolls-Royce Plc.

Torresol, majority-owned by Sener, plans to use the 19.9- megawatt “tower“-style generator as a model for learning how to slash future costs by standardizing components, refining plant operations and building generators side-by-side, Chairman Enrique Sendagorta said.

“With our next tower plant, we’ll be able to reduce the cost of power rather significantly,” Sendagorta said Oct. 7 in an interview in Madrid.

The test plant, known as Gemasolar, is profitable with Spain’s 29 euro cent (40 U.S. cent) a kilowatt- hour power rate, he said, declining to provide more details.

Spain has the most electricity production in the world employing solar thermal, a technology that’s increasingly being questioned in the U.S. for failing to match the cost reductions of photovoltaic panels, the main solar-power alternative.

Gemasolar is the first using sunlight to directly heat salts to power its conventional steam turbine. It employs 2,650 mirrors to bounce light at a receiver through which the salt flows. The device, similar to a giant, circular car radiator, sits atop a 140-meter (460-foot) tower and generates electricity….

Solar-thermal energy from tower plants costs about $233 a megawatt-hour to produce compared with about $172 for photovoltaic power and $63 for electricity from a natural gas- fired plant, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Nations Heading to Durban Climate Talks Remain Deeply Divided

U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres lauded a climate change meeting in Panama as “good progress” this weekend, even as environmental activists warned that the world’s only structure for curbing greenhouse gas emissions appears about to crumble.

The next time diplomats meet, it will be in Durban, South Africa, in December for the year’s final climate change summit. There, countries must finally decide what they have put off for several years: the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

“South Africa is the tipping point in terms of the future of the climate regime,” said Tasneem Essop, international climate policy advocate for the World Wildlife Fund in South Africa.

The 1997 treaty requires carbon emission cuts from industrialized countries, and the first phase of the agreement ends in 2012. Developing countries are adamant that a second commitment period is non-negotiable. Moreover, they insist any follow-up should closely hew to the original agreement: Wealthy countries must agree unilaterally to cut steeper emissions, and poorer ones would cut carbon voluntarily after financial assistance from the rich.

UN May Seek to Extend Kyoto Pact Without Canada, Japan, Russia

United Nations emission-reduction negotiators in Durban, South Africa, next month may seek to extend the Kyoto Protocol, excluding Canada, Japan and Russia, said Christiana Figueres, the UN’s top climate diplomat.

The European Union’s conditional willingness to extend “has been exceedingly helpful by building a bridge” between developed and developing nations, Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Climate Change, said yesterday in London.

Government envoys will gather in Durban in November to work out a way to extend or replace Kyoto, a treaty capping greenhouse gases whose targets lapse in 2012. Canada, Russia and China have all said they won’t accept new binding targets under Kyoto unless all major economies are bound.

An extended Kyoto would be different from the existing agreement, Figueres said at a seminar held by the Carbon Markets & Investors Association, a lobby group, and DLA Piper LLP, a Chicago-based law firm. “For a start we will have three countries less,” she said.

Any extension of Kyoto would still require agreement from about 200 nations at the talks, which would be a challenge to negotiate, Figueres said in an interview after her speech. “Nothing is easy to get. Nothing is impossible.”

Buried Antarctic lake could hold vital climate clues

An ancient lake hidden deep beneath West Antarctica’s Ice Sheet may reveal vital clues about climate change and future sea level rises, and uncover new forms of life, according to a group of UK engineers and scientist.

This month a British engineering team will travel to one of the most remote and hostile environments on Earth — Lake Ellsworth, which is buried under 3 kilometers of ice — in the first stage of a project costing over 7 million pounds.

The ice sheet covering the lake has trapped the Earth’s geothermal heat, preventing it from freezing.

The team will prepare for a challenging drilling operation starting next November to collect water and sediment samples from the lake’s floor, which will help scientists assess the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and future sea level rises.

“If we can find out if or when the ice sheet retreated or collapsed, it could tell us what kind of conditions would lead to a West Antarctic retreat in the future,” Mike Bentley, glacial geologist at Durham University, told reporters at a briefing on Monday.

Eurofighter Helps Solar Mirrors Compete With Gas, Torresol Says

Solar-thermal power plants using technology from the Eurofighter jet will compete on price with natural gas- or coal-fired generation within a decade, according to a Spanish company that’s spending $1.3 billion on the gear.

Torresol Energy Investments SA opened a prototype plant this month near Seville in southern Spain that uses an alloy developed for the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-18 Super Hornet engines. The metal is used to hold molten salts heated to 565 degrees centigrade (1,050 degrees Fahrenheit), hotter than an atomic plant’s fluid. The main heat receiver is made by a venture of Spanish manufacturer Sener SA and Rolls-Royce Plc.

Torresol, majority-owned by Sener, plans to use the 19.9- megawatt “tower“-style generator as a model for learning how to slash future costs by standardizing components, refining plant operations and building generators side-by-side, Chairman Enrique Sendagorta said.

“With our next tower plant, we’ll be able to reduce the cost of power rather significantly,” Sendagorta said Oct. 7 in an interview in Madrid. The test plant, known as Gemasolar, is profitable with Spain’s 29 euro cent (40 U.S. cent) a kilowatt- hour power rate, he said, declining to provide more details.

Climate Activist Visits Wilderness Before Prison Term

This summer, a federal judge in Salt Lake City sentenced a climate activist named Tim DeChristopher to two years in prison. His crime: disrupting an auction of government, oil and gas leases. DeChristopher was a 27-year-old college student in the closing days of the Bush administration when he bid for and won almost two-dozen parcels that he knew he couldn’t pay for. He called it an act of climate civil disobedience.

A couple of months ago, a jury found him guilty of two felonies. Now, before his sentencing, the activist set out on a last wilderness adventure – the descent of a river in Utah.

An old friend of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, reporter Alex Chadwick, was along.

China imposes nationwide tax on energy, resources

China is imposing a nationwide tax on production of oil and other resources to raise money for poor areas and possibly ease public anger at the wealth of state energy and mining companies.

The measure announced Monday is aimed at generating revenue for poor areas that produce much of China’s oil and other resources but receive little of the wealth. That imbalance has fueled ethnic tensions in Tibet and the northwestern Muslim region of Xinjiang.

The tax takes effect Nov. 1 and applies to crude oil, natural gas, rare earths, salt and metals, the Cabinet said on its website. Oil and gas will be taxed at 5 to 10 percent of sales value while other resources will be taxed at different levels.

An experimental version of the tax was imposed last year on oil production in Xinjiang and President Hu Jintao said at that time that revenues “should be focused on improving local people’s lives.”

The announcement gave no indication how much money Beijing expected the new tax to raise but the official Xinhua News Agency said last year the oil tax in Xinjiang could bring in 4 to 5 billion yuan ($615 million to $770 million) a year.

That could help local governments pay for costly obligations imposed by Beijing to provide additional education, health and other services.

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49 Responses to October 11 News: Solar-Thermal Power “Will Compete on Price” with Coal and Gas by 2020, Torresol Says

  1. Joy Hughes says:

    Of course, solar photovoltai is competitive right now – where I live, we are at grid parity. CSP plants are being converted to PV, and California is making a big push towards mid-scale arrays (solar gardens or small solar farms) connected to the distribution grid, which do not need new transmission.

    Since we can re-use old mines, dumps, parking lots, and warehouse roofs we don’t need to take up thousands of acres of desert at a time. We don’t need to threaten the Mojave, the lower 48′s last great wilderness, and we don’t need to threaten the desert tortoise.

    Sodium-sulfur batteries operate at a high temperature, but still much lower than CSP thermal storage. This is the storage technology With CSP plants needing to use such high temperatures, we will likely see cost overruns as well as explosions and fires. In the meantime, bankable PV panels turn sunlight directly to electricity.

    • greg says:

      Well put. Storage will be the make-it/break-it issue getting PV to truly disruptive quantities. As a resident of Missoula, Montana, between the Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem (anchored by Glacier National Park) where we find some of the last, vast wildernesses with no missing species, I must disagree with the statemetn that the Mojave is “the lower 48′s last great wilderness.”

  2. Gilgit says:

    I’m a bit confused. Is the Seville CSP plant the same one that was in the news this summer because it managed to operate 24 hours straight or is this a new one?

    The articles always mention new plants under construction, but I can never figure out how many are operating or if new ones are going on line.

  3. prokaryotes says:

    Fires in Russia and China
    Smoke clouds the skies across northeastern China and southeastern Russia in this image taken on October 8, 2011, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Widespread fires are marked in red.
    The dry, windy weather of autumn created hazardous fire conditions in northeast China. On October 9, officials in Heilongjiang province raised the fire alert level to its second-highest level, said Xinhua news. Russian officials, meanwhile, reported monitoring four large wildfires in the Far Eastern Federal District, which includes the area shown here.
    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=73870&src=nha

  4. prokaryotes says:

    BREAKING

    Today the US thwart a terror attack from the business partners of Koch Industries.

  5. prokaryotes says:

    Iran suspends gas deal with China’s CNPCI

    The South Pars gas field is shared by Iran and Qatar. The Iranian share, which is divided into 29 phases, has about 14 trillion cubic meters of gas, or about eight percent of the total world reserves, and more than 18 billion barrels of liquefied natural gas resources.

    Iran has the world’s second largest natural gas reserves after Russia. http://www.tehrantimes.com/index.php/economy-and-business/3443-iran-suspends-gas-deal-with-chinas-cnpci

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    The hotter wetter world -

    A disease that has ravaged banana plantations across Southeast Asia could wipe out the Philippine industry in three years unless the government finds a cure, a growers’ group warned Monday.

    But a more virulent type of the fungus emerged last month and quickly began spreading through plantations in the southern region of Mindanao, where most of the country’s banana exports come from, he said.
    http://www.seeddaily.com/reports/Fungus_could_wipe_out_Philippine_bananas_growers_999.html

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    According to Margareta Wahlstrom, the United Nations chief of disaster reduction, “the whole region will now suffer from rising food prices as potential harvests have now been devastated. The damage is very serious this year and it will be some time before people can resume normal lives.”

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    SWAMPED SUPPLY CHAINS: THAILAND IN CRISIS
    There are few easy options for the government and crisis coordinators in dealing with the devastating flooding now wreaking death and destruction in much of Central Thailand and coming soon to the capital.

    What is happening is on a scale beyond comprehension. There is even a prediction that the normally muddy but fast-flowing Cha Phraya River will turn into whitewater, breaching its banks and wiping out much of the riverside tourist industry, major hotel trade and possibly even Chinatown with a backwash up through numerous canals and klongs flooding many residential, commercial and industrial areas of Bangkok and surrounding areas.
    http://www.bangkokpost.com/business/economics/260890/swamped-supply-chains-thailand-in-crisis

  9. fj says:

    Just for fun:

    Are the Avengers part of the prep to psych us up for action on climate change at wartime speed?

    http://t.co/CnVXq9X0

    Listen closely to the trailer

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    Between the year-long drought and Gov. Rick Perry campaigning for the presidency, global warming has become a big topic in Texas these days — and the head of the University of Texas Energy Institute, Raymond Orbach, is wading into the debate with a new paper aiming to debunk eight “myths” about climate change.

    The paper, “Our Sustainable Earth,” appears in the forthcoming issue of Reports on Progress in Physics, a British journal known for encouraging (relatively) simple language from its contributors. In it, Orbach summarizes existing scientific evidence to argue that humans bear responsibility for climate change and an 80 percent reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions by 2050 is needed to stabilize global temperatures. Otherwise, he writes, “current global temperature rises will continue, and even accelerate” as greenhouse gas concentrations keep rising.
    http://www.texastribune.org/texas-energy/energy/ut-professor-wades-climate-change-debate/

  11. Colorado Bob says:

    Bern flood causes millions worth of damage

    Officials say some areas are getting rainfalls seen only once a century.

    http://worldradio.ch/wrs/news/switzerland/flooding-in-bernese-oberland-stops-trains.shtml?26898

  12. prokaryotes says:

    Hurricane Jova

    On October 6, 2011, a tropical depression over the eastern Pacific Ocean strengthened into Tropical Storm Jova. On October 8, it became a hurricane. By 11:00 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) on October 10, 2011, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported that Jova was a Category 3 storm headed for the southwestern coast of Mexico.
    The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image at 10:40 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time on October 10, 2011. Jova sports the spiral shape and distinct eye characteristic of strong storms. In the northeast quadrant, the storm’s clouds graze the coast of Mexico.
    As of 11:00 a.m. PDT on October 10, Jova had maximum sustained winds of 125 miles (205 kilometers) per hour, and was located roughly 220 miles (255 kilometers) southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico. A hurricane warning was in effect from Punta San Telmo north to Cabo Corrientes, and a tropical storm warning was in effect for Lazaro Cardenas north to Punta San Telmo. The NHC stated that the storm could become a Category 4 hurricane before making landfall on October 11.
    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=73873&src=nha

  13. Colorado Bob says:

    Seven people have died and three others are missing as strong storms and torrential rain over the past three days hit the coastal provinces of Turkey, including an inner province, triggering flash floods, officials announced on Tuesday.

    http://www.todayszaman.com/news-259387-seven-dead-three-missing-due-to-flash-floods-across-turkey.html

    • Colorado Bob says:

      Watch this , the UK just booked the hottest numbers ever seen in Oct.

      Now the rain comes. But this isn’t cold Oct. rain it’s melting glaciers in the Alps. rain.

      As a system nears a tipping point, it moves to the extremes ……

  14. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The package of bills for Australia’s price on carbon, initial price of $23 a ton, including compensation for low and middle income earners and some industries, has just passed the House of Reps. It will gallop through the Senate so will operate from 1st July, 2012, ME

  15. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Good news from the UN to exclude Canada, Japan and Russia but what about the USA? Anybody know what is going on behind the scenes here? ME

  16. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Drilling into Lake Ellsworth sounds like another stupid and very risky idea, another step in our long sequence of stupid and risky decisions that indicate little respect for the planet. What if there are unique life forms down there?

    From what I’ve read recently about the dramatic changes in the Great Southern and Antarctica, it seems unlikely that the WAIS can be saved regardless of any amount of research, ME

  17. Colorado Bob says:

    This debate is a lot farther down the road , than any of us see.

  18. Colorado Bob says:

    I don’t care you you are, or where you live, make your choice. Because change is coming, and we no rulers to measure it.

  19. David B. Benson says:

    I deeply doubt that the price of electricity from solar thermal will be able to fall so far so fast, but more power to them if they can do it. Solar thermal with stroage meets the needs of daytime load following; neither solar PV nor wind can do that.

    • David B. Benson says:

      Except, of course, those days that the sun does not shine. What will you do then?

      • prokaryotes says:

        Do you really want to have this discussion ? Seems a bit odd, after all what i read and saw you participating in other related talks, your question seems odd, you should know better.

        When there is no sun = PV still generates and you have wind and hydro, geothermal to compensate.

        It’s called a SMART GRID

  20. Paul Revere says:

    Why is it that green technologies will improve as science improves and will be economical in as soon as ten years but geoengineering is assumed to be static and perpetually uneconomical?
    In any case, if green tech competes on price with traditional power and we all drive electric cars in ten years, carbon emissions will drop to virtually nothing without Kyoto, cap and trade, etc.

  21. Colorado Bob says:

    I don’t care where you are, or where you live, make your choice. Because change is coming, and we have no rulers to measure it.

    • prokaryotes says:

      You cannot run from it. The only hope is that change will come more swiftly. Which seems to require some sort of large scale weather extreme events.

      What each one of us should do is to live the change you want to see.

  22. prokaryotes says:

    Why Do These Koch Industries Neighbors Have Cancer? (VIDEO)
    Our ongoing Koch Brothers Exposed video investigation has discovered something so tragic it will haunt Charles and David Koch for years to come.

    Is a Koch Industries factory getting away with murder?
    http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2011/10/11/why-do-these-koch-industries-neighbors-have-cancer-video/

  23. prokaryotes says:

    BREAKING NEWS

    Rena to break in half ‘very soon’ http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/rena-break-in-half-very-soon-4460592

    The movie production The Hobbit is unaffected, but you have to re-arrange your next New Zealand beach holidays, unless you like to experiment with cancer causing chemicals. And you better stop eating this fish.

  24. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    If it can,then it will be eighth wonder of the world!

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    Wind Energy Expert
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

  25. Raji Mathew says:

    Joe: Can you give Prokaryotes and Colorado Bob a thread or section where they can post these types of weather related events from around the world. In our msm, these events are not covered and it helps to know what is going on with climate change around the world. I go thru the threads looking for their postings but am not sure under which topic they will post. I think a lot of readers are paying attention to these extreme weather events and would like to know what to expect in our own locales in the future.

  26. Martin Palmer says:

    It would not be surprising if the alloy that the solar plant is using that allows higher temperatures is an oxide dispersion strengthened alloy similar to MA 754.

    This alloy was used in the F-15 and F-14 fighter engines.

    Unfortunately, this alloy is no longer produced in the U.S.. A similar alloy is produced in Europe, though.

    This is a shame that it is no longer produced in this country, because it has multiple biomass, coal, and alternative energy uses, and could allow development of high temperature heat exchangers which could boost energy efficiency of many industrial processes.

    Is this another case of technology invented here and then used overseas?

    Likely it is.

  27. Martin Palmer says:

    For those interested in oxide dispersion strengthened alloys:

    Presentations from an ODS alloy workshop at UCSD in 2010

    Higher temperatures means higher thermal efficiency, generally.

    For even higher temperatures and efficiencies, it may be possible to use ceramics, such as the use of edge defined film fed growth (EFG) sapphire (aluminum oxide crystal) tubes in this Brightsource patent:

    Brightsource solar power tower receiver patent

    There is a company- Saphikon- which produces such tubes.

    Hot air heated in such an absorber could run the gas turbine part of a combined cycle power plant, resulting in much higher efficiency.

    Solar thermal power towers would be an ideal way to push such combined cycle power plants to higher temperatures, because solar energy does not suffer from the high temperature corrosion problems that coal fired power plants have.

    Most of the technology to do things like this was invented here in the USA. But our political and economic structure prevents us from doing them.