Solar Thermal in Desert, to Beat Coal by 2020

Posted on May 26, 2008  Comments (7)

Google, Chevron Build Mirrors in Desert to Beat Coal With Solar

Along a dusty two-lane highway in California’s Mojave Desert, 550,000 mirrors point skyward to make steam for electricity. Google Inc., Chevron Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are betting this energy will become cheaper than coal.

The 1,000-acre plant uses concentrated sunlight to generate power for as many as 112,500 homes in Southern California. Rising natural gas prices and emissions limits may make solar thermal the fastest-growing energy source in the next decade, say backers including Vinod Khosla, the founder of computer maker Sun Microsystems Inc. Costs for the technology will fall below coal as soon as 2020, the U.S. government estimates.

“Solar thermal can provide a substantial amount of our power, more than 50 percent,” says Khosla

Nine solar thermal plants built in the California desert from 1985 to 1991 still operate, with Juno Beach, Florida-based FPL Group Inc. running seven. They have combined capacity of 354 megawatts, enough to power 230,000 Southern California homes. Development slowed when Congress eliminated tax credits for alternative energy in the early 1990s. Laws put in place in 2005 give solar investors a 30 percent tax credit.

Great progress is being made adding wind and solar capacity. And the increasing oil prices are encouraging much faster adoption of these technologies. The promise of widespread adoption is rapidly becoming a reality.

Related: Solar Energy: Economics, Government and TechnologyWind Power Potential to Produce 20% of Electricity Supply by 2030Google Investing Huge Sums in Renewable EnergySolar Tower Power Generation

7 Responses to “Solar Thermal in Desert, to Beat Coal by 2020”

  1. Solar Heats Up Desert Real Estate Market at Curious Cat Investing and Economics Blog
    July 8th, 2008 @ 11:31 am

    “Just 20 months ago only five applications for solar sites had been filed with the BLM in the California Mojave. Today 104 claims have been received for nearly a million acres of land, representing a theoretical 60 gigawatts of electricity.”

  2. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Seventh-grader’s Solar Cell Research
    September 21st, 2008 @ 5:10 pm

    “He is our youngest fellow in science that we’ve ever had,” Moessner said. “He is really spectacular. “His project will really make a difference in advancing the technology of solar cells. You would never know he’s 12 looking at the quality of his work.”

  3. Anonymous
    March 24th, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

    This is a great step forward for Google, Chevron, and Goldman Sachs. It is about time that companies started using breakthrough ingenious technology to protect the environment and provide solutions to skyrocketing fossil fuel prices. Sounds like a great idea, and should be the movement that the country is heading.

  4. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Top Kill Effort to Stop Oil Leak Initially Working
    May 27th, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

    “The top kill effort failed. BP is now trying to capture the oil as it spills into the water with a funnel like device…”

  5. Molten Salt Solar Reactor Approved by California » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    December 18th, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

    The Solar Energy Project has the ability to collect and store enough thermal energy each morning to operate at full power all afternoon and for up to 8 hours after sunset…

  6. Nuclear Power Production by Country from 1985-2009 at Curious Cat Economics Blog
    March 16th, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

    Nuclear power provided 14% of the world’s electricity in 2009…

  7. Zac Aldridge
    July 27th, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

    Congress needs to get their heads out of both their constituents and their own asses. The earth is getting hotter. The economy is getting worse. Technology is advancing by incredible leaps every year, and we’ve got nearly 10% of our population unemployed. Why, again, aren’t we making investments in green technology?

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