Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Solar Power and You

This evening, a very special after-school special: Solar Power and You.

So, umm, anyway...I just saw this article about a huge new solar power facility in California. This is the other solar energy, though. Not photovoltaics--those sorry, 20% efficiency beasts. No, this facility will rely on Stirling dishes to concentrate heat and drive a Stirling engine. Instead of the measly 20% efficiency you'd be lucky to get from photovoltaics, Stirling dishes are about 30% efficient.

The Stirling dishes will be made by Stirling Energy Systems, which sounds like a really neat company. The image to the right (from their website) shows how their machine works. As you can see, it's way more mechanical than a photovoltaic system.

Of course, one would expect an alternative energy project of this [potential] magnitude to have massive government subsidies. Happily, that is NOT the case.
Sacramento is willing to subsidize new solar projects, but SoCal Edison says the price it negotiated with Stirling Energy is so attractive -- "well below the 11.33 cents per kWh" it now pays for peak power -- that it won't seek any state subsidies. That seems certain to cement approval.
So it looks like this is a bona fide case of solar power actually being financially viable. Bonus.