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Clean Power GDT Tek solar thermal plant in California harvests waste energy

Published on March 6th, 2012 | by Tina Casey

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New 20-MW Solar Thermal Plant Eats its Own Energy

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March 6th, 2012 by
 
GDT Tek solar thermal plant in California harvests waste energy

The solar company GDT Tek is planning a 20-megawatt solar array in Desert Hot Springs, California, and the design indicates how the solar industry is heading toward a business model that squeezes every ounce of energy out of the available land. Part of GDT’s 109-acre property will be reserved for a pilot solar thermal plant based on the company’s waste heat-to-energy conversion technology. Overall, the company estimates that its system will be about 40 percent more cost-efficient than a conventional solar array.

Land grab for prime solar power sites

The price of land suitable for solar installations is  spiking up in some areas, according to an article cited by GDT Tek president Bo Linton. Easy access to existing infrastructure, including roads and a power grid, are two factors. That makes it all the more important for the solar industry to come up with new high-efficiency technologies that make the real estate investment pay off. In a press statement Linton said:

“We made this land purchase at a great time. There was an article last week in the LA Times stating these type of properties are now starting to gobbled up at 10-20 fold what they were worth a few years ago. We are also looking into using wind power on the land as well. We plan to get as many megawatts out of the land per acre as possible.”

Solar thermal waste-to-energy cogeneration

GDT’s pilot plant is a closed loop system, in which a liquid is heated to a gas that powers a turbine, and is then re-condensed into liquid. The company’s precision technology enables the system to operate at a relatively low temperature ranging from 200 degrees Fahrenheit to a maximum of 220 degrees. As for whether or not the system is significantly more cost efficient than a conventional photovoltaic panels, by installing its solar thermal system alongside a PV array, GDT hopes that the “proof will show right on the meters for the entire world to see.”

The cogeneration twofer

Though not quite on the scale of the massive DESERTEC solar thermal project, GDT’s cogeneration technology has some interesting applications, sustainably speaking, for scavenging waste heat from…other harvested alternative energy sources. One example is a San Jose landfill where GDT has been capturing waste heat from a landfill gas-to-energy engine and converting it to electricity. The company is also involved in an ambitious $23 million venture to install similar landfill gas systems at several locations in the Bay Area, which are estimated to squeeze an additional 9 megawatts out of the existing methane capture systems.

Image: License Attribution Some rights reserved by Jacob Rickard.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Joe Matula

    I have invented a huge improvement to ground source geothermal that takes it into the next millennium by not only providing heating and cooling for a building, but potentially also supplying surplus electrical energy as well. I filed a PCT patent application in Dec. 2011 and have tried to get the assistance of the local hydro utility and Canadian government initiatives, but to no avail. We have 6 cent / kw. hydro power here in Manitoba, Canada, so energy is not an issue. I also tried to access USDE assistance, but that is a non starter because I am not a US citizen.
    It would cost under $100,000 to build a working prototype system and possibly another $100,000 to fine tune it so that it would compete with hydro power. The beauty of this system is that it stores power for times of need and can make wind and solar more practical by working when the wind is not blowing nor sun shining.
    Until natural gas prices spike astronomically, there will not be a serious effort to deal with environmental issues or to convert to sustainable energy production. The technology is available, but the will to help inventors get to the next level is sorely lacking. Investors want to see strong cash flow before they invest, so they too are useless, except for their ability to jump on a wagon after it hav been proven beyond any possible risk. I have no way of getting this to the next level without contacting the Chinese government and possibly working with them. Maybe this is what I should have done first. The west has simply gotten too complacent. Soon the East will own the west.

    • Bob_Wallace

      There are lots and lots and lots of people who think they have developed a world-changing idea. Some of them are total crackpots and some are simply wrong. A few actually have a good idea.

      It’s impossible to tell in which category you best fit unless you produce a working example, some strong data, or something of merit that exceeds your claim that you believe in your idea.

      It’s up to you to figure out how to be a signal emerging from the noise of the delusional and deluded. If that means partnering with a Chinese company, so what?

      We’re all on this ball of dirt together. Why would it be important which group of us figures out how to save our collective bacon?

      If you’ve got a “golden idea” then you’ll get plenty rich off of the your Canadian patent rights and whatever arrangement you make with your Chinese/wherever partners.

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