The U.S. Department of Energy has just finalized the environmental assessment in order to guarantee the loan for Abengoa Solar to start construction of the Solana CSP Project, announced in 2007. The decision marks the culmination of a lengthy environmental assessment with 286 pages of referenced impact statements, covering every possible reason to obstruct Abengoa’s Solana – Spanish for a sunny place – CSP Project.
Not all energy suppliers speed through environmental reviews in under 90 days like off-shore oil projects in the Gulf of Mexico apparently do. Dangerous, “risky!” solar projects are “energy gambles” that needs must take at least two years to review. No rubber stamp for energy sources that might compete with the mighty fossil industry.
Abengoa is now cleared to begin to build the 280 MW concentrating solar power plant near Gila Bend, Arizona, and an associated 230 kilovolt transmission line. As amended in the 2009 Recovery Act, under the 2005 Energy Policy Act; the DOE is now authorized to issue loan guarantees for projects that “avoid, reduce, or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases; and employ new or significantly improved technologies as compared to commercial technologies in service in the United States at the time the guarantee is issued.”
The Solana CSP Project, like every solar project, of course, more than meets that goal. It would “reduce the need for electricity from conventional generation facilities and, compared to a traditional naturalgas-fired facility, would avoid annual emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants”. The 286 page review determined that 475,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 520 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 1,065 tons of nitrogen would be kept out of the atmosphere every year.
CSP works by using parabolic trough systems to concentrate energy from the sun through long, curved mirrors. The parabolic trough systems would be tilted toward the sun and focus sunlight on a pipe running down the center of the trough. Sunlight heats heat transfer fluid in the pipe, and sends it to the power island, transferring the collected solar energy to heat exchangers. There, they create steam for use in a conventional steam turbine generator to produce electricity.
Approximately 2,700 trough collectors covering roughly 3 square miles would comprise the 280 megawatt Solana solar field. Each row would be approximately 25 feet wide, 500 feet long, and more than 20 feet tall.
The 280 MW power station will power 70,000 homes, both till sunset and also for 6 hours into the night, because molten salt storage tanks will retain and store up to 6 hours of heat.
Image: Bear Republic