California flips the switch on the world's largest solar power farm

By Shawn Knight
Nov 28, 2014
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  1. The first 500-plus megawatt solar power plant is now up and running in the US. Topaz, as it's being called, is located in San Luis Obispo County on California's Carrizo Plain and is the result of two years of hard...

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  2. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,550   +594

    Wonder what the maintenance cost on those will be. They'll need a lot of cleaning because of the wind storms blowing dust on the panels near continuously. Surprised they didn't put up some sort of wind blocking fence around the facility.
  3. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 1,498   +673

    I installed a system a few years ago that had some kind of specialized finish that actually repelled dust particles. Their literature claimed it would never need to be cleaned but even if it just cut it down by 50% it will be a great savings. Not much PM or general maintenance on them; the motors are all dust proof with sealed bearings. Never seen one hit by lightning ... that would be an interesting study.
  4. AnonymousSurfer

    AnonymousSurfer TS Guru Posts: 451   +37

    It seems like a lot of space to power 160,000 homes. I wonder how wind turbines would compare if you spent the same amount of money building it
  5. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822

    Why one or the other? They could both be built within the same space.
  6. AnonymousSurfer

    AnonymousSurfer TS Guru Posts: 451   +37

    Traditional wind turbines would block sunlight from the solar panels. But the idea of having both should be considered by future companies investing in clean energy
  7. Amal Perera

    Amal Perera TS Rookie

    Technology is always improving. If we do not start with what we have and wait for technology to improve then nothing will ever get done. The idea is to use the current technology so that there will be saving against using other sources, be it money or carbon savings or what ever. New technology can be introduced as expansion or a planned upgrade.

    Also wind turbines require "wind". If the turbine would not generate enough power then the idea of building it would be defeated.
  8. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822

    Much like the solar panels require sunlight, neither one would be 100% full time. And you seem to be putting a time frame on when the device needs to pay for itself. I would hope it pays for itself, regardless of whether it is 1 year or 50 years.
  9. mikepierce93

    mikepierce93 TS Rookie

    Solar panels like these pay for themselves generally in about 6 yrs, with current incentives, and electric prices. Since the price for electricity in CA is high and in the high desert with less cloudy days than average, it might be better than that.
    Also, in regards to Wind turbines blocking the sun, the sun has a defined path relative to the solar panels. It would be "grade school" simple to install the turbines so they would never affect the panels, but ultimately without wind they would be useless. That fact could easily be determined via info from local and national weather sites.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  10. AnonymousSurfer

    AnonymousSurfer TS Guru Posts: 451   +37

    Wind Turbines can be just as effective if not more than solar panels... It all depends on the placement. I'm sure that in the desert in California those solar panels will get a lot of sunlight but in places like where I live, we have 85% of our year as partly-cloudy(coverage of 1/4 of the sky) and 55% of the year as heavy clouding (coverage of 3/4 of the sky). Solar panels don't become nearly as effective as the wind turbines are, and there are major turbine plants kinda close to my house where they just converted a few farms into a giant turbine farm.

    If there's one thing for sure, it's that in most places of the US, it can't be sunny for 24 hours (excluding Alaska). I am 100% positive with no doubt in my mind, that there have been 4-5 days in a row of constant 14-20 mph winds. Even when there isn't much wind, the wind turbines are positioned in open fields high off the ground so they can still operate as much as possible. Maybe in California this isn't the answer, but where I'm at this is. Until the make more efficient solar panels, I'm convinced wind turbines are the answer
  11. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Maniac Posts: 933   +240

    Using both wind and solar is an ideal solution. Solar varies from location to location, however, there is enough data out there so that one can make an intelligent decision on the size of the solar array based on the location. For instance, in my area we average three hours of sunshine a day. This value is was it used to size the solar array. There is a book our there called "Wind Power" by Paul Gipe that is one of the best references on "off-grid" living that there is, IMHO. I realize the situation is different in that this is a power plant, but siting it in a desert area where available sunshine is maximized is a great idea. I agree that it might be possible to site wind turbines in the same location. Realistically, it could be done however, the supporting towers for the wind turbines are huge, so, IMHO, it would take some planning to get it done properly.

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