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  • July | 2013 | Miracle or Mirage?
    asphalt Newer facilities such as the infamous Ivanpah SEGS purport to be an alternative a kinder gentler utility scale solar facility with far less grading than earlier designs But does it matter For our brief analysis here we ll take a look at three different facilities employing three different technologies all links go to BLM s Environmental Impact Statement EIS pages the Genesis Solar Energy Project the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System and the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm Genesis employs parabolic trough technology the infamous Ivanpah OK I m done for this post utilizes concentrating power tower technology and Desert Sunlight is a photovoltaic plant Parabolic troughs at Plataforma Solúcar in Sevilla province Spain Genesis Solar Energy Project Genesis a 250MW nameplate capacity facility sited on 1 950 acres of Public Land is certainly the most heavy handed of the three when it comes to grading Parabolic troughs by the very nature of their technology require extremely flat land They concentrate sunlight in trough shaped mirrors focusing on a central clear glass tube which is full of a thermal transfer medium usually oil This medium is then brought to a conventional heat engine where as with almost every other form of energy production known to man except wind and photovoltaics it is used to heat water which boils into steam which spins a turbine thus generating electricity The length of the troughs and tubes and their rather sensitive alignment means that almost perfectly flat ground is required for the facilities Water diversion scheme for Genesis Solar Power Project as depicted in the EIS Genesis built in the Chuckwalla Valley outside of Desert Center CA required substantial alteration of local hydrology The entire 1 950 acre site was graded resulting in 1 000 000 cubic yards of earth being moved and substantially altering the function of 90 acres of ephemeral washes 90 acres of washes means literally hundreds or maybe even thousands of washes given their linear nature and low acreage Water from all washes crossing the site was diverted in massive engineered drainage channels which send the water across the site and downslope in concentrated waterways This causes downstream peak flow rates to increase dramatically in some cases by as much as 300 which increases downslope erosion and potentially will dry out certain areas that are no longer receiving sheet flow In order to attempt to slow down outgoing storm water NextEra proposed to utilize hydraulic energy dissapators and downstream riprap splash pads BLM and CEC were skeptical enough of the success of this plan that they required ongoing downstream monitoring for erosion and altered sediment loads and revision of mitigation plans as needed CEC photos of the aftermath of the Genesis flood courtesy of Basin and Range Watch There is some irony in the amount of time and effort spent discussing storm water diversion on this site in the EIS given what happened in Summer of 2012 A powerful desert rainstorm certainly not uncommon in the area dropped 3 5 of water on the site in less than six hours causing a massive flash flood The project which was still under construction at the time experienced about 5 million in damages as flood waters raced across the actual project site breeching the flood channels and destroying solar panels Afterwards it was found that the channels silted up to the point where they could not accept water hence the breech According to NextEra the channels and other flood control structures were not completely finished in their construction But it was certainly a potent reminder that the desert s hydrological patterns cannot be easily altered Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System An example of a concentrating solar power tower facility Gemasolar Sevilla province Spain More has been written about Ivanpah than I really care to reiterate here so I ll just give you a few links It is a concentrating solar power tower facility wherein sunlight is reflected from dispersed heliostats mirrors on modular bases to a central tall tower which contains a steam engine generating power just like at Genesis Ivanpah s unique design means that its footprint is substantially different than that of Genesis The heliostats sole function is to focus sunlight on the power tower tracking the sun throughout the day to maximize the amount of reflected light Given that there are 214 000 heliostats each individual heliostat is relatively unimportant to the overall project As such rather than grading off the entire 3 500 acre area which is covered by heliostats BrightSource is generally maintaining the hydrographic profile of the area underneath the heliostats grading and diverting water only around the power blocks which is where the power towers are located Grading would result in the moving of about 250 000 cubic yards of fill or one quarter as much as Genesis spread over an area two times as large which yields by this particular measurement a grading intensity one eighth as much as that of Genesis Additionally however there were concentring rings of heliostat access roads graded adding somewhat to the hydrological impacts of the project Detail of the heliostat access roads in concentric circles at Ivanpah Photo courtesy Jamey Stillings In the plans for reduced grading BrightSource purports to adhere to the principles of Low Impact Design LID LID is a set of principles intended to guide development such that it minimizes its impact on water resources for instance by promoting natural flow regimes by promoting groundwater recharge and other virtuous impacts And indeed compared to a wholesale grading of all 3 500 acres they have minimized the impact of their design But the CEC BLM staff who prepared the EIS are skeptical of the project s success in this regard Even with these LID methods employed project development would likely have effects that result in reduced storm water infiltration and increased runoff And indeed the EIS reveals substantial changes to the hydrology during peak flow events a 10 year storm event would see a 3

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  • June | 2013 | Miracle or Mirage?
    more rudimentary One of the things I m focusing on this summer is getting my hands on Spanish EIS s for utility scale solar plants here to compare the way they assess impacts and how that may inform whether or not a plant gets built Clearly impacts to hydrology were not thoroughly considered with these facilities All the pictures come from a paper by Prof Matías Mérida at the University of Málaga in which he develops a typology of impacts from photovoltaic plants I ll write more about his typology in a future post You can see the original Spanish version here PDF with pictures or a crudely Google Translate translated English version here PDF no pictures Even so Google Translate still seems like magic to me Unfortunately I do not have a good source yet for which specific solar facilities these shots come from in Spain I m currently in correspondence with Prof Mérida about it and will update this post when I find out Still just gaze in wonder and be grateful that this is one particular problem that utility scale solar watchers in the U S don t have to contend with Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Blog and tagged design EIA grading slope spain utility scale solar on June 25 2013 by Patrick Donnelly A Fascinating Visit to Europe s Biggest Utility Scale Solar Research Facility Plataforma Solar de Almería by Patrick Donnelly Leave a reply It may have felt a bit like peering into the belly of the beast but yesterday I had the rare opportunity to visit the Plataforma Solar de Almería PSA the Spanish government s main utility scale solar research facility and the largest such facility in Europe Political concerns about the siting of utility scale solar facilities aside it was truly fascinating from a history of technology viewpoint to see the evolution of solar thermal technology from the early 80s to today The earliest parabolic trough system on the planet Accurex Much smaller than current technologies it also covered more ground These are turned downward so the tubes don t break in the sun Screen grab from Google Maps of the Plataforma Solar de Almería Clearly visible are several iterations of solar power tower as well as parabolic trough and other technologies The Plataforma Solar de Almería is in southeastern Andalucía Spain s sun drenched southermost autonomía in an area called the Desierto de Tabernas the only desert in Europe Google Maps link According to worldclimate com data Almería the local provincial capital provinces in Spain are roughly analogous to counties in the U S receives 8 8 of rain per year the very definition of a desert According to the PSA staff the Tabernas desert has over 3000 hours of good solar insolation per year Considering that 4350 hours per year are at night that s a truly remarkable amount of sunlight for such relatively northern latitudes at 37 N it is roughly equivalent to San Francisco or the Central Plains in the U S you gotta love the jet stream SSPS CRS the world s first solar power tower facility constructed in 1981 While facilities such as the early Luz plants in Israel Luz went bankrupt and reformed itself as the now industry leading BrightSource Energy some years later and the many Kramer Junction SEGSs in the Mojave Desert were innovators in concentrating solar thermal technology they really owe their root technologies to the PSA The PSA built the world s first concentrating solar power tower AND the world s first parabolic trough designs in 1981 further refining both technolgies during the remainder of the 1980s Private enterprise has dominated such fields of technological innovation in the past few decades in the United States but the PSA is fully funded by the Spanish Government through its Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas Medioambientales y Tecnológicas CIEMAT It also collaborates with government research bodies from other European countries notably Germany Technologies are then leased or sold to private enterprises through our tour guide was vague on fee structures and terms on such contracts Parts of the PSA seemed like a veritable solar graveyard as old or abandoned technologies slowly bleach in the sun On to the technology We got to view the world s first solar power tower facility the SSPS CRS the Small Solar Power System Central Receiver System weird that they gave it an English name and acronym which amazingly was constructed over 30 years ago in 1981 When used to generate power it employed around 100 heliostats each with an independent small PV cell to power their movement check out the picture here focusing their light on a 42m tall tower creating a whopping 500kW of energy In the intervening years with its pioneering technology long eclipes the SSPS CRS has been used for fascinating research in the splitting of water and hydrocarbon molecules to generate free hydrogren atoms with potential applications in artificial photosynthesis The CESA I from 1983 a more refined solar power tower facility which resembles the modern technologies of today A few years later in 1983 they upgraded this technology significantly with the CESA I I m a bit ashamed to say I did not catch what this acronym stands for a 84m tower with 300 heliostats capable of generating 1 2MW The CESA I bears much more resemblance to the towers which we know today from plants in Spain the United States and elsewhere For especially nerdy readers who also can read Spanish here s a picture of the interpretive sign for the power towers Remarkably it can generate temperatures of up to 1500 C some 2700 F Compared to Ivanpah s meager sounding 1050 F this sounds very impressive One would imagine that Ivanpah s technology makes better use of the already high temperatures it has such that temperatures hot enough to melt metal aren t necessary seriously look at this picture Various iterations of the

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  • The Silurian Valley spared- but will it be conserved? | Miracle or Mirage?
    heard of the Silurian Valley before the solar proposal gained national prominence Instead BLM recognized the landscape values inherent in the Silurian Valley listing amongst its reasons for rejecting the application the undisturbed nature of the area There are some places that should simply be left as they are open undeveloped largely governed by non human ecosystem processes Salt Creek Springs a rare and precious water resource in the Silurian Valley which could have been impacted by the proposed solar development The Silurian Valley is a part of the Amargosa River Watershed and these undisturbed areas are also key to the local economy in the Amargosa Region Since the decline of the mining industry in the area tourism has come to define economic opportunity here Tourists come for the wide open views to experience the surreal sense of distance and scale that comes from traversing an enormous valley like the Silurian The industrialization of these areas would mean doom for the economy of the Amargosa Basin who wants to go on a long road trip to visit an industrialized energy production zone The sparing of the Silurian Valley also presents us with an opportunity A key portion of the DRECP is the designation of National Conservation Lands fulfilling a mandate first established in the 1976 Federal Lands Policy and Management Act FLPMA designated the California Desert Conservation Area but left specific designation of conservation lands for some time in the future That time is now The Silurian Valley with Dumont Dunes and the Ibex Hills in the distance Lands worth of perpetual conservation BLM has recognized the Silurian Valley as an inappropriate place for industrial development The next step is to designate the Valley as National Conservation Land and then manage that land for conservation purposes There has been much rancor over the proposed National Conservation Lands included in the DRECP and many questions as to their management and the durability of such a designation These questions are valid and the conservation community needs to push the REAT to ensure that the final DRECP has strong protections for lands so designated But right now in the DRECP is the first step toward perpetual protection for the Silurian Valley and other wild lands like it in the California desert Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized on December 5 2014 by Patrick Donnelly Post navigation Saharan Solar Part 1 A Wild Eyed Vision Leave a Reply Cancel reply Search for Recent Posts The Silurian Valley spared but will it be conserved Saharan Solar Part 1 A Wild Eyed Vision To Grade or Not to Grade On visual impacts landscape and NIMBYism Spanish Solar Steep Slope inSanity Recent Comments Richard Stoffle on On visual impacts landscape and NIMBYism tom in joshua tree on On visual impacts landscape and NIMBYism Chris Clarke on On visual impacts landscape and NIMBYism F on Spanish Solar Steep Slope inSanity Anne Ardillo on Drawing a Line in the Sand In Search

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/miracleormirage/2014/12/05/the-silurian-valley-spared-but-will-it-be-conserved/# (2015-09-25)
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  • Where the Mind is Without Fear | global ecology and everything else in the world
    Recent Comments On the Coyot es Network Some reasons I have been called a radical environmentalist Coyote Crossing Published on September 19 2015 by Chris Clarke On Forgetting My Field Guide Birds and Words Published on September 16 2015 by Julia Zarankin My Hit Single Are Warblers Less Important Than Tigers Reconciliation Ecology Published on September 12 2015 by Madhusudan Katti Making Friends With Crows The Corvid Blog Published on August 2 2015 by The Corvid Blog The Heart of Freedom Cecil the Lion Wild Within Published on July 29 2015 by Jennifer Molidor There s Gold in Them Hills Dispersal Range Published on June 28 2015 by Meera Lee Sethi California note 1 Slow Water Movement Published on July 7 2015 by slowwatermovement Joe Eaton calls Fowl A Review Toad In The Hole Published on July 4 2015 by Joe Eaton The other invisible hand View from Elephant Hills Published on 5 June 2015 by T R Shankar Raman The Silurian Valley spared but will it be conserved Miracle or Mirage Published on December 5 2014 by Patrick Donnelly Lone Pine s lone pine Is Dead InyoOwnWay Published on August 13 2014 by Mike Prather A Good Defense Is

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  • Sample Page | Where the Mind is Without Fear
    b blockquote cite cite code del datetime em i q cite s strike strong Notify me of follow up comments by email Notify me of new posts by email Search for Recent Posts Coming soon Recent Comments On the Coyot es Network Some reasons I have been called a radical environmentalist Coyote Crossing Published on September 19 2015 by Chris Clarke On Forgetting My Field Guide Birds and Words Published on September 16 2015 by Julia Zarankin My Hit Single Are Warblers Less Important Than Tigers Reconciliation Ecology Published on September 12 2015 by Madhusudan Katti Making Friends With Crows The Corvid Blog Published on August 2 2015 by The Corvid Blog The Heart of Freedom Cecil the Lion Wild Within Published on July 29 2015 by Jennifer Molidor There s Gold in Them Hills Dispersal Range Published on June 28 2015 by Meera Lee Sethi California note 1 Slow Water Movement Published on July 7 2015 by slowwatermovement Joe Eaton calls Fowl A Review Toad In The Hole Published on July 4 2015 by Joe Eaton The other invisible hand View from Elephant Hills Published on 5 June 2015 by T R Shankar Raman The Silurian Valley spared but

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  • Uncategorized | Where the Mind is Without Fear
    Coming soon Recent Comments On the Coyot es Network Some reasons I have been called a radical environmentalist Coyote Crossing Published on September 19 2015 by Chris Clarke On Forgetting My Field Guide Birds and Words Published on September 16 2015 by Julia Zarankin My Hit Single Are Warblers Less Important Than Tigers Reconciliation Ecology Published on September 12 2015 by Madhusudan Katti Making Friends With Crows The Corvid Blog Published on August 2 2015 by The Corvid Blog The Heart of Freedom Cecil the Lion Wild Within Published on July 29 2015 by Jennifer Molidor There s Gold in Them Hills Dispersal Range Published on June 28 2015 by Meera Lee Sethi California note 1 Slow Water Movement Published on July 7 2015 by slowwatermovement Joe Eaton calls Fowl A Review Toad In The Hole Published on July 4 2015 by Joe Eaton The other invisible hand View from Elephant Hills Published on 5 June 2015 by T R Shankar Raman The Silurian Valley spared but will it be conserved Miracle or Mirage Published on December 5 2014 by Patrick Donnelly Lone Pine s lone pine Is Dead InyoOwnWay Published on August 13 2014 by Mike Prather A Good

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/mindwithoutfear/category/uncategorized/ (2015-09-25)
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  • Kaberi Kar Gupta | Where the Mind is Without Fear
    Posts Coming soon Recent Comments On the Coyot es Network Some reasons I have been called a radical environmentalist Coyote Crossing Published on September 19 2015 by Chris Clarke On Forgetting My Field Guide Birds and Words Published on September 16 2015 by Julia Zarankin My Hit Single Are Warblers Less Important Than Tigers Reconciliation Ecology Published on September 12 2015 by Madhusudan Katti Making Friends With Crows The Corvid Blog Published on August 2 2015 by The Corvid Blog The Heart of Freedom Cecil the Lion Wild Within Published on July 29 2015 by Jennifer Molidor There s Gold in Them Hills Dispersal Range Published on June 28 2015 by Meera Lee Sethi California note 1 Slow Water Movement Published on July 7 2015 by slowwatermovement Joe Eaton calls Fowl A Review Toad In The Hole Published on July 4 2015 by Joe Eaton The other invisible hand View from Elephant Hills Published on 5 June 2015 by T R Shankar Raman The Silurian Valley spared but will it be conserved Miracle or Mirage Published on December 5 2014 by Patrick Donnelly Lone Pine s lone pine Is Dead InyoOwnWay Published on August 13 2014 by Mike Prather A

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/mindwithoutfear/author/mindwithoutfear/ (2015-09-25)
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  • November | 2014 | Where the Mind is Without Fear
    Coming soon Recent Comments On the Coyot es Network Some reasons I have been called a radical environmentalist Coyote Crossing Published on September 19 2015 by Chris Clarke On Forgetting My Field Guide Birds and Words Published on September 16 2015 by Julia Zarankin My Hit Single Are Warblers Less Important Than Tigers Reconciliation Ecology Published on September 12 2015 by Madhusudan Katti Making Friends With Crows The Corvid Blog Published on August 2 2015 by The Corvid Blog The Heart of Freedom Cecil the Lion Wild Within Published on July 29 2015 by Jennifer Molidor There s Gold in Them Hills Dispersal Range Published on June 28 2015 by Meera Lee Sethi California note 1 Slow Water Movement Published on July 7 2015 by slowwatermovement Joe Eaton calls Fowl A Review Toad In The Hole Published on July 4 2015 by Joe Eaton The other invisible hand View from Elephant Hills Published on 5 June 2015 by T R Shankar Raman The Silurian Valley spared but will it be conserved Miracle or Mirage Published on December 5 2014 by Patrick Donnelly Lone Pine s lone pine Is Dead InyoOwnWay Published on August 13 2014 by Mike Prather A Good

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/mindwithoutfear/2014/11/ (2015-09-25)
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