Saturday, March 14, 2009

Nice 100 KW Solar + Modular Gas Turbine Plant

This is a very cool, very practical, very scalable, and very baseload approach to solar power. Israeli firm Aora has taken Al Fin's advice and built a gas turbine solar thermal plant with the ability to run off of either solar heat or combustible gas. This allows the plant to run night and day as necessary. At 100 KW it takes up very little space, and is modular, thus scalable.
Both PV and regular solar thermal power need vast tracts of land to accommodate all the mirrors or heliostats they require. Aora's new model requires just half an acre of land to produce 100 KW, enough to power 50 homes. By solar standards, that's not a great deal of electricity. Yet there are several advantages to Aora's system, COO Yuval Susskind told The Jerusalem Post ahead of the Eilat-Eilot International Renewable Energy Conference and Exhibition at the beginning of February.

"Aora's model has four advantages. It's modular, it's hybrid, it can run on alternative fuels and it offers all of those options in one base package," he explained. What's the secret behind the new technology? Pairing a proprietary solar concentrator with a micro-gas turbine instead of a steam turbine. Conventional solar thermal power, such as that produced by Brightsource/Luz II or Soleil, relies on heated water turning into steam which is then used to power a turbine. However, steam turbines are only efficient when producing many megawatts (MW), which also requires a great deal of land. Aora uses a micro-gas turbine which is effective at less than one MW and requires far fewer heliostats (30) to produce 100 KWs.

"A small, modular base unit which doesn't take up very much space means that you can plug it straight into the nearest electricity line. You don't need to run new lines or install new components to handle the flow. In addition, you can link several units together around a village, say, to produce enough power," the South African-raised Susskind said. Each base unit is comprised of one 30 meter high tower housing the concentrator, micro-gas turbine and 30 heliostats. _JerusalemPost
There are a lot of things to like about this design, not least of which is the ability to gang the units on widely separated lots. That aspect allows for much greater flexibility in land use planning for solar power plants.

While Al Fin prefers combined cycle power plant designs, he will settle for a gas turbine that can run on multiple fuels, including sunlight.

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