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first solar trough energy plant built for 17 years

“The plant uses a solar thermal generator and mirrors to concentrate the sun's energy to heat oil. The heat from the oil is then used to drive a turbine/generator that produces electricity.”

Image credit: EERE, U.S. Department of Energy

“Previously there were only nine solar trough thermal plants in the world - all located in California and still operating- known as SEGS [Solar Electric Generating System] plants that were built by LUZ International during the 1980s and 1990s.”

“This solar trough system combines the relatively low cost of parabolic solar trough thermal technology with the commercially available, smaller turbines usually associated with low temperature geothermal generation plants [...]”

what is solar trough energy?

“Trough solar systems use parabolic curved, trough shaped reflectors focus the sun's energy onto a receiver pipe running at the focus of the reflector. Because of their parabolic shape, troughs can focus the sun at 30-60 times its normal intensity on the receiver pipe. The concentrated energy heats a heat transfer fluid (HTF), usually oil, flowing through the pipe. This fluid is then used to generate steam which powers a turbine that drives an electric generator. The collectors are aligned on and east-west axis and the trough is rotated to follow the sun to maximize the suns energy input to the receiver tube. [...] Current cost of electricity from these plants is $0.10 to $0.12 per kWh. The current goal of ongoing development by EERE is to reduce the cost to $0.035 to $0.043 per kWh by 2020.”

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developing renewable energy certificate (australia) and carbon trading (europe)

A major ‘discussion’ for future energy supplies will be between macro-producers and micro-generation.

“But enthusiasm from homeowners dreaming of self-sufficiency has not been matched by the power industry, which remains deeply tied to dirtier -- but cheaper -- coal-fired plants to generate more than 80 percent of Australia's electricity.

Uncertainty about the long-term policy on carbon emission caps as well as volatility in REC pricing can mean buying RECs, rather than directly investing in renewable generation, is the most feasible alternative for all but the largest retailers.

“Last year the government extended its renewable energy target to 2020, but it has been criticised for its refusal to raise the 9,500 gigawatt-threshold to reflect growing energy demand.”


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energy security and ‘russia’ - nuclear energy is vital for uk independence and security

“Gazprom's interest in buying Centrica and Scottish Power, meanwhile, is an element of a larger strategy to secure a substantial share of the western European gas market, to be supplied by a pipeline planned to reach our shores by 2013. But the threat to leave us begging for gas if we thwart that plan tells us much of what we need to know about Gazprom. Just as Vladimir Putin is at heart an authoritarian nationalist rather than anyone's idea of a democrat, so his strategic energy weapon, Gazprom, is a natural monopolist and political puppet rather than anyone's idea of a friendly competitor.

“Our energy sector was not liberalised in order to allow access for the corporate equivalent of a column of Russian battle tanks with snow on their turrets: until it proves itself otherwise, Alan Johnson would be right to treat Gazprom as an exception to the rule of open British markets.”

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solar energy incentives in the usa

For example, in California:

“New rebates and tax credits can pay for up to 50 - 75% of system costs.”

“[...] there are major financial incentives available from the state and federal governments to encourage investment in solar energy: a rebate, property tax exemption and Net Energy Metering law from the state of California; and an investment tax credit and accelerated depreciation schedule from the federal government.” [Quoted from SPG Solar]

marker at

Rolling photographic examples of residential and business solar projects from a site with much useful data.

marker at

US government site for energy efficiency and renewable energy. Links to all states, giving information on

  • EERE-sponsored projects in the states
  • EERE’s cooperative projects and grants to the states
  • Breaking news about state involvement in energy projects
  • State energy statistics
  • State maps of renewable energy resources
  • Case studies and state publications.

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Discussion on using solar panels for power generation.

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on growing interest in cellulosic and other biofuels

This news item has been incorporated in the Biofuel briefing document.

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from a feeble attempt to justify suvs

“Brown is trying to tap into this liberal outrage, the fashionable disdain for 4x4s, the transformation of drivers of big cars into hate figures for those who think we should live simpler, more ethical lives. But something about this campaign to drive 4x4s off our roads doesn't add up. Campaigners will say that 4x4s emit more COČ than other cars - that might be true, but they emit less COČ than some everyday household appliances. According to research published last year, one cycle of a kitchen dishwasher releases around 756g of COČ, more than double that produced by a short spin in a Range Rover Turbo Diesel, which releases 299g per kilometre. Using a petrol lawnmower for an hour reportedly releases more than 1,000g of COČ. Why are there no campaigns against 'evil dishwashers'? Does Mayor Ken [Ken Livingstone, mayor of London] think that people who mow their lawns with petrol-based mowers on a Sunday morning are 'complete idiots' too? (Actually, he probably does, come to think of it.)

London buses, which are seen by many environmentalists as the best alternative to having too many cars on the roads, emit around 1,406g of COČ per kilometre, more than four times that choked out by the average 4x4. And to put things in perspective, a holiday for a family of four to Disneyworld in Florida, with all the travelling and consumption involved in such an endeavour, apparently releases a whopping 2,415,000g of COČ. It would take 9,600 miles in a 4x4 to create that much carbon. Now I know that some greens would like to ban overseas holidays - or certainly want to see bigger, fatter taxes on cheap flights in order to force more of us to consider going to the Lake District instead of Disneyworld. But seriously, if we are going to measure everything we do by how much CO² we create, then there are worse things than dropping Chloe off at the schoolgates in a jeep.”

London buses tend to carry far more people than 4 SUVs.

In the United States, I’ve seen figures that talk in terms of an arms race. Those in SUV crashes getting less injuries on average than those in smaller vehicles. SUVs are also a real parking nuisance, among other things they either stick out sideways beyond other vehicles or are left on the pavement They also loom over walkways and cars and make road visibility more difficult. They are not merely innocent toys.

Further, dependence on Middle East oil is a serious problem.

This article is not disinterested, though some of the comparative figures look interesting.

related material
transportable fuels

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real mass usage alternatives to fossil fuels

transport fuel as oil runs out
From a speech by Republican senator Richard G. Lugar:

“The first step is to admit how grave the problem is. Hopefully, we will look back on President Bush’s declaration that America is “addicted to oil” as a seminal moment in American history, when a U.S president said something contrary to expectations and thereby stimulated change. Like President Nixon using his anti-communist credentials to open up China or President Johnson using his Southern roots to help pave the way for the Civil Rights Act, President Bush’s standing as an oil man would lend special power to his advocacy, if he chose to initiate an all-out campaign for renewable energy sources.”

“We are seeing Iran and Venezuela cultivate energy relationships with important nations that are in a position to block economic sanctions. For decades, we have watched Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states use oil wealth to create domestic conditions that prevent movement toward democracy. In Russia and Nigeria, energy assets have offered opportunities for corruption. In many oil rich nations, oil wealth has done little for the people, while ensuring less reform, less democracy, fewer free market activities, and more enrichment of elites.

“Beyond the internal costs to these nations, we should recognize that we are transferring hundreds of billions of dollars each year to some of the least accountable regimes in the world. Some are using this money to invest abroad in terrorism, instability, or demagogic appeals to populism. ”

“Even a nation like Ethiopia, which receives the substantial sum of $134 million in U.S. assistance because it is a focus country of the President’s AIDs initiative, would see almost all of this offset by a $10 oil price increase.”

“Automakers have a central role to play in improving our oil efficiency. We are working to close the SUV CAFE standards loophole, and to get more hybrids and flex-fuel vehicles on the road. A fleet of hybrid, and future plug-in hybrids, that run on E85 could reduce our oil use by 10 million barrels a day.”

“It is time for the oil companies to make E85 available to the consumer. If these companies do not take advantage of the incentives Congress has provided, I would be in favor of legislation mandating that they install E85 pumps in appropriate markets.”

An extremely interesting speech by the senator, giving evidence that the American government are remarkably aware of the current problems being caused by the foolish use of fossil fuel and the failure over decades to take appreopriate action.

Yet throughout the speech, there is only one minor use of the word 'nuclear', the only real large-scale alternative to fossil fuels. Yet there is a lot of unrealistic Pollyanna nonsense about being saved by bio-fuels.

plutonium is part of the solution, rather than a problem
extracts from The Nuclear Energy Option by Bernard L Cohen

“Deriving 100 times as much energy from the same amount of uranium fuel means that the raw fuel cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced is reduced correspondingly. In fact, the fuel costs per unit of useful energy generated in a breeder reactor are equivalent to those of buying gasoline at a price of 40 gallons for a penny! Instead of contributing 5% to the price of electricity as in present-type reactors, the uranium cost then contributes only 0.05% in a breeder reactor. If supplies should run short, we can therefore afford to use uranium that is 20 times more expensive, for even that would raise the cost of electricity by only (20 x .05 =) 1%. How much uranium is available at that price?

“The answer is effectively infinite because it includes uranium separated out of seawater. The world's oceans contain 5 billion tons of uranium, enough to supply all the world's electricity through breeder reactors for several million years. But in addition, rivers are constantly dissolving uranium out of rock and carrying it into the oceans, renewing the oceans' supply at a rate sufficient to provide 25 times the world's present total electricity usage.2 In fact, breeder reactors operating on uranium extracted from the oceans could produce all the energy humankind will ever need without the cost of electricity increasing by even 1% due to raw fuel costs.”

“The link between nuclear power and the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a weak and largely insignificant one.”

“ It was estimated in 1977 that a crude facility to produce material for a few bombs could be put together and operated by five people at a cost of $100,000. A plant capable of longer-term production of material for eight bombs per year could be built and operated by 15 people, half of them engineers and the other half technicians, at a cost of $2 million.”

“It is not difficult to understand why these nations are unwilling to trust their very survival to the mercy of Arab sheiks or the whims of American presidents for the indefinite future. They desperately want some degree of energy independence, and reprocessing technology is the key to the only way they can foresee of ever achieving it.”

“One of the most disturbing aspects of the proliferation problem is the utter lack of information on it that has been made available to the American public. I doubt if more than 1% of the public has any kind of balanced understanding of the subject. Based on the little information provided to them, most people have a distinct impression that our use of nuclear power adds substantially to the risk of nuclear war.

“This impression has been cemented by the tactic of anti-nuclear activists to tie nuclear weapons and nuclear power together in one package, purposely making no effort to distinguish between the two.”

Regarding a Princeton student who designed a nuclear bomb:

“Phillips was being called by media people so frequently that he had to have a separate telephone installed in his dormitory for that purpose. His professor told me that he himself had been contacted by many newsmen, but they never printed what he told them — they only trumpeted that Phillips had designed a workable bomb.”

“There have been numerous statements in newspapers, including our university paper, that any college student could design a nuclear bomb. In reply, I published an offer in our university paper of an unqualified A grade in both of the two courses on nuclear energy that I was teaching for any student who can show me a sketch of a workable plutonium bomb together with a quantitative calculation showing that it would work. My offer has been repeated about 10 times over the last 15 years. Three students turned in papers, but none of them had as much as 5% of what could be called a design.”

“[To build a nuclear bomb] requires people capable of carrying out complex physics and engineering computations, handling hazardous materials, arranging electronically for a hundred or so triggers to fire simultaneously within much less than a millionth of a second, accurately shaping explosive charges, attaching them precisely and connecting the triggers to them, and so on.”

On the toxicity of plutonium:

“There were about 25 workers from Los Alamos National Laboratory who inhaled a considerable amount of plutonium dust during the 1940's; according to the hot-particle theory, each of them has a 99.5% chance of being dead from lung cancer by now, but there has not been a single lung cancer among them.”

“[...] In response, I offered to inhale publicly many times as much plutonium as he said was lethal. At the same time, I made several other offers for inhaling or eating plutonium — including to inhale 1,000 particles of plutonium of any size that can be suspended in air, in response to "a single particle . . . will cause cancer, " or to eat as much plutonium as any prominent nuclear critic will eat or drink caffeine. My offers were such as to give me a risk equivalent to that faced by an American soldier in World War II, according to my calculations of plutonium toxicity which followed all generally accepted procedures. These offers were made to all three major TV networks, requesting a few minutes to explain why I was doing it. I feel that I am engaged in a battle for my country's future, and hence should be willing to take as much risk as other soldiers.”

“It is 5,000 times more dangerous to inhale plutonium than to eat it, and eating plutonium is about equal in danger to eating the same quantity of caffeine. Thus, if I were to do what the writer said I offered to do, I would be taking (1,000 x 5,000 =) 5 million times greater risk than Nader would be taking in eating the caffeine — I would surely be dead. Actually I offered to eat (not inhale) the same amount (not 1,000 times as much) of plutonium as he would eat caffeine, giving us equal risks. My offer to inhale plutonium was a completely separate item, intended to point out the ridiculousness of his statements about the dangers of inhaling plutonium. How a national correspondent can interpret my quote as he did, and how an editor can then fail to understand the difference when it is pointed out to him, is beyond my comprehension. Nevertheless, it is people like them, rather than the scientists, who are educating the public about radiation. ”

“In summary, a pound of plutonium dispersed in a large city in the most effective way would cause an average of 19 deaths due to inhaling from the dust cloud during the first hour or so, with 7 additional deaths due to resuspension during the first year, and perhaps 1 more death over the remaining tens of thousands of years it remains in the top layers of soil. This gives and ultimate total of 27 eventual fatalities per pound of plutonium dispersed.”

“I have been closely associated professionally with questions of plutonium toxicity for several years, and the one thing that mystifies me is why the antinuclear movement has devoted so much energy to trying to convince the public that it is an important public health hazard. Those with scientific background among them must realize that it is a phony issue. There is nothing in the scientific literature to support their claims. There is nothing scientifically special about plutonium that would make it more toxic than many other radioactive elements. Its long half life makes it less dangerous rather than more dangerous, as is often implied; each radioactive atom can shoot off only one salvo of radiation, so, for example, if half of them do so within 25 years, as for a material with a 25-year half life, there is a thousand times more radiation per minute than emissions spread over 25,000 years, as in the case of plutonium.”

On safety regarding plutonium:

“I am often asked why such tight regulations are imposed on plutonium releases if they involve so little danger. The answer is that government regulators are driven much less by actual dangers than by public concern.”

“The difficulty with this system is that the public interprets very elaborate safety measures as indicators of great potential danger. This increases public concern and perpetuates what has become a vicious cycle involving all aspects of radiation protection — the more we protect, the greater the public concern; and the greater the public concern, the more we must protect.”

related material
replacements for fossil fuels—what can be done about it?
transportable fuel
nuclear power - is nuclear power really really dangerous?

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g8 usa and russia now correctly pushing nuclear energy to the top of the agenda

“MOSCOW, March 16 (Reuters) - Russia and the United States called on Thursday for the world to embrace nuclear power to guarantee stable supplies of energy and cut emissions of harmful greenhouse gases.

“The two, former Cold War foes who still control the world's biggest arsenals of nuclear weapons, made their atomic appeal at a meeting of energy ministers from the Group of Eight nations in Moscow.

“ "We are hopeful of a very substantial rebirth of the global nuclear industry," U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told a post-meeting news conference.

“A statement issued by Russia, chairing the G8 for the first time this year, supported "safe and secure" nuclear power as a key alternative in an era of soaring oil prices.

“ "Atomic energy alternatives must be accessible to other countries, including developing countries," Russian President Vladimir Putin told energy ministers in the Kremlin.”

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bush coming into the open over energy - first steps

“This morning, I want to speak to you about one part of this initiative: our plans to expand the use of safe and clean nuclear power. Nuclear power generates large amounts of low-cost electricity without emitting air pollution or greenhouse gases. Yet nuclear power now produces only about 20 percent of America's electricity. It has the potential to play an even greater role. For example, over the past three decades, France has built 58 nuclear power plants and now gets more than 78 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. Yet here in America, we have not ordered a new nuclear power plant since the 1970s. So last summer I signed energy legislation that offered incentives to encourage the building of new nuclear plants in America. Our goal is to start the construction of new nuclear power plants by the end of this decade.

“As America and other nations build more nuclear power plants, we must work together to address two challenges: We must dispose of nuclear waste safely, and we must keep nuclear technology and material out of the hands of terrorist networks and terrorist states.

“To meet these challenges, my Administration has announced a bold new proposal called the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. Under this partnership, America will work with nations that have advanced civilian nuclear energy programs, such as France, Japan, and Russia. Together, we will develop and deploy innovative, advanced reactors and new methods to recycle spent nuclear fuel. This will allow us to produce more energy, while dramatically reducing the amount of nuclear waste and eliminating the nuclear byproducts that unstable regimes or terrorists could use to make weapons.

“As these technologies are developed, we will work with our partners to help developing countries meet their growing energy needs by providing them with small-scale reactors that will be secure and cost-effective. We will also ensure that these developing nations have a reliable nuclear fuel supply. In exchange, these countries would agree to use nuclear power only for civilian purposes and forego uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities that can be used to develop nuclear weapons. My new budget includes $250 million to launch this initiative. By working with other nations under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, we can provide the cheap, safe, and clean energy that growing economies need, while reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation.

“As we expand our use of nuclear power, we're also pursuing a broader strategy to meet our energy needs. We're investing in technologies like solar and wind power and clean coal to power our homes and businesses. We're also investing in new car technologies like plug-in hybrid cars and in alternative fuels for automobiles like ethanol and biodiesel.

“Transforming our energy supply will demand creativity and determination, and America has these qualities in abundance. Our Nation will continue to lead the world in innovation and technology. And by building a global partnership to spread the benefits of nuclear power, we'll create a safer, cleaner, and more prosperous world for future generations. ”

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