Spotlight: The Eponymous Blog – A Look at Solar

By Katherine Berezowskyj

Now that last week’s scorching summer heat has subsided, Americans might be little less “hot headed” about a discussion on the benefits of the sun’s rays. Yes, that’s right. The same sunshine that caused you to sweat profusely at the thought of getting into your car and kept your air-conditioning running full blast also provided some of the very same electricity through solar power.

There are several different ways to harness the solar radiation, but one of the most cost-effective and land-efficient is Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). It functions just as the name indicates by concentrating sunlight to boil the water and generate high-pressure steam for direct use in power generation.

With continued technological research and development, solar generation is becoming more efficient and is already helping meet growing energy demand. In 2009, there was an increase of over 1 Gigawatt increase in concentrated solar power capacity worldwide.

One example of this technological innovation is AREVA’s Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector (CLFR) system. This solar steam technology uses modular flat reflectors to focus the sun’s heat onto elevated receivers, which consist of a system of tubes through which water flows and boils the water with concentrated sunshine. Mirrors track the sun, reflecting solar heat more efficiently onto boiler tubes to generate steam without the emissions and permitting complications of fossil-fired boilers. In addition, the solar steam generators retain heat, allowing for a more seamless integration with other types of generation. The result is a system that produces steam directly from the sun using less land than any competing solar technology.

At our Kimberlina facility, outside Bakersfield, Calif., AREVA Solar is perfecting the efficiency and operation of this technology. Kimberlina was the first new CSP facility to be built and come online in California in nearly 20 years. Since entering operation, Kimberlina continues to perform well above expectations.

One of the great ways that this technology can be used is to augment or “boost” existing coal- and gas-fired power stations to deliver reliable, emission-free steam that increases plant output, lowers carbon emissions, and provides a hedge against volatile fuel prices.

In partnership with CS Energy, AREVA is working on a 44-MW solar thermal addition to the existing 750-MW Kogan Creek Power Station in Queensland, Australia. This addition will enable the station to produce more electricity with the same amount of coal. Another example in Australia is the 3-MWe Liddell plant – the world’s first coal-fired facility with solar steam augmentation.

Most recently in June, the Australian government selected AREVA Solar as part of a consortium for the government’s Solar Flagship program. Known as “Solar Dawn” the project is a proposed 250 Megawatt solar thermal gas hybrid power plant that will combine AREVA Solar’s CLFR steam generators with a gas boiler back-up system, enabling it to deliver around the clock power.

Stay tuned for more updates as solar technology turns up the heat on low-carbon energy generation.