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February 28, 2007



Anyone know where the break-even point is on the solar tower? The solar tower has free fuel, but a high up-front cost versus the combined cycle gas plants that have low up-front costs but higher fuel costs.


Paul Dietz

Anyone know where the break-even point is on the solar tower?

I vaguely recall seeing a figure of 100 MW, but that was years ago and the underlying assumptions have no doubt changed some.

One interesting possibility for using high concentration towers of this kind is in a thermochemical hydrogen system, btw. There are some water splitting cycles in which, as part of the cycle, a metal oxide is reduced at very high temperature, liberating some or all of its oxygen as O2. This would be done with a solar tower by dropping pellets of the oxide through the focus, where they would be heated to very high temperature for a brief period.

Stephen Boulet

I don't think that cost per peak power is a great metric. Cost per MW times the capacity factor would be more relevant.


Carl Hage

As Stephen mentions, $5/W for Solar tower, vs $1.50/W for wind, vs $.65/W gas is pretty meaningless measuring "rated power". What really matters is the $/KW-year in construction cost, or $/KWh including capital+fuel+maintenance. Unfortunately, it's rare to see measures in KWh (average or whatever) vs KW-peak, so almost all these are bogus.

It's interesting to compare this approach vs the Stirling Energy Systems solar dish: a 1MW demo was supposed to complete spring 2007, then a 300+500MW solar farm near Los Angeles and San Diego. No prices given and no news for quite some time-- at least what I could find.

Buddy Ebsen

I believe the links at the end are to a different 'solar tower' technology. The article refers to a mirror array concentrating sun on the top of the tower, the other two links refer to a 'greenhouse' type setup where the sun heats air which is forced up the tower chimney, powering several wind turbines.

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