Welcome to the Energy Blog

  • The Energy Blog is where all topics relating to The Energy Revolution are presented. Increasingly, expensive oil, coal and global warming are causing an energy revolution by requiring fossil fuels to be supplemented by alternative energy sources and by requiring changes in lifestyle. Please contact me with your comments and questions. Further Information about me can be found HERE.



After Gutenberg

Clean Break

The Oil Drum


Blog powered by Typepad

« AFS Trinity to Develop Plug-In Drive Train | Main | A123Systems Lithium Batteries Move closer to Production »

February 09, 2006



Another example of why I don't get excited about an 18 MW 'largest PV plant in the world' being built. 18 MW? Who cares?! Here's another solar thermal concentrator plant on the scale of 100+ MW! These things should be popping up all over California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona just as fast as the manufacturers (IAUS, SES, etc.) can build them...




Smells like a scam to me. Can't find any information on the so called purchasing company. The so called breakthrough solar part looks to be nothing more than a fresnel lense.


I'd like to see those 37-foot solar Stirling dishes used as sunshades over all the asphalt parking lots in Orange County.

I'm skeptical of IAS's "technology"; they talk nonsense about "ionizing" steam and other things.  If approached by these people, I suggest you hold onto your wallet.


I second that, Engineer Poet.

If it works, great! But until I see more substantial evidence than something spinning while making noise and puffing steam, I reserve the right to be skeptical. From my engineering experience, this smells funny. (I'm referring to their "rocket steam engine")

I have never heard rocket engines portrayed as efficient before. They are utterly inefficient in terms of thrust/Btu input. And that's at 3000+°F. Efficiency decreases significantly at lower temperature.

If this were true, the news deserved to be on every mechanical engineers' lips!

Modern steam turbines running on 'expensive' dry steam have an efficiency around 90%. It can hardly get a lot better than that. And yes, the latent heat of condensation can be recovered, as enployed in nearly all power plants here in Denmark (combined heat and power = 95% of energy in fuel is utilised)

I'd love to see them make vast improvements on that...

It'd be great if it were true, though.



Some corrections to my post above.

It is true that the normal steam power plant cycle (Rankine cycle) is severely limited in electrical efficiency by the loss of heat in the condenser. Typically, steam turbines allow up to 15% water in the steam at the outlet, leaving the remaining 85% of the latent heat to be lost in the condenser or used for CHP. The best power plants in the world using natural gas are able to reach just under 50% electrical efficiency, coal fired plants a couple of percentage points lower.

If a turbine were able to allow higher fractions of water, more of the latent heat could be utilised, reducing the greatest efficiency killer in the steam turbine cycle.

The temperature and pressure range where IAUS claim to have an advantage are quite inferior to normal power plants. So I'm guessing the efficiency will still be less than 50%. However, these pressures and temperatures are much more manageable in terms of engineering (and operating in the middle of a desert). They are also much easier to achieve by e.g. solar or geothermal heat sources.

So I guess there's a potential after all...


Jim from The Energy Blog

JJ-Sorry to be so slow in answereing your comment, but I was hoping someone else would. What I was refering to as a low price was refering to the fact that their $1,500 per kW was a low cost compared to other solar technologies. To the best that I can guess, as there is very little published information, the installed cost of conventional thermal solar costs on the order of $3,500/kW and large scale PV solar is somewhere near $6,000/kw. These values are probably +_25%. Only the capital cost need be compared because the energy costs are zero and the O&M costs are quite small.

When comparing solar to other processes many other factors come into play such such as availability, energy costs, O&M costs, interests during construction and plant lifetime. I am in the process of constructing a simplistic, crude model of all processes, which results in a cost of electricity, not ROI. It is implied that ROI is the same for all processes. The pupose of the model is to have a standard way of comparing the cost of electricity from the various processes, not so much to come up with the exact cost of electricity.

Preliminary results show that the IAUS process, as advertised, would produce electricity that is less expensive than electricity from natural gas but more expensive than electricity from any form of coal or nuclear generation. It is more expensive than either onshore or offshore wind. I am quite sure of these qualatative comparisons, but I am not ready to quote any exact figures. The important result is that IAUS solar would be less expensive than natural gas, which is primarily used for peaking, the same market that solar would be likely to compete in. My results indicate that conventional thermal solar without incentives is quite a bit more costly than natural gas. All of the large plants being built today are receiving significant incentives.

Jim from The Energy Blog

Thomas-I would make the point that efficiencies and all theoretical calculations are not needed to compare solar energy to other processes. Since no energy is required and O&M is quite small, the only things that matters are capital cost, lifetime and availability. See the above comment for my first cut at evaluating the various electrical generating technologies.

Daniel Abramov

I am enjoying the conversation here regarding IAUS' technology.

I'm interested in acquiring some further insight as to how this solar-thermal powerplant will assist in the generation of hydrogen.

From the IR (son of Neldon Johnson) rep, it seems that they are trying to extract H2 from water, but it seems hardly viable to use so much energy to break the large number of hydrogen (and stronger yet, covalent) bonds and leave an O++ as a free radical.

I'm boggled at the idea that all of NEVADA/ARIZONA/CALIFORNIA/NEW MEXICO, etc are NOT using technologies similar to that of IAUS on a larger extent. What are the limitations to it and possible reasons for the lack of implementation?

So to summarize, if someone would be kind enough to answer these questions:

1. What method of hydrogen generation can IAUS employ to derive H2 from H2O in a solar-thermal powerplant.

2. How competitive is their "patent-pending" technology to others in the market-place.

3. What would it take for IAUS to construct this powerplant in the middle of the desert as everyone has overtly stated.

Thank you for your time, efforts and opinions.



Jim from The Energy Blog

1. As far as I know the only commercially developed way that hydrogen can be produced from thermal solar processes is to use it to produce electricity and then use the electricity to electrolize water and produce hydrogen. This is the process that you were describing and it is very energy intensive and requires a low cost source of electricity. A directory of methods of producing solar hydrogen can be found here but as far as I know none of these processes are commercial or could be used with the IAUS thermal solar system. The more economical processes extract hydrogen from a hydrocarbon fuel. As far as I am concerned using hydrocarbons to produce hydrogen is the wrong way to go because we have will have limited supplies of hydrocarbons by the time the hydrogen economy is suposed to be here. So for now we should be developing low cost solar systems, which, if it works, may be able to be scaled up to produce even lower cost electricity. IAUS claims a very low cost system, but that has yet to be demonstrated. In order to achieve extremely low costs, gigawatt size solar systems will eventually be required. Whether PV or thermal systems will be the lowest cost is a horse race now. I am betting that even though thermal systems are the least expensive now, PV systems will eventually win the race-I think they have better economies of scale, but no one really knows.
2. It is too early to tell how competitve IAUS is. If they meet their claims they will be very competitive, but there are many skeptics at this point because a) IAUS has not been open about there technology and b)I believe they are trying too scale up their technology without adequate testing on a small scale. They do have one big advantage in that the large plant is just a replication of the individual units that they have built. They have not published any test data on these units. The purchasers of this plant and the ones financing the plant must have been given something on which to base their approval of the plant.
3. Construction of the plant in the desert should not be a big problem. Several other plants are being built in the desert, both in the US and in Spain and Portugal.

As far as your question about why more plants haven't been built it is a) that unless the price of oil is where it is they cannot compete b) all of the suppliers (4 or 5) are very busy now and they can't handle much more business than they have now c) none of the current suppliers have that much experience, so the risk of building more plants would be high. Two years from now if they have success with the current batch of plants and if the price of oil is still favorable you will see more plants.

Daniel Abramov

Jim, thank you for your response.

In your opinion, what do you think is an economically viable cost to produce thermal electricity that would provide the company a competitive advantage over other providers of electricity (i.e. thermal electricity vs. PV, hydroelectric, carbon-based (coal,etc) and nuclear) on a per Watt or kWh basis.

I'm trying to figure out how 'competitive' IAUS' technology would be to other, market ready sources of electricity.

IAUS' has provided me with a number for their costs... but i'm looking to find comparisons.

I'm looking forward to your response.



This company's only business is to boost their stock by false press releases. If you believe they have anything supporting their claims I recommend you to do some background checks on the company. You won't find any info about this deal from any sources outside of IAS...

Leo Scheiner

It is now almost a year later. No sign of anything stirring. No sign of the purchasing company. Did some research on IAUS. Their filings show a company with zero assets. Their family shareholders are selling large blocks of their shares on a daily basis (I am surprised they find any takers). I think the last post has it right "This company's only business is to boost their stock by false press releases." I very much doubt the reality of the claims for any of the solar or turbine products. If the promises were true, their products would be going up like mushrooms. These people launched back in the 80s with a share price of $40 now 45 cents. About once a year they come up with an anouncement that makes the shares bounce. Hope springs eternal.


Any updates on IAUS?


International Automated Systems's common stock has been deleted from OTC Bulletin Board effective December 6, 2007, on account of its failure to comply with NASD 6530.

The lack of transparency doesn't generate much confidence.


Thanks for the reply, sounds like they are not doing what they said they could. That is lame. Oh'well thanks for the update.


I have found a new update on the progress of iaus. It was shown on our six o'clock news this evening. It looks like IAUS has a plan to complete several towers to help power parts of souther california. Here is the news link to find more info.



I think this website is great, but it doesn't offer the ability to print out basic info on the description of these energy solutions/technologies.

The comments to this entry are closed.

. .

Batteries/Hybrid Vehicles