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Two Google efforts - solar thermal and high-altitude wind
San Fran Chron ^ | 11/28/2007 | David R. Baker

Posted on 11/28/2007 1:13:18 PM PST by Uncledave

Google's tastes in alternative energy run the gamut from proven technologies to ideas that haven't left the lab. Two ideas the company already is exploring:

Solar thermal

One of the companies Google touted Tuesday, eSolar of Pasadena, develops solar power plants large enough to light a small city.

The basic idea is simple enough. An array of mirrors focuses sunlight on a tower, generating intense heat. That heat, carried by a liquid flowing through the tower, is used to generate steam. The steam turns a turbine and produces electricity.

... But interest in the technology languished for years when electricity prices were low.

Now utilities such as Pacific Gas and Electric Co. are signing contracts with companies eager to build the next generation of solar thermal plants...

The challenge is to lower the cost. With eSolar's technology, the towers are mass-produced and shipped to construction sites largely assembled, and the mirror arrays follow a standard design. That should cut installation time and cost. The company boasts that it can design plants ranging from 25 megawatts to 500 megawatts, enough to power 375,000 homes.

High-altitude wind

The problem with windmills is that sometimes the wind simply doesn't blow. But climb a mile or two into the atmosphere, and the wind turns into a constant, powerful force.

Alameda startup Makani Power, another Google partner, wants to tap that energy. The company won't say how, refusing to divulge details of its technology and plans. But several Makani executives boast experience with designing kites and sails.

Other researchers have proposed kites and helicopter-like machines that can stay aloft for weeks or months. The idea is to create a flying turbine that would send its power back to Earth through some kind of tether.

(Excerpt) Read more at sfgate.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy
KEYWORDS: energy; google; googledems; googlessp; solar
No doubt we'll be hearing lots of PR from google on this initiative. I wish em all the luck. Necessity, Ingenuity and private enterprise -- good stuff.
1 posted on 11/28/2007 1:13:19 PM PST by Uncledave
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To: RedStateRocker; Dementon; eraser2005; Calpernia; DTogo; Maelstrom; Yehuda; babble-on; ...
Renewable Energy Ping

Please Freep Mail me if you'd like on/off

2 posted on 11/28/2007 1:13:51 PM PST by Uncledave
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To: Uncledave

I simple don’t get the idea of a kite windmill actually being light enough to fly.


3 posted on 11/28/2007 1:16:44 PM PST by DungeonMaster (WELL I SPEAK LOUD, AND I CARRY A BIGGER STICK, AND I USE IT TOO!)
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To: DungeonMaster

Maybe I’m being naive, but it seems to me having kites flying at that altitude would drastically increase the probability of aircraft accidents. If the aircraft didn’t hit the kite, it would snag the tether.


4 posted on 11/28/2007 1:19:17 PM PST by knittnmom (...surrounded by reality!)
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To: DungeonMaster

Well duh, a portion of the wind energy generated from the big kite would power the anti-gravity forcefield thingies.

Here’s the Makani Power team: http://www.makanipower.com/team.html

Looks like a team of surfers. But I sure wish em luck!


5 posted on 11/28/2007 1:20:45 PM PST by Uncledave
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To: 80 Square Miles
Maybe I’m being naive, but it seems to me having kites flying at that altitude would drastically increase the probability of aircraft accidents. If the aircraft didn’t hit the kite, it would snag the tether.

Such kites would certainly have to be placed outside of airline corridors. I think they are an extremely stoopid idea that will never fly, the kites that is. However I LOVE normal ole ground based horizontal axis windmills.

6 posted on 11/28/2007 1:21:47 PM PST by DungeonMaster (WELL I SPEAK LOUD, AND I CARRY A BIGGER STICK, AND I USE IT TOO!)
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To: Uncledave
Well duh, a portion of the wind energy generated from the big kite would power the anti-gravity forcefield thingies.

LOL

I bet Vestas and GE wind are all over these things. /sarcasm.

7 posted on 11/28/2007 1:22:56 PM PST by DungeonMaster (WELL I SPEAK LOUD, AND I CARRY A BIGGER STICK, AND I USE IT TOO!)
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To: DungeonMaster

But seriously, a kiddie kite weighing a pound or two stay afloat in nominal ground-level wind speeds.

High altitude wind speeds are in the 100mph vicinity, and fairly constant. With having basically zero knowledge of anything to do with engineering, I can envision that a device with enough surface area and the right aerodynamics can generate enough lift to keep a few hundred pounds of machinery aloft (putting aside issues like tethering, transmitting power, safety, etc)

A glider or hang-glider weighing whatever the heck it does “falls” very slowly.

</blathering without expertise>


8 posted on 11/28/2007 1:31:14 PM PST by Uncledave
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To: Uncledave
... But interest in the technology languished for years when....

..there was a hailstorm at Sandia. Mirrors, you know.

(Seven Years of Bad Luck)*(Many mirrors).

9 posted on 11/28/2007 1:34:49 PM PST by Gorzaloon
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To: Uncledave

See a very cool micrwind generator here...
http://www.ecogeek.org/content/view/1052/


10 posted on 11/28/2007 1:39:14 PM PST by Bobalu (I guess I done see'd that varmint for the last time....)
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To: Uncledave
‘An array of mirrors focuses sunlight on a tower, generating intense heat. “

There was a big solar plant near Bagdad, CA that went belly-up, and its prototype, the Solar Tower at Sandia Labs, is also out of commission.

They are very pretty in operation, with bright beams of light (mirror spillover) visible in the sky.

Perhaps smaller operations will be more manageable.

11 posted on 11/28/2007 1:39:21 PM PST by DBrow
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To: Uncledave
I can envision that a device with enough surface area and the right aerodynamics can generate enough lift to keep a few hundred pounds of machinery aloft (putting aside issues like tethering, transmitting power, safety, etc)

My 4 KW generator weighs a couple of hundred pounds. So we remove the 2 cylinder engine, that leaves about 150# or so. Surely newer inverter types are more efficient, so let's be generous and say 4KW/ hundred pounds of payload. 40 W/Pound.

Now all we need is a bean counter to chime in and give a Go/No go.

12 posted on 11/28/2007 1:40:27 PM PST by Gorzaloon
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To: Gorzaloon

For sh**s and giggles, can anyone here make an informed guess about how much weight can be carried aloft in 100mph wind per square meter of an efficient airfoil?


13 posted on 11/28/2007 1:43:26 PM PST by Uncledave
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To: Uncledave
Looks like a team of surfers. But I sure wish em luck!

Surfers with PhDs from Caltech, MIT and Stanford...

14 posted on 11/28/2007 1:55:14 PM PST by Alter Kaker (Gravitation is a theory, not a fact. It should be approached with an open mind...)
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To: Alter Kaker

Yep, smart dudes, too. That’s a large team they’ve got, if they’re all FT. Google cash can keep you going a while, though. I’d love to see them put out something big!


15 posted on 11/28/2007 1:56:36 PM PST by Uncledave
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To: Uncledave
Much of this is fanciful--what I'd like to see instead is research in reducing the costs of individual homeowners setting up their own solar batteries and converters.

Many new homeowners look into the possibility of equipping their new homes with solar batteries, and almost all give up the idea because of the upfront costs. Google could offer grants to homeowners who go for solar, and the resulting spilloff could create competition with the battery-makers. That would help both homeowners, the environment, and business.

16 posted on 11/28/2007 2:04:10 PM PST by Mamzelle
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To: Uncledave
Every part of the country has one to several types of renewable energy to supplement that from conventional sources, solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, etc. I would like to see those developed in the areas where they each offer the most promise.

There’s much that could be done, on an individual homeowner level and higher up the grid. For example, if a cloudy country such as Germany can produce so much of the world’s solar generated power, think how much our southern states could produce if we were willing to make it feasible.

17 posted on 11/28/2007 2:11:00 PM PST by GBA ( God Bless America!)
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To: Gorzaloon
Or who will the the poor chap that has to clean the mirrors several plus times a year?

SPF 500+ will more likely be cooking oil. Boss...Are you done yet? Employee...I think so, this thing in my belly button just popped out.

18 posted on 11/28/2007 2:15:18 PM PST by Deaf Smith
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To: GBA

Besides high altitude kites/blimps as electricity generating windmills, why not moisture/water collection from passing cloud banks as well? Think of the high and dry northern plains like Wyoming, Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, the Dakotas, Montana, they need WATER more than they need electricity. A moisture-sucking mesh-kite would be just what’s needed.


19 posted on 11/28/2007 2:33:57 PM PST by timer (n/0=n=nx0)
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To: Uncledave; All
Google should acquire this company.
20 posted on 11/28/2007 2:44:53 PM PST by aculeus
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To: Uncledave

I heard this morning that Google was capitalized at $200 BILLION!! What do they have that’s worth that? Thank you, Al Gore.


21 posted on 11/28/2007 4:57:03 PM PST by VanShuyten ("Believe me or not, his intelligence was perfectly clear...But his soul was mad.")
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To: Uncledave
“High altitude wind speeds are in the 100mph vicinity, and fairly constant.”

Nice try, but simply not true. Winds up to 20,000 feet are often below 20 mph.

22 posted on 11/28/2007 5:41:27 PM PST by marktwain
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To: Gorzaloon
I think they use a different type mirror system here
23 posted on 11/28/2007 5:54:21 PM PST by ASOC
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To: marktwain
No doubt in some spots the wind isn't so strong all the time. But you'd want to put these things where average wind is high. The jet streams are always snaking around in different spots, granted, but from what I've poked around on the web there's plenty of high speed, high altitude wind. Here's one guy:

120 Kt winds at 12,000 feet are rare, but not unheard of. An unusually strong mid-level pressure system might produce such winds over a small region. But the upper-level jet stream, usually found above 18,000 feet can reach speeds above 100 mph regularly, and at altitudes of 30,000 feet, 200 mph wind velocities occasionally occur. The "average" jet stream windspeed in wintertime over the northern hemisphere is probably 110-140 kts, at altitudes of 20 to 40 thousand feet.

Wendell Bechtold, meteorologist Forecaster, National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office, St. Louis, MO.

http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/wea00/wea00068.htm

24 posted on 11/28/2007 5:58:07 PM PST by Uncledave
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To: VanShuyten

So when do the libs start hating google like they hate Wal-Mart?


25 posted on 11/28/2007 10:23:51 PM PST by fightinJAG ("Tell the truth. The Pajama People are watching you.")
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