Observations of a Non-Scientist about Sustainable Living, Renewable Energy and the Power of the Sun.

Get Organized

-Ethiopian proverb

Save some for the next guy.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, July 9, 2012

GetRealList - Deal With Reality Or It Will Deal With You

GetRealList - Deal With Reality Or It Will Deal With You

Oil pumpjack with solar tower in background
We’re all familiar with solar as a way to generate electricity and hot water, but now it is being tested as a way to produce oil in one of America’s oldest oil fields. I recently took a Chevron-sponsored trip to their  demonstration plant near Coalinga, in California’s Central Valley. The plant is the first in the world to try using steam generated by a solar thermal plant for enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

Constructed by solar thermal leader BrightSource Energy and completed in August 2011, the 29 megawatt plant uses an array of 7644, 7-foot by 10-foot mirrors mounted on 3822 heliostats to track the sun throughout the day and focus it on a 327-foot-tall central tower.

Solar collector tower in Chevron Coalinga field
Solar collector tower
There, a closed-loop system heats to 700° F, which is then run through a heat exchanger to turn water pumped up from the oil field into 500° F steam, which is in turn injected into the field to release the oil.
A steam injection well
The heliostats are independently controlled by an automated system, and can tolerate up to 25 mph winds in full operation. In the event of a power outage, an on-site uninterruptible power supply turns the heliostats away from the tower, and then a generator fires up and circulates the fluids in the tower until the system cools down.

In order to minimize the amount of water needed to keep the mirrors clean in this dry desert environment, Chevron uses an Israeli-made machine that needs less than 1 liter of water to clean both mirrors on a single heliostat. Using de-mineralized water avoids the need to squeegee the mirrors and leaves no spots behind.
mirror-washing machine

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