Chevron taps solar-powered steam to get more oil

Solar power, it turns out, can mean more than just clean electrons and home hot water systems.

Chevron on Friday disclosed plans to use solar thermal technology from BrightSource Energy to enhance oil recovery from an aging well in central California.

The system will use 7,000 mirrors on Chevron-owned land to reflect light onto a tower to make steam. The steam will be pumped underground to heat up heavy oils and make them easier to extract, according to a Reuters report. Right now, Chevron uses natural gas to make steam.

Concentrating solar power has emerged as one of the … Read more

Solar Trust offers 'turnkey' solar thermal option

Newly formed thermal solar energy company Solar Trust announced on Tuesday it acquired the rights to Solar Millennium's potentially lucrative agreement with Southern California Edison (SCE).

The power purchase agreement, which was announced in June, gives Solar Trust the opportunity to build up to 726 megawatts' worth of solar power plants.

If approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, the project would include the construction and installation of two or three 242-megawatt power plants that would be operational by 2013 or 2014.

Solar Trust's strategy is to offer what it calls a "turnkey solution" to thermal … Read more

eSolar plugs solar plant into California grid

eSolar is doing what so many other solar start-ups wish they were already doing: feeding electricity into the grid.

The 2-year-old concentrating solar company on Wednesday will host an event in Lancaster, Calif., to celebrate the opening of a demonstration facility that's converting the sun's desert heat into electricity.

At five megawatts--enough to supply about 1,500 homes or up to 4,000 during peak hours--it's making a modest contribution to overall electricity generation. But the Lancaster plant has been crucial to proving that eSolar's technology produces cost-effective electricity and can be replicated, said company CEO … Read more

Touring the ultimate 'green' house

SNOWMASS, Colo.--Residential living doesn't get much more efficient than this.

Here, out in the country not far from the ritz and glamour of Aspen, you're more likely to find ranchers and wide-open farmland than movie stars. But what you will find, at the original headquarters of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit sustainability think tank, is a house that could teach us all a few lessons in energy efficiency and comfort.

It is the home of RMI founder Amory Lovins and also serves as office space--though RMI's official headquarters is now nearby in Snowmass on a … Read more

Nobel laureate: Wind is not the future

While the Obama administration has expressed increasing hopes that wind power will play a key role in America's future energy system, one of the world's leading scientists is ruling out the technology.

Jack Steinberger, the 1968 Nobel Prize winner in physics and director of CERN's particle-physics laboratory, spoke at a conference of Nobel laureates at the 350-year-old Royal Society in London last week.

His conclusion: "Wind is not the future," according to the London Times.

Steinberger says Europe should cancel its big wind plans and that solar energy is the future.

Historical resources in the … Read more

Spain plugs in largest solar-tower power plant

Abengoa Solar of Spain on Monday reported successful tests of its second solar tower in operation, in which the sun's heat is used to make electricity.

The 531-foot solar tower, located near Seville, Spain, features a number of improvements on the first design and has exceeded the anticipated output. Called PS20, the installation is the largest in the world with a capacity of 20 megawatts, enough electricity to supply 10,000 homes, according to the company.

A solar tower configuration uses a field of heliostats, or mirrors, to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver held in the tower. The heat … Read more

Solar energy 'power towers' to light up California

Utility Southern California Edison on Wednesday announced a giant solar energy contract with BrightSource Energy, which could eventually result in powering 845,000 homes with the sun's energy.

Through a series of seven projects, SCE intends to purchase up to 1,300 megawatts of electricity from BrightSource Energy's solar towers that use heat to produce electricity.

Although the companies didn't provide a price tag for the deal, it's one of the biggest solar energy contracts to date in the U.S. and a validation of solar tower technology. The project still needs to be approved by … Read more

Financing woes shrink Ausra's big solar plans

Updated at 10:00 a.m. PT with comments from Ausra providing more detail on its strategy.

Because of a lack of financing, solar-technology company Ausra has dropped plans to make massive solar-thermal power plants in favor of smaller, cheaper units.

Ausra President and CEO Bob Fishman told different news outlets this week that the company has been forced to change its business strategy in response to the credit crisis. The company is also laying off staff as part of the reorganization, according to reports.

The change is a clear sign of how the credit crisis and the current structure … Read more

B-52 crews pull shades on nukes

Having your shadow scorched into the wall is one drawback to detonating a nuclear weapon; being blinded by the flash (PDF) and not being able to drive away in your B-52 Stratofortress is another.

Now engineers at the 540th Aircraft Sustainment Squadron's B-52 Communications Navigation and Weapons Flight have designed a thermal curtain that could protect aircrews from that blinding light (PDF).

The curtain resembles a common windshield sunshade used in passenger cars, except these cost $2,500 for a seven-shade set. Measuring about a tenth of an inch thick, 40 inches to 50 inches long, and 30 inches … Read more

SkyFuel heats up solar thermal power race

Update on October 13, 2008 6:30 a.m. PT: Corrections to the SkyFuel's relationship to NREL and it's projected cost of delivered electricity.

Even with the teetering economy, solar companies are bullish that tapping free energy from the sun is a solid financial move.

SkyFue on Friday is hosting an event to unveil its solar power plant system: a parabolic trough made from reflective plastic. Colorado Gov. Bill Rittner will speak at the event, held at SkyFuel's research center in Arvada, Colo.

Parabolic troughs have been around for decades and are considered the incumbent technology in … Read more