Sustainability: Spring Clean-Up
Mesa County, famous for mesas, monuments and memories, also is home to the only hybrid solar-coal plant demonstration project in the world.
Located at Xcel Energy’s Cameo Generating Station north of Interstate 70 just east of Palisade, the Colorado Integrated Solar Project came on line April 16, the day after I participated in a Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce tour of the solar portion of the facility.
Part of the Innovative Clean Technology Program authorized by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, this is actually a pilot program in conjunction with Abengoa Solar.
The Spanish solar company has offices around the globe, including in Lakewood. According to the company website, http://www.abengoasolar.com, Abengoa develops technologies creating “solar power for a sustainable world.”
Fred Eggleston, Xcel area manager for community affairs, dubbed the project “a great learning experiment” using ultra-pure parabolic mirrors to concentrate solar power that ties in with the coal plant.
A 6.4-acre field is filled with eight 500-foot parabolic solar trough collectors that concentrate the sun’s energy to heat mineral oil fluid to temperatures in the 375– to 575-degree range. The hot oil then heats water that flows into a boiler, helping to raise the water temperature by about 50 degrees.
Inside the boiler in Unit 2, coal dust is burned to heat the water until it turns into steam that propels the big blades of a turbine, generating electricity.
The system has redundant control systems and is very secure. Modifying the control systems to incorporate the solar addition is one of the ongoing challenges of the project.
Eggleston explained that even if this unique project were not subsidized, the concept still makes “economic sense.”
Xcel wants to produce the equivalent of one megawatt of renewable electric power from the solar energy at the plant to supplement the 49-megawatts generated by coal.
However, Xcel’s larger goal is “to test the commercial viability of using solar power to reduce the overall consumption of coal, reduce emissions from the plant, and if successful, increase the opportunity for cost-effective renewable power generation in Colorado.”
During a one-year period, 900 tons of coal are projected to be saved and carbon dioxide emissions are to be reduced by 2,000 tons.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has authorized the demonstration plant only through the end of December because the project was supposed to be running last November. However, Eggleston said Xcel wants to can get permission for performance testing for an entire year, through April 2011.
To find out more details about this cutting-edge project, go to http://www.xcelenergy.com/Colorado/Company/Environment/CO-Innovative-Clean-Technology/Pages/ColoradoIntegratedSolarProject.aspx.
Before the tour, Eggleston also touched on energy conservation and advances in technology for appliances. Refrigerators are the biggest energy draw in most homes.
“If your fridge is more than five years old and you replace it with a new, efficient model, you can recoup the cost in just three years,” he explained.
This is especially true with all the new rebates.
Xcel is a leader in energy generated by renewable sources and is well positioned for any upcoming energy legislation including cap and trade, according to Eggleston.