Citizen explorer tries to explain the Ivanpah Solar Power Towers

In summary, the Sun is reflected off of a bunch of mirrors which are aimed at a central tower. The sunlight on the tower is used to make steam which in turn operates a turbine generator to make electricity.
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First, here is a riddle:
Why did the tortoise cross the road?
Because an under-pass was available.

An adventurer and desert explorer visited and tried to explain the workings of the solar powered towers at Ivanpah, in the Mojave Desert in California. The person is not any kind of scientist nor engineer, so I wonder if some members on Physicsforums can explain better how those towers work. The person also gave some discussion about dealing with and controlling wildlife in and around the panels and the towers.

Here's the YouTube link.
 
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  • #2
Do you have a specific question about the tower?

In general, this is one of the simplest power plants to describe. Sun is reflected off of a bunch of mirrors which are aimed at a central tower. The sunlight on the tower is used to make steam which in turn operates a turbine generator to make electricity. That's it: Sun -> Heat -> Steam -> Turbine -> Electric generator
 
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There's a lot of misinformation, along with the good info, in the video. So I would take the information given in the video with a grain of salt (Ha! I said "salt"!). But it's not all wrong. There's accurate information intermingled within some misguided opinions and misinformation.

First off, the Ivahpah plant doesn't use salts. (Unless things have changed recently.) It heats up water directly to steam. Maybe she's confused as to which solar plant she's visiting.

The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Facility, and the Solana Generating Station, do use salts, however.

CrescentDunesSolar529px.png

Figure 1. Real world operation of Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Facility

Anyway, what she says about the salt "boiling" is incorrect. The salt melts into a liquid. The molten salt then heats up water to a boil (creating steam), and the steam runs the turbines. The salt itself does not vaporize.

Molten salt can store a lot of energy. This is similar to how a Hot-Pocket(TM), or a tightly wrapped burrito, can (and will, as inevitably is the case) burn the roof of your mouth long after you've taken it out of the kitchen microwave. Imagine a super burrito that stores lots and lots of heat, and can (and will) burn the roof of your mouth well into the night.

--------------------------------

If you're into video games, you'll get some fun experience running around in a concentrated solar facility in Fallout: New Vegas, in the Helios One facility. There are several plot points that revolve around this facility, so if you play the game, you can't miss it.

1000?cb=20101111201829.jpg

Figure 2. Fictional Helios One facility in the video game Fallout: New Vegas.

The Fallout: New Vegas version doesn't have nearby tortoises, but it does have radscorpions, giant ants, and maybe a deathclaw or two in the vicinity.
 
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Related to Citizen explorer tries to explain the Ivanpah Solar Power Towers

1. What is the Ivanpah Solar Power Towers project?

The Ivanpah Solar Power Towers project is a large-scale solar thermal power plant located in the Mojave Desert in California. It consists of three power towers surrounded by thousands of mirrors that reflect sunlight onto boilers at the top of the towers, which creates steam to power turbines and generate electricity.

2. How does the Ivanpah Solar Power Towers project work?

The project works by using concentrated solar power technology, where mirrors are used to reflect sunlight onto a receiver at the top of a tower. The receiver then heats a fluid, typically water, to create steam. The steam then drives turbines to generate electricity.

3. What are the benefits of the Ivanpah Solar Power Towers project?

The project has several benefits, including reducing carbon emissions, using a renewable energy source, and creating jobs in the clean energy sector. It also has a storage system that allows it to continue producing electricity even when the sun is not shining.

4. What are the challenges faced by the Ivanpah Solar Power Towers project?

One of the main challenges faced by the project is its high cost, as concentrated solar power technology is still relatively new and expensive. The project has also faced criticism for its impact on the local environment, including the displacement of wildlife and potential harm to birds.

5. What is the future of the Ivanpah Solar Power Towers project?

The future of the project is uncertain, as it has faced financial difficulties and has not been able to meet its initial production goals. However, with advancements in solar technology and potential improvements to the project's design, it is possible that it could become a more successful and sustainable source of renewable energy in the future.

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