China Switches On World’s Largest Floating Solar Farm — On A Lake Over A Closed Coal Mine


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❝ Last week, workers switched on a solar energy plant capable of producing 40 megawatts of power, which floats on a manmade lake in China’s Anhui province near the city of Huainan…The array is the largest floating solar project in the world, though at the brisk pace China is building new renewable projects it’s unlikely to hold that title very long.

❝ Built by the company Sungrow Power Supply, the power plant will produce enough energy to power 15,000 homes…While the company has not revealed the exact size of the operation, it produces twice as much energy as the previous holder of the largest-floating-solar-plant title, which is located in the same area and was launched by the company Xinyi Solar in 2016.

❝ Anhui province is a coal-rich region, and the Sungrow plant is located on a lake that was once the site of intensive mining. Heavy rains filled the area with water…

So why build solar plants on top of lakes and reservoirs?…Building on bodies of water, especially manmade lakes that are not ecologically sensitive, helps protect agricultural land and terrestrial ecosystems from being developed for energy use. The water also cools the electronics in the solar panels, helping them to work more efficiently…

❝ While the floating solar plant is the largest in the world, it pales in comparison to some of China’s non-floating solar projects. The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park on the Tibetan plateau hosts 4 million solar panels that produce 850 megawatts of energy. Even that will soon be eclipsed by a project in the Ningxia Autonomous Region, which will have 6 million solar panels and produce 2 gigawatts of power.

If Trump’s chumps continue to keep the Republican Party in power, say, until 2024 — we may yet see coal become the cheapest source of mediocre construction stone in the United States. Keeping fewer people employed than Arby’s just to maintain welfare checks flowing into certain corporate bank accounts is an important part of the 18th Century lifestyle so beloved of today’s conservative politicians.

This will become the world’s largest solar power plant — Morocco presses the ON button


Click to enlargeFadel Senna/Getty Images

Morocco has turned on its massive solar power plant in the town of Ourrzazate, on the edge of the Saharan desert. The plant already spans thousands of acres and is capable of generating up to 160 megawatts of power. It’s already one of the biggest solar power grids in the world, capable of being seen from space. And it’s only going to get bigger

Right now, the solar farm is made up of 500,000 curved mirrors, each standing at about 40 feet tall. These mirrors concentrate the sun’s light onto a pipeline filled with fluid, heating it up to 739 degrees Fahrenheit. This fluid is used to heat up a nearby source of water, which turns to steam and spins turbines to create energy. Morocco gets about 3,000 hours of sunlight per year, so there will be plenty of solar energy to harness. But the plant can also keep generating power at night. “The heat from the fluid can be stored in a tank of molten salts…”…

Currently, Noor I can provide solar power to 650,000 locals from dawn until three hours past sunset, according to The Guardian. The finished plant will provide power for 20 hours a day. It’s all part of Morocco’s plan to get up to 42 percent of its power from renewable energies at home, such as solar, wind, and hydropower. Right now, the country is dependent on imports for 97 percent of its energy consumption. The new plant could lessen that dependence while saving Morocco millions of tons in carbon emissions.

Helps the Earth. Helps the economy of a North African nation. Bound to piss off patent leather politicians in Western industrialized nations who are in the pocket of fossil fuel barons. And sheikhs.

Thanks, Honeyman

World’s biggest solar power plant is now up and running


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Did you hear about the largest solar power plant in the world and how it is now producing electricity? Did it make the nightly broadcast news?

Probably not, but Solyndra was all over the news media for a while. There’s a blatant lack of coverage for solar success stories, so it wouldn’t be surprising if most people aren’t hearing about them. California’s Topaz project is the largest solar power plant in the world with a 550 MW capacity, and it is now in full operation. It is located in San Luis Obispo County and has 9 million solar panels. Construction began just two years ago.

The electricity produced by the plant will be purchased by Pacific Gas and Electric. The solar panels were manufactured by First Solar and the project was developed by First Solar.

SEIA says about 200 homes in California are powered for each MW of solar power capacity. So, for a 550 MW solar plant, about 110,000 homes could be powered when the sun is shining. First Solar has said this figure could be 160,000 homes in the case of Topaz…

Using the electricity created by this huge solar plant rather than fossil fuels will prevent the generation of about 377,000 tons of CO2 annually. It will also not produce harmful air pollution the way coal power plants do.

There’s more, of course. If you’re interested enough in solar power to read through a post like this you may already know something of the life and cost of solar panels. Though it’s nice to dust them off to keep efficiency up, that’s about it for maintenance. Convertors to kick DC electricity over to AC need replacement a few times in the life of a system; but, you can expect these critters to last 20 or 30 years with very little reduction in output.

Compared to the cost of coal or even natural gas, compared to the cost of maintaining a nuclear power plant – this is going to cost peanuts. And only squirrelly politicians and flat-earthers would rather spend the extra money for dirty electricity.

Thanks, Mike — GMTA 🙂

World’s largest tunneling machine starts to dig in


Click to see test debut in Japan

Bertha, the world’s largest tunnel boring machine, started digging under Seattle on Tuesday as it chewed through the north wall of the 80-ft deep trench where it was assembled after being shipped in pieces from its manufacturer in Japan. Designed to bore a 1.7 mile tunnel for State Route 99 under the Seattle city center to replace the old viaduct, the machine will both dig out soil and lay a concrete tunnel wall as it goes.

Though Bertha’s construction is one for the record books, it’s only half the story. The other is the SR 99 tunnel itself. The city of Seattle rests on a remarkable geology and the design of both Bertha and the tunnel reflect this. Almost the whole area is one huge glacial redeposit with a complex mixture of soils – some of which is less stable than one would like in an earthquake zone. Furthermore, the city center is heavily built up with the tunnel has to travel under about 160 buildings and the viaduct, which is still in use…

The tunneling route is divided into ten zones. The first of these is where Bertha will go slow, only about six feet per day, as the engineers monitor the huge machine. One drawback of building something unique for a unique job in a unique location is that it isn’t possible to thoroughly test it until it’s actually on the job. As Bertha begins it’s job, the engineers will keep an eye on its workings. There are also three “safe havens” where the crew can crawl forward to inspect the front of the machine. Once the engineers are satisfied, Bertha will speed up until it’s pushing its 326 ft length at 35 ft per day…

In 14 months, the SR 99 tunnel will breach the surface near the intersection of Sixth Avenue North and Harrison Street and the new highway section is scheduled to open in 2015.

The Italian half of my family rejoices. Some of the best hard-rock tunneling equipment and workers come from Italy. That’s how some of my kin got to the Rockies. That and coal mines.

Worlds largest all-bamboo factory building – a chocolate factory

We’ve seen cutting boards, bicycles, floors, even houses made of bamboo, but an organic chocolate factory? Evidently, when Ben Ripple and Frederick Schilling, the two co-CEOs of specialty food company Big Tree Farms talked about sustainably building their new plant, they put their money where their mouths are. Now, the Indonesian island of Bali is home to what BTF claims is the largest all-bamboo commercial building ever constructed, and soon, it’ll be cranking out tasty chocolate bars by the thousands.

Bamboo is definitely regarded as one of the most sustainable building materials in the world,” said Schilling. “What we’ve done here is created this very, very practical building using bamboo with, obviously, sustainability at the core purpose, but at the same time, we were able to create a very aesthetically beautiful building…”

As amazing as it is structurally, bamboo still has a few limitations that need to be addressed before it can be used in open construction. Savvy builders now know to treat the wood with both borax (fire retardant) and boric acid (insecticide), to help protect the occupants and keep termites and other wood-boring pests at bay. A majority of the interior walls, made from woven bamboo strips, were also sealed with a food-grade coating to satisfy local building code requirements.

BTF’s intention is for its traditionally-styled new 26,500 square foot structure to be a “beans to bar” processing plant that will take the organic cacao from thousands of regional farmers and blend it with locally-harvested coconut-palm sugar to create a truly sustainable (and presumably delicious) new line of chocolates. How sweet is that?

Rock on, guys! Offer dark chocolate variations on the theme and I’ll be first in line.

Handling the world’s largest digital images

Those tiny figures are human-size for comparison to the telescope

A new telescope will use the world’s largest digital camera to capture 20 terabytes of image data every day.

Much has been made of the ‘unprecedented’ scale of the IT infrastructure required to store all the data coming from the world’s largest physics experiment – the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland. But another gigantic science experiment, one you’ve probably never heard of, will some day pump out data on a similar scale. And, unlike the LHC, the data it produces will be comprehensible by non-scientists, and made freely available.

Once it’s complete, The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope on top of Cerro Pachón ridge in Chile will sport the world’s largest digital camera. It will peer deep into space yet have a field of view unprecedented in modern telescopes — ten square degrees of the heavens encompassed by a collecting area of forty square meters. The telescope will take 800 panoramic pictures a night, covering the entire night sky twice each week.

The result will be an unfathomably huge photo collection: 20 terabytes of data stored every 24 hours. Running all-out (and telescopes this expensive are usually booked year round) that’s 7.3 petabytes of data a year — half as much data as the 15 petabytes the LHC is producing each year. (To put that in perspective, over its lifetime LHC will produce as much data as all the words spoken by humankind since its appearance on earth.)

In order to handle that much data, once a day all the raw images from the telescope will be transferred to the Archive Center at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where 100 teraflops of processing power will digest and archive it on what will initially be 15 petabytes of storage (to be expanded as the experiment continues).

The results will be freely available to the public via existing open standards, and could help with everything from tracking killer asteroids to unraveling the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter. According to the LSST’s homepage, “Anyone with a computer will be able to fly through the Universe, zooming past objects a hundred million times fainter than can be observed with the unaided eye.”

There will be an app for that. No doubt.

World’s biggest beaver dam discovered using Google Earth

A Canadian ecologist has discovered the world’s largest beaver dam in a remote area of northern Alberta, an animal-made structure so large it is visible from space.

Researcher Jean Thie said Wednesday he used satellite imagery and Google Earth software to locate the dam, which is about 850 metres long on the southern edge of Wood Buffalo National Park…

First discovered in October 2007, the gigantic dam is located in a virtually inaccessible part of the park south of Lac Claire, about 190 kilometres (120 miles) northeast of Fort McMurray.

Construction of the dam likely started in the mid-1970s, said Thie, who made his discovery quite by accident while tracking melting permafrost in Canada’s far north.

Several generations of beavers worked on it and it’s still growing,” he told AFP in Ottawa.

Mike Keizer, spokesman for the park, said rangers flew over the heavily forested marshlands last year to try to “have a look.” They found significant vegetation growing on the dam itself, suggesting it’s very old, he said…

“It’s a unique phenomenon,” he said. “Beaver dams are among the few animal-made structures visible from space.”

Software like Google Earth is simply phenomenal for research like this. In my own neck of the prairie I’ve used it to follow several traces of the historic Camino Real over the southern half of the Caja del Rio mesa – just across the valley from my home.

Gee, I wonder if there are Tea Party libertarian beavers upset over invasion of their privacy by government satellite?