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Readers are encouraged share their views on issues affecting the electric power engineering profession. Send your letters to Mel Olken, editor in chief, firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters may be edited for publication.
Cost of Solar Versus Nuclear
The emphasis in “The Sun Keeps Shining: Updates in Large-Scale Solar Energy,” in the March/April 2013 issue of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine (“From the Editor” column, vol. 11, no. 2) that solar costs are well below nuclear is not a fair statement. When the capital costs of solar and nuclear are divided by their annual capacity factors, the cost of nuclear energy is less than the cost of solar energy, especially when the cost of energy storage for solar nighttime generation is included. We need to think of solar is best for serving daytime peak loads and nuclear is best for serving nighttime base loads. The two sources complement each other. The IEEE should be working toward each of the sources being developed to serve us in the best manner possible for CO2 reduction.
SoCal Edison’s Solar-1 Plant
The March-April 2013 issue of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine had some excellent articles about the difficulty of integrating solar plants, whose output is highly variable, with loads that are variable in a mostly uncorrelated way.
I remember touring Southern California Edison’s Solar-1 plant with an IEEE group more than ten years ago. It was a solar concentrator with a huge field of steerable mirrors focusing the sun on a black-painted cylindrical heat exchanger at the top of a tall tower. It was astonishing to many of us to see the dull black tank when the plant was off versus the glowing tank, as bright as the sun, when the mirrors were tracking.
I have seen nothing in writing explaining why SoCal Edison abandoned the plant. Perhaps some of our readers can explain.
I read that other private companies are erecting similar plants on the Mojave desert near the site of Solar-1. What do they know that I don’t?
— Myron Kayton