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Route 66 News

Solar plant near Daggett may be upgraded

A concentrated-solar power plant just off Route 66 in Daggett, Calif., is nearing its 30th year, and its owners say they want to improve it so it can operate for a few more decades, according to a story by Clean Technica.

From the story:

The plants use parabolic trough technology that uses curved mirrors to reflect sunlight onto a receiver containing fluids – in this case oils and synthetic fluids. That creates steam and drives a turbine. Now the owners, Cogentrix, owned by the Carlyle Group, are looking to upgrade the plant and possibly add storage as it seeks a new PPA to cover the next 20 years of operations. […]

Brad Bergman, the general manager of SEGS I and II, told RenewEconomy during a tour of the plants last week that CSP plants grow old gracefully and can continue to operate almost indefinitely. The initial capital cost has been depreciated, and any upgrades in equipment will be small in comparison. […]

Bergman is currently testing a range of new trough designs that will improve efficiency, and he is also looking at storage options.

SEGS 1 actually had storage when it began in 1985, using the heat transfer fluid in large tanks. That ended about 12 years later, but the company is now looking at new cheaper and more efficient storage options such as molten salts. The infrastructure to support it is still in place, so it wouldn’t require large capital expenditure. SEGS II may also go with storage, although this would require a more expensive redesign of key equipment.

The plant is still using the mirrors that were installed 30 years ago, although Bergman said those probably will be replaced over time with more efficient reflectors.

The solar-collecting plant previously was known as Solar One and Solar Two. This Wikipedia article contains a lot of background.

According to the article, the Solar Two tower was demolished in 2009 after it was converted into a telescope, and it hadn’t produced power in 10 years. A video of the demolition:

At one point, the plant was producing 10 megawatts of electricity — enough for 7,500 homes.

The power plant is clearly visible north of Route 66 east of Daggett. An area photo of it can be seen here.

Solar plants have popped up all over the Mojave Desert in recent years. So it shouldn’t be surprising that a company decides to reuse a solar plant where much of the equipment and land is already there.

(Archive photo of Solar Two plant from Argonne National Laboratory, via Flickr)

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