For a while, I have been writing that traditional silicon/germanium based solar-electric panels are not yet economic as an electricity source.
I have hopes for other technologies eventually making direct solar conversion to electricity. However, there seems to be some activity in solar concentrating plants, where solar energy is reflected onto tubes to boil water and drive traditional steam turbines to generate electricity. Fortune has an article on one such plant opening recently:
The completed solar arrays will be trucked to California where Ausra
is building a 177-megawatt solar power station for utility PG&E (PCG) on 640 acres of agricultural land in San Luis Obispo County. (To see a video of the robots in action, click here.)
The arrays focus sunlight on water-filled tubes to create steam to
drive a turbine. Ausra manufacturing exec David McKay points to where
standard-issue boiler pipe will be fed into a machine and treated with
a proprietary coating that transforms it into a solar receiver.
I would love for this to work, but the article goes on to say that this approach still requires federal tax subsidies to compete with other electricity sources. I am not very familiar with the economics of such plants. Does anyone have a link or source that delves into the economics. I am increasingly frustrated of late with alternate energy articles that fail to give any of the relevent economic info. For example, I read an article in the Arizona Republic (sorry, lost the link) about Arizona's first wind project, but I could not get a sense from the article if the power was being purchased at market rates or some special inflated rate.