Monday, July 20, 2009

FIRESIDE CHAT: Solar energy generation

further info:

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports in an article dated 16 July that a solar tower in the shape of a lotus flower was set up by the Kibbutz of Samar to generate electricity via use of lenses to heat water and produce steam. The article is interesting, though also puzzling. I was interested to see how solar energy is being exploited in Israel's deserts (we do about the same thing in California), though puzzling in that the flower (lotus) design seems almost to be represented as a mitigation justifying the environmental impact of the energy generation structures. In the U.S., we have addressed the problem of visual impacts differently, and usually without lotus flowers... though in the desert I think we pretty much ignore both. Cell towers in the Adirondacks come to mind as an example. They are designed to look like their surroundings, causing their detractors (apparently they are everywhere) to dub them 'Frankenpines'.

A technical item in the article also is puzzling: "through a gas turbine, the energy is converted into electricity." The solar-heated water would form steam that could drive a steam turbine and thereby generate electricity, without need of 'gas' or a 'gas turbine'. Perhaps this is a translation glitch, where the term 'gas' refers to steam formed from heating the water... though steam is not strictly a gas, but a mixture of gaseous water vapor and fine drops of liquid water aerosol. In that case the 'gas turbine' mentioned in the Haaretz article would be one designed to accept steam instead of natural gas without rusting (a 'steam turbine'!). Anyway, the facility probably is said to generate 'green power' because it generates electricity without using fossil fuel as a primary feed. Also, I looked up the definition of the term 'dunam' used in the article: in Israel, a unit of land measure equal to 1,000 square meters (about an acre... refreshingly metric, 1/10th of a hectare).

Maybe the political satire group Capitol Steps could incorporate the Haaretz article into a skit for their evolving show... something along the lines of Bette Middler's, "The Rose" (just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows, lies the seed that with the sun's love in the spring becomes the rose): just remember in the desert, far beneath the bitter sands, lies the modus that with the sun's love in the kibbutz becomes the lotus." Well, Capital Steps would do a better job... Frankenlotus?

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