Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Going into orbit?

You will want to pack these:

Entech's Stretched Lens!

Super clever deploying of just the bits that do work. Since there is no windloading and only micro gravity... the designers are challenged to rethink what is and is not needed. This seems to have slimmed things down to the barest of minimums.

take a look:

Smart, no?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What is wrong with this picture? CONTEST!

Seriously... check this out:

it is from the blog at solfocus...

I get that it is a big installation and every thing seems to be working... Maybe they are not actually tilting accurately at the time of the photo but I'm thinking of something WAY bigger.

First reader to 1) leave a comment below and 2) recap in an email, to me what is so wrong with this picture of a solar collector array... gets a prize. The prize? I mail you, express mail anywhere in the USofA a batch of chocolate chip cookies or gingerbread cookies if you are allergic to chocolate. Butter allergy folks get my condolences as a prize...

There are two answers IF you look at the map below and consider the campus more broadly... now that I look at it.... SO TWO PRIZES.

And yes, if you come up with a third smart concern... there will be more cookies.

Side note:

Funny thing... if you go to Google Maps (say for a different view) The pictures of that site were taken before and after the installation of the SolFocus gear. The near pictures are older and the far pictures are newer. So you can see the site prep for the array and then the array just by zooming back and forth! Confusing but neat.

Check it out while it lasts (the links that is, they keep updating the photos so this before and after trick is just for now but very worth a look.)

(you might need to scroll around a bit to see the silver rectangles even the pool comes and goes!)

View Larger Map

You might have to search for Crafton Hills College Campus Drive in Google Maps to see this...

I'm still working away... found a report again you'd like

This report (link is to a PDF) is a good look at the troubles that come with plain Fresnel Array concentrators. There might be some subtle differences for Cassegrain collectors... but all these high concentration operations have some serious consequences on the expense and complexity front....

For an example of a Casegrain array look at SolFocus

The concerning items include extreme aging of the cells (hard job) Risk at misfocus (although they had some good news there for the Fresnel, safety wise...) the demanding focus/tracking requirements.  A good read and a hint as to why I think we need a different approach.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A look into the pyschology of ROI...

Here is a neat (OK somewhat disheartening) story in Joseph Romm's blog (I think it is a blog) over at

It is a long article so stick with it and get to the more thoughtful ROI (Return On Investment) aspects. Like this bit
Lots of equipment is changed at end of life, regardless of energy efficiency. What often happens is that an engineer will say: “Inefficient boiler X will pay for itself in 10 years in savings over the existing model. More efficient boiler Y will pay for itself in 15 years. We’ll take the less efficient cheaper model.” But ROI calculations on these projects should only consider the delta between the cost to replace equipment (which would be spent anyway) and cost to replace with more efficient equipment.
 Makes sense. This is how I justified my change in heating system from a replacement to a re-engineering. The base expense is just going to happen so that is the zero point. Every candidate gets credit for doing the job for that least price. The alternatives then have to have additional benefits that merit the premium over the base. ROI is nice but this is not an investment so much as a prepaid expense. This is expense I cannot easily avoid (my sweater and coffee/soup expenses could not fix the heating problem) so I should not use investment notions, exclusively, to evaluate it.

We had a similar issue with picking a car. (this one does not play out well, sorry to say.) We wanted a new car (to boost reliability as this was a high value for us right then) and sized up 3 year old cars of the base models and found the "roll off the lot penalty" seems to have vanished for base models of the low end Civic Corolla type car. Part of it is that the quality of cars has gone way way up. The rest must be some intersection of lower markups and a better sense among buyers of the value of hanging on to their car. Anyhow, for each car we took the base model expense, then around $15K and our relatively modest annual miles driving and three cost scenarios for gasoline 3,4 and 5 dollars per gallon. PLUS the "get a new battery" penalty on the hybrids at 5 years or whatever it was. That was the killer. The mileage improvement was real but the cost of getting it was also real and we thought that the best comparison was the delta. If we doubled our miles driven in a year then we had an argument for a Hybrid. Instead we figured we could go with the still efficient (in this case Civic) and just try to clip off a day a week with telecommuting and or carpooling. About the same carbon footprint. For far less.

Super read I thought.