Shut down San Onofre!!

Easter is a great week if you are Spanish, a long holiday weekend and lot of places for pray free for the salvation of the bad economy recession. As a good spanish, I had the opportunity to rest for four days and I decided to travel to San Diego. The city is awesome, you can see seals in La Jolla beach and other incredible sea life in Sea World; having lunch tasty pasta in Little Italy and go clubbing like in Madrid in the Gas Lamp District.

In the middle of the way between LA and San Diego, you can also experiment a bit scare in a such-theme-park about energy production. Thats happend when you pass by San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant. It is striking that in a country as US, so concerned about security issues, you can get so close to a Nuclear Plant. It would be very easy for a terrorist to attack the installation and cause thousands of deaths. It is not only dangerous because that, also because it is just by the coast. And with Fukushima example so recent, I think it is not crazy to think about substituting this plant for other one more safety. San Onofre belongs to Southern California Edison utility.

If you know something about the risks of Nuclear Power, and probably you know now with the recents news from Japan, you will really get scare on the road to San Diego!

Trip to Arizona

On February 1st and 2nd, I traveled to Arizona to meet the main agencies and key players of the State related with Energy. Six spanish companies came with us, and the trip was very interesting since this State is supposed to convert itself in one of the leaders in renewables in US.

We met the following agencies and companies:

  • Arizona Commerce Authority
  • City of Phoenix
  • Salt River Project (Utility)
  • Greater Phoenix Economic Council
  • Carbon Free Technologies (PV Developer)
  • Quarles & Brady (Attorneys)
  • Arizona Public Service (Utility)

We stayed in Phoenix, and one the most striking thing for me was thet this city is actually the 5º city in the US. And it is growing up very faster also¡. So we can expect a growing electricity consumption in a short future. Also it is close to a really big energy consumer: California. So by the side of the energy demand, we can say it is a good place for develop projects.

What about the offer side? Arizona is the best place in US in solar resource. One of the things we forget in Europe, it is that in renewables, the main factor is the resource. (In Spain you can see PV plants in the cloudy north or even Germany-not sunny indeed- ¡weird¡). In addition, the cost of the land is lower than California and the permiting proccess is pretty simple. Nevertherless, they suffer the same problem than I have seen in the southwest: a lack in transsmission capacity and a monopolistic market organization. It is something to think about it.

Only Sustainable Conferences

Only Sustainable 2010 took place in one of the worst places for consuming energy efficiency I have ever met: Miami. I have been in the US since one month ago and I have realized what energy-wasteful the Americans are. But Miami is it probably the best burn-petrol-barrils-for-nothing of this country.

Miami, is the Caribbean. The average temperature of the year is  77 ºF (25 ºC), so in Miami they are hot. (And not only because of the wonderful women you can see in the latinos’ pubs on Española way street). So the American-way-of-life is understanded like Airconditioning-me. I have never seen before a place with so huge contrast temperature between indoors or outdoors. The indoors places are freezing, yes completly freezing. When you walk on the street, you can feel about 30ºC, and inside the places, less than 20ºC. Apart of the uncomfort you feel dressing up when enter into place, this policy is a completly crazy in terms of energy efficiency. Even in my hotel, when I arrived at 9:00 after a full day of conferences and networking, the air-conditioning was turned on, at plenty power, so the room seems as a gulag siberian prision. That’s make me crazy.

Refrigeration has usually a low performance.  The best airconditioner machines will be a EER about 4 (I don’t think these cutting-edge type of machines were in US) when the ideal Carnot efficiency is about 12. So refrigeration is, in fact, a very bad way of consuming energy. That’s is ever worse if you actually freeze the rooms. Even in the big conference room, you can feel your cold breath, speaking about ‘Sustainability’. That’s another awkward things you can live in US.

Despite of this, the conferences were interesting. We have the opportunity to hear the nonsense explanations of Spanish the director of National Commission of Energy (the so-called electro-barbie), getting myself embarras and regreting to be spanish. Oh my God, how mess and confusion in the thermodinamics and engineering terms, while the rest of spaniards face down their tables embarrasing. I will never understand the political human resource managment.

The good thing is that I had the opportunity to meet Juan Verde, the spanish who has reached the most top position in the US government in the history. Juan Verde has worked with a lot of presidents and candidates as Al Gore or Obama. He made a superb presentation making everybody sit up and cheer. I achieved shacking hands  and chat a little with him.

Concentración Fotovoltaica, con el banco hemos topado

Con motivo de la feria Solar Power International 2010, celebrada el pasado mes de octubre, tuve la oportunidad, gracias a Pedro Banda, amigo de ISFOC y gran experto en fotovoltaica, de visitar una planta de Concentración Fotovoltaica. La planta está diseñada y construida de SolFocus, de las pocas empresas en el mundo que ya es capaz de construir este tipo de centrales. La planta es aproximadamente de 1MW de potencia y representa actualmente la planta más grande del mundo en esta tecnología. Se encuentra en Victorville, pueblo a mitad de camino entre Los Angeles y Las Vegas, donde ya comienza el desierto, pero en territorio todavía de California.

Panel concentracion fotovoltaica

La planta vende la energía a un instituto cercano, y está ubicada en los terrenos de esta. Al ser una instutución pública el permiting les resultó más fácil, pero están de acuerdo en que en California es una autentica pesadilla. La energía sobrante la venden a la red, no dijeron precios, pero me imagino que el PPA no será alto. La instalación es comercial pero casi de demostración, ya que no existen más de cinco en todo el mundo. Otra de ellas está en Puertollano, construida también por SolFocus para ISFOC.

Las ventajas de la CPV (Concentracion Fotovoltaica) es la reducción de costes que implica el uso de menos silicio para la misma potencia de salida, ya que a través de unos pequeños espejos se concentra la luz solar en las pequeñas placas fotovoltaicas. Por tanto para el mismo área de captación que un panel normal, se emplea menos silicio, que es el elemento más costoso de un panel. No obstante, para ello, el seguimiento o tracking ha de ser más exacto que un panel estandar de doble eje, ya que ha de ir perfectamente alineado con la radiación normal directa. Ello implica estructuras y cimentaciones más robustas.

Concentracion fotovoltaica

A pesar de ello, el impedimento más grande de esta tecnología por ahora, es la “maldita” bancabilidad (mala traducción de bankability), es decir que alguien tenga narices a financiar un proyecto con una tecnología tan nueva. Los bancos, en un contexto de restricción de crédito y pánico al moroso, cada vez actúan más como ingenieros, y analizan todos los componentes de un proyecto fotovoltaico, mirando la calidad de los módulos, del inversor, las garantías, y sobre todo los años de experiencia probada. Y ahí es donde la CPV falla. Frente a la gran experiencia en fotovoltaica tradicional, la CPV sólo tiene unos cuantos proyectos en su historia. Por tanto es complicado que un banco financie estos proyectos por ahora. Tiempo ha de pasar y trabajo, como el de ISFOC y el de SolFocus, se ha de realizar para que esta tecnología llegue a ser un opción.

Where I come from, where I go to

Hello everyone,

Let introduce myself, my name is David Gomez and I am from Spain (Madrid). I am engineer, but I also studied business administration, you can see all personal info in ‘About’ page.

I currently work at the Trade Commission of spain in Los Angeles (CA), as the director of Department of Energy. And that’s is the topic: The Energy.

I strongly believe that a revolution has to be done about the manner we obtain and we use the energy. Fossil fuels have helped us to boost modern society a century ago in the industrial revolution. But today, we cannot follow wasting this God present. We are good enough to develop new technologies which are able to provide energy every day, using renewables sources. But many things have to be done before.

What would it be more challenging and enjoyable for an engineer and economist to live this awesome change? This is because I am now in the US, because this is the current leader of the world (be careful with China), and they have to adress the global change.

Unfortunatelly, they are a step backward to the cutting-edge countries in renewables energies. Spain is one of them. I lived the energy change there since three years ago. I use to work as a project engineer at one of the biggest electricity companies. We did very interesting things and I learned a lot about new manner to convert energy into electricity. I worked in solar, biomass and wind power. I realized what wondefull and clean are these technologies when I compared them with the traditional coal power plants I used to visit.

This is probably the more nice pic I got in these three years. You can see how peaceful rest and live this nice cows while we were getting energy from the gentle wind.

Nevertheless, Technology is already, but an Economic problem has to be solved to make this real. This technologies are more expensive that the conventional ones, but this is because they don’t incorporate the benefits that we, and our children, will obtain from them.

And that is in I currently work. Trying to understand this wonderfull country called United States of America and working to make Renewables real. I will post on this blog the most important achivement I will get, and I will share them with you, waiting for your comments. The Energy is my passion, I hope you will be part of this.

Thank you¡ Let’s start