Sunday, July 28, 2013

Solar Ruins

Solar power, as if envisioned by Tim Burton

Labeling this site a ruin is a bit unfair--these solar-thermal units are obviously an experimental trial installation, and the companies behind the effort (IAUS and RaPower3) may eventually perfect the design. It is a brilliant concept: the 'umbrellas' are actually lenses; they are mounted on an axis that can track the sun across the sky, heating a crucible of molten sodium (which would be attached to the base of the scaffolding) to 1,300 degrees--hot enough to continue generating steam through the night.

It's brilliant, really--the design has many of the advantages of traditional solar-thermal with a far smaller footprint. On the other hand, the initial design clearly had some durability issues, and no actual generation equipment (crucibles, turbines, &c) seems to ever have been installed.

RaPower3 restarted construction last month, so perhaps they have resolved the wind issues... if you're into speculative technologies and/or creepy towers, RaPower3 is looking for investors! (they'd probably do better if their website didn't seem so scammy... also, their manufacturer, IAUS, is a penny stock with a spotty reputation... )

The wind harshed a couple lenses

Creepy. Like a dead tree or a hangman's scaffold. 

Only two towers were complete--these frames seem to have been abandoned mid-installation.

Visiting: The site is located a couple miles northwest of Delta on an unmarked gravel road. The best way to find it is to head towards the Topaz Internment Site (where we detained Japanese-Californians for the duration of WWII) and look for the posts. Right now, there's little more than a monument at Topaz (the site was razed long ago in a fit of liberal guilt), but a museum is currently under construction in town. 

The town of Delta offers all services; it's the only civilization for many miles. The nearest developed camping is at Yuba Lake. The nearest undeveloped camping is everywhere--this is the desert. 

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