Every year, the class Chemical and Thermal Processes, or E82, takes a trip out to Kramer Junction, California, to see a SEGS, or Solar Energy Generating Systems, complex. The site is the world’s second largest solar thermal energy generating facility and only an hour and a half away from Mudd. I am not in E82 currently, but I will take the class sometime in the next few years, so I decided to accompany a friend who is taking the class out to the site for fun.
The site was quite large and covered in parabolic trough collectors, which looked like giant curved mirrors and focused the sun’s light to warm heat transfer fluid, which in turn heats water into steam to generate energy. There were too many collectors to even try to count them all, but our guide, who worked at the site, told us that the entire site could generate about 150 megawatts per day in the winter. As we drove around the site, I noticed that some of the collectors had broken mirrors, which was apparently due to wind and dust devils. The workers at the site replaced them as needed, but since a good amount could be taken out by a single dust devil, it took some time to do so.
Aside from driving around to see the collectors, we also got to see some of the control rooms and ask questions about the thermal processes taking place at the site. I think it would have been more meaningful had I been taking E82 at the time, but the site was still really cool to see, and I did learn a bit more about the class that I will eventually take.