Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hot Stuff: As Siemens Prepares to Sell Nuclear Joint Venture Solar Thermal Heating Up

The stock is down another $4.33 (3.47%) at $120.47.
Last year Siemens told their nuke partner Areva that they wanted out of their Areva SA j.v.and were going to exercise the put agreement in the founding documents to put their 34% stake to Areva.
Yesterday Siemens released the independent valuation of their stake in the  j.v., here's Bloomberg's coverage:
Siemens Nuclear Venture’s Value One-Fifth Lower Than Expected
You'd think it would be a good time to be exiting the biz but the stock has been punished nonetheless, chart below.
At the same time MIT's Technology Review was publishing an article on Siemens' solar technology, something we looked at in July 2010's "Siemens Wants To Be Number One In Solar Thermal" (SI; GE)" which pointed out the different directions the behemoths were going in their pursuit of world domination of the energy biz.
Here's TR:

Siemens looks to cut the cost and boost the efficiency of solar thermal power.

Solar thermal power plants that produce hotter steam can capture more solar energy. That's why Siemens is exploring an upgrade for solar thermal technology to push its temperature limit 160 °C higher than current designs. The idea is to expand the use of molten salts, which many plants already use to store extra heat. If the idea proves viable, it will boost the plants' steam temperature up to 540 °C—the maximum temperature that steam turbines can take.

Siemens's new solar thermal plant design, like all large solar thermal power plants now operating, captures solar heat via trough-shaped rows of parabolic mirrors that focus sunlight on steel collector tubes. The design's Achilles' heel is the synthetic oil that flows through the tubes and conveys captured heat to the plants' centralized generators: the synthetic oil breaks down above 390 °C, capping the plants' design temperature.
Startups such as BrightSource, eSolar, and SolarReserve propose to evade synthetic oil's temperature cap by building so-called power tower plants, which use fields of mirrors to focus sunlight on a central tower.  But Siemens hopes to upgrade the trough design, swapping in heat-stable molten salt to collect heat from the troughs. The resulting design should not only be more efficient than today's existing trough-based plants, but also cheaper to build. "A logical next step is to just replace the oil with salt," says Peter Mürau, Siemens's molten salt technology program manager.

The German engineering giant will actually be the second player to try to push molten salts through solar collector tubes. Last summer, the Italian utility Enel began running molten salt through a field of about 30,000 square meters of trough mirrors adjacent to its natural gas-fired power plant near Syracuse, Sicily. The salt exits the 5.4-kilometers of collector pipe at 565 °C, boosting the power plant's output by 5 percent....MORE
The stock is cheaper today than it has been for a couple months: