One of the fields of human endeavor that provides the most humorous and outrageous examples of the Law of Unintended Consequences is “green” energy, which is green primarily because of all the money blissfully thrown into its bottomless money pit. Nowhere is this law so in evidence than at the Ivanpah solar plant in the Mojave Desert. Among other bits of mirth and merriment, reflections from the plant are a hazard to passing aircraft, and the plant fries more birds with greater efficiency than Kentucky Fried Chicken, as I outlined in Frying Through The Air, in February of 2014. Gee, who could possibly have foreseen any of that? Even better, the plant has been largely powered by natural gas from the start–as I explained in The Solar Power Miracle (Debacle)? in October of 2015–though its backers would rather we weren’t aware of that.
Now, Steven Hayward at Powerline informs us of The Greatest Solar Epic Fail Of All Time (?):
How did I miss this story yesterday? Oh yeah, I was on airplanes all day. Anyway, we’ve written before (more than once in fact) about the travesty of the Ivanpah solar plant in the California desert, otherwise known as the world’s largest outdoor bird fryer. It gets better:
By CASSANDRA SWEET
A federally backed, $2.2 billion solar project in the California desert isn’t producing the electricity it is contractually required to deliver to PG&E Corp., which says the solar plant may be forced to shut down if it doesn’t receive a break Thursday from state regulators.
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, owned by BrightSource Energy Inc., NRG Energy Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, uses more than 170,000 mirrors mounted to the ground to reflect sunlight to 450-foot-high towers topped by boilers that heat up to create steam, which in turn is used to generate electricity.’
But the unconventional solar-thermal project, financed with $1.5 billion in federal loans, has riled environmentalists by killing thousands of birds, many of which are burned to death—and has so far failed to produce the expected power.
Reminder from last week: California’s one remaining nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, produces more electricity than all of California’s solar power installations combined. Naturally environmentalists are trying to shut it down.
Ivanpah, which got a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the Obama administration, only produced a fraction of the power state regulators expected it would. The plant only generated 45 percent of expected power in 2014 and only 68 percent in 2015, according to government data.
And it does all this at a cost of $200 per megawatt hour — nearly six times the cost of electricity from natural gas-fired power plants. Interestingly enough, Ivanpah uses natural gas to supplement its solar production.
These disappointing results at high prices could be the solar plant’s undoing. California Energy Commission regulators hoped the plant would help the state get 33 percent of its electricity from green sources, but now the plant could be shut down for not meeting its production promises.
Let’s look at the finances:
The plant was financed by $1.6 billion in loan guarantees from the Department of Energy in 2011. When the solar plant opened in 2014, it was hailed as a great achievement by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
‘This project speaks for itself,’ Moniz said when the project went online in early 2014. ‘Just look at the 170,000 shining heliostat mirrors and the three towers that would dwarf the Statue of Liberty.’
‘Ivanpah is the largest solar thermal energy facility in the world with 392 MW of capacity — meaning it can produce enough renewable electricity to power nearly 100,000 homes,’ Moniz said.
Well, yeah, it can. It just never has. Can you do this?
Moniz’s optimism aside, the project faced huge problems from the beginning. NRG Energy asked the federal government for a $539 million federal grant to help pay off the $1.6 billion loan it got from the Energy Department.
NRG Energy said the plant had only produced about one-quarter of its expected output in the months after it opened. The company needed an infusion of cash to help keep the project afloat.
Gee. I don’t think a bank would loan me money to pay off a bigger loan from another bank, but what do I know about high finance?
Hmmm. How does one advertise a slightly used, inefficient, only barely functional solar power station? “Conveniently located in the Mohave Desert?” “No worries about annoying bird excrement?”
No doubt this is one of those miraculous, renewable, clean energy technologies to which Hillary was referring when she promised to destroy the economies of multiple states by completing the destruction of the coal industry started under Barack Obama. Progressives just care sooooo much about we little people. And birds, including endangered species…
I wonder if it would make a decent, solar-powered outdoor movie theater? What’s that? Oh. Right. Night. No power…