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:
‘Ivanpah Solar Plant May be Forced to Shut Down
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.
The Daily Caller adds a bit of refinement:
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…
Leonard Jones said:
I find this ironic. How does some engineer underestimate the output
of a solar thermal plant by 50%. This fuzzy math smells like just
another of Obozo’s crony capitalist kickback schemes for one of
his big money campaign donors.
I highly recommend the book Trashing The Planet by Dr. Dixie Lee
Ray. She demolishes every myth of the environmental left. On the
subject of solar power, she notes that solar energy is extremely
diffuse. It follows the law of inverse squares, which means that
only so much energy can fall on a given square foot of PV panel
or solar thermal reflector.
This also means there will never be any kind of major increase in
power output since we already hit the brick wall of output per sq/
ft. This is the same problem that exists with current battery
efficiency. There will be no “Magic beans” that will cause any-
thing more than a marginal increase in battery power density
because every one of the electromotive elements have been
known for more than 100 years.
In her book, she also claimed that if you wanted to use solar power
alone to serve the city of New York, it would take an array larger
than the city itself. These things are hideously expensive and
cannot exist without massive government subsidies.
Solar plants also have another issue: They have one of the
worst accident rates in the industry. More people get hurt
in falls when cleaning the mirrors than get hurt in any other
form of power plant.
Then you get to the fact that their maximum efficiency is
about 6 hours a day. Solar and wind both suffer from this
problem, as even in the day time the skies are not always
clear, just as the wind does not always blow. With of these
schemes, it is necessary to keep generators spun-up to
back them up, usually the dirtiest of all (Coal plants.)
This woman was brilliant, she (A marine biology PHD) started
cramming the moment DDE nominated her to head the
Atomic Energy Commission. By the time she assumed the
helm, she could converse at the level of a PHD in nuclear
Her book can be had for pennies at Amazon. One of the most
brilliant ideas I ever read involved spent fuel rod storage. She
wrote that there were abysmal depths that were as devoid
of life as the Gobi Desert. She proposed dumping the rods
into the ocean. The depths would preclude their recovery
and the cold would moderate the rods output.
She also shredded the arguments against DDT, PBC’s, Dioxin,
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