Ivanpah

Ivanpah solar seeks government grant to pay off government loan

The owners of a massive solar plant located in California’s Mohave Desert, west of Las Vegas, Nevada, have discovered that the sun does not shine all the time. The plant is owned by Google and NRG and operated by Bright Source Energy.

The plant, which has been operating since last December, cost $2.2 billion to construct. The Department of Energy guaranteed $1.6 billion to help build the plant.

Things are not going well. So far the plant has produced only one-quarter of the electricity promised. The owners are now seeking a $539 million federal grant to pay off their loan.

Ivanpah uses mirrors to focus sunlight on three towers where water is converted to steam to generate electricity. However, there hasn’t been enough sun. Back in August, Bright Source Energy, the company operating the plant, petitioned the California government, requesting permission to burn more natural gas and to emit 94,749 more tons of carbon dioxide per year. If the permit is approved, then this “solar” plant will produce about 35 percent of its electricity from fossil fuels. (See: Ivanpah solar plant wants to burn more natural gas).

That’s not the only trouble Ivanpah has. Back in April, I reported on Avian mortality from solar farms. The Ivanpah plant has been killing birds. Focused sunlight from the mirrors generates very high temperatures. Birds experience traumatic impact with the mirrors, but the larger danger is getting singed by the heat flux which is up to 800 degrees F.

The Forensics Laboratory of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service calls this facility a “mega-trap” because it attracts hordes of insects which, in turn, attract insect-eating birds that get singed by the heat. Disabled birds and bird carcases attract predators. The Forensic Laboratory says that this facility creates “an entire food chain vulnerable to injury and death.”

William Yeatman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute notes (here) that the Ivanpah facility’s “raw project costs were $2.2 billion, and that the peak power output is 393 megawatts. Because the sun only shines half the day, we can safely give the plant an effective capacity of 200 or so megawatts, although even this energy isn’t dispatchable. So that works out roughly to $2.2 billion for 200 megawatts of unreliable capacity, or $11,000/kilowatt. By comparison, the most recently constructed coal-fired power plant I can think of off the top of my head, Xcel Energy’s 760 megawatt Comanche 3 power plant in Pueblo, Colorado, which was outfitted with the latest, most expensive environmental controls, cost $1,700/kilowatt.”

Although Kermit the Frog says it isn’t easy being green, it seems to be easy to suck up taxpayer money for politically-correct green projects, especially if you are a favored crony.

Wind and solar energy are unreliable and more expensive than fossil fuel generation, especially in light of the natural gas boom.

Now is the time to write to your new legislators and members of the Corporation Commission urging them to repeal the renewable energy mandate and tariff. You can read specific reasons here: Five reasons Arizona should repeal its renewable energy standards mandate.

Top Google Engineers Say Renewable Energy “Simply won’t work”

Google Corporation has been in the forefront of developing renewable energy projects. One of their goals was to run Google completely by renewable energy.

Google is part owner of the infamous Ivanpah solar station, west of Las Vegas, the plant that fries birds and needs to use natural gas to produce electricity, but even with use of natural gas the plant produces only one quarter of the advertised electricity. See these stories:

Avian mortality from solar farms

Ivanpah solar plant wants to burn more natural gas

Ivanpah solar seeks government grant to pay off government loan

A few years ago, Google started a project called RE<C, which aimed to develop renewable energy sources that would generate electricity more cheaply than coal-fired power plants do.

“At the start of RE<C, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope… As we reflected on the project, we came to the conclusion that even if Google and others had led the way toward a wholesale adoption of renewable energy, that switch would not have resulted in significant reductions of carbon dioxide emissions.” (Source)

Now, after 4 years of effort, Google engineers who led the program conclude the research effort by Google corporation has been a complete failure, renewable energy “simply won’t work.”

“The key problem appears to be that the cost of manufacturing the components of the renewable power facilities is far too close to the total recoverable energy – the facilities never, or just barely, produce enough energy to balance the budget of what was consumed in their construction. This leads to a runaway cycle of constructing more and more renewable plants simply to produce the energy required to manufacture and maintain renewable energy plants – an obvious practical absurdity.” (Source)

The State of Arizona has not yet realized that renewable energy “simply won’t work.” They persist in imposing the State’s Renewable Energy Mandate and Tariff which has raised our electricity rates. December is a good time to write to your state legislators asking them to repeal the mandate. In December the members are composing new legislation for the upcoming legislative session.

For some background and ammunition to repeal the mandate, see my ADI article:

Five reasons Arizona should repeal its renewable energy standards mandate

Ivanpah solar plant wants to burn more natural gas

In a previous article, Avian mortality from solar farms, I featured the Ivanpah generating station, in the Mohave Desert southwest of Las Vegas, which uses 173,500 heliostats each with two mirrors to focus sunlight on three towers where water is converted to steam to generate electricity. This method is called “solar-flux” and it generates very high temperatures. Birds experience traumatic impact with the mirrors, but the larger danger is getting singed by the heat flux which is up to 800 degrees F.

Ivanpah1

But since the sun doesn’t shine all the time, the plant uses natural gas to keep the water hot. And, apparently, there hasn’t been enough sun to do that.

Bright Source Energy, the company operating the plant, is petitioning the California government, requesting permission to burn more natural gas and to emit 94,749 more tons of carbon dioxide per year. That’s the equivalent of emissions from about 16,500 automobiles. (See full story at the Hockey Schtick)

If the permit is approved, then this “solar” plant will produce about 35 percent of its electricity from fossil fuels.

The Hockey Schtick blog notes:

“The plant cost $2.2 billion and has a ‘gross capacity’ of 392 MW [but may actually perform at a much lower average capacity], thus a minimum cost of $5.64 million per MW capacity.

By comparison, a 650MW gas turbine power plant can be built for around $630 million and run 24/7/365 without requiring fossil-fuel back-up, a cost of $0.97 million per MW or about 6 times less. Since ~35% of the proposed plant output would be from fossil fuels, the solar maximum capacity would be ~255 MW, increasing the cost for the actual solar-derived energy to ~8.6 times higher than a conventional gas turbine power plant [which has much lower greenhouse & particulate emissions than firing boilers in the Ivanpah plant].”

Another problem with the facility is that airline pilots are complaining that they are being blinded by the glare from the mirrors (see, for example this Breitbart story).

As Kermit said, it isn’t easy being green.

(This story originally appeared in the Arizona Daily Independent.)

Avian mortality from solar farms

Alternative energy has some unintended consequences. Wind farms are known to chop up birds and bats, but solar energy was seen as benign – until now.

A report from the National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory examines bird mortality from three solar facilities in California. What is particularly interesting is that these facilities represent three different methods of producing solar energy. The objective of this report was not to count the number of avian deaths, but to study the manner of death of 233 bird remains collected at the sites over a few days.

The Ivanpah generating station, in the Mohave Desert southwest of Las Vegas, uses 173,500 heliostats each with two mirrors to focus sunlight on a tower where water is converted to steam to generate electricity. This method is called “solar-flux” and it generates very high temperatures. Birds experience traumatic impact with the mirrors, but the larger danger is getting singed by the heat flux which is up to 800 degrees F.

The Forensics Laboratory calls this facility a “mega-trap” because it attracts hordes of insects which, in turn, attract insect-eating birds that get singed by the heat. Disabled birds and bird carcases attract predators. The Forensic Laboratory says that this facility creates “an entire food chain vulnerable to injury and death.” The graphic below shows what happened to a Peregrine Falcon:

Ivanpah bird singeing

See more images of the Ivanpah facility here. Bird deaths are not the only problem experienced at Ivanpah: “Pilots flying over the Ivanpah solar energy plant in northeast San Bernardino County have complained of ‘nearly blinding’ glare from the sun’s reflection off fields of mirrors, federal documents show.” – Source

The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm (aka First Solar) in Riverside County, CA, uses standard photovoltaic collectors to product electricity. This facility was involved in a controversy about desert tortoises which had to be relocated. Photovoltaics are the type of solar installations around Tucson.

The principal threat is that birds mistake the reflective panels for water and crash into them and become injured and subject to predation or starvation.

The Genesis facility, also in Riverside County, CA, uses curved mirrors to focus light on a tube near the mirrors to heat water to generate the electricity. One of the solar plants in Gila Bend, AZ, is of this type. The threat to birds is impact trauma and predation.

The study found 71 bird species killed or injured at the solar facilities and these ranged from hummingbirds to pelicans. In summary, avian deaths occur by impact trauma and predation at all three types of solar farms and by heat flux singeing at the Ivanpah plant. The report notes that insects and bats are subject to the same dangers. Read the entire report at:

http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/Avian-mortality%20Report%20FINALclean.pdf

See also:

Wind turbines versus wildlife

Every year, millions of birds and bats are killed by wind turbines.

Tucson solar project not a good deal for taxpayers

The City of Tucson constructed PV solar arrays on City buildings which they claim will save on electricity costs and generate revenue. Savings and revenue are estimated to total $10.1 million over the life of the project. Trouble is, principal and interest on the bonds used to finance the project will cost taxpayers $16,710,000. Why does Tucson have a deficit?