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« Corporate worms starting to turn | Main | Thinking, or not thinking, about coffee »
Friday
Mar182016

Two years later

Engineers and industry agree that although challenges abound in utility-scale solar in the sunniest places on Earth, we have the technology to go big in the desert

The vast and glittering Ivanpah solar facility in California will soon start sending electrons to the grid, likely by the end of the summer. When all three of its units are operating by the end of the year, its 392-megawatt output will make it the largest concentrating solar power plant in the world, providing enough energy to power 140,000 homes. And it is pretty much smack in the middle of nowhere.

Scientific American, 1 July 2013

[Ivanpah] 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.

Marketwatch, yesterday

H/T Anthony

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Reader Comments (120)

Snigger.

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Lohse

BigOil is eclipsing the sun again with their billions of dark money.

Read all about it in credible blogs like RealClimate and DeSmogBlog.

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterAyla

An official with BrightSource Energy said in statement Thursday that the plant remains on track.

“There was a more than a 50 percent increase in production during the second year of operation compared to the first,” Joe Desmond, a BrightSource senior vice president, said in the statement.

“Now entering its third year, this first-of-its-kind solar thermal project continues to set new production records and we are confident the plant will ramp up to full production as originally planned.”

PG&E buys electricity from two of plant’s “power tower” units under confidential purchase agreements – so it is not known publicly how much the plant is falling short.

The utility provides electricity to California’s Central Valley, Central Coast and Bay Area regions.
Southern California Edison buys the power produced at a third tower.

California electric utility regulators on Thursday, March 17, approved a deal between Pacific Gas & Electric and the owners of Ivanpah solar plant that gives plant operators more time to increase electricity production. The California Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved the deal during a meeting in San Francisco ...

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Meanwhile the Guardian are busy spinning on facebook:

The global economy grew but carbon emissions didn't

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:15 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

Re: Phil Clarke

The deal deal gives them a 3 month reprieve to improve. There is also an option to extend it for another 6 months.

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

50% of f£@k all is still f£@k all...isn't it???

Mailman

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Terry, indeed, good to see you keeping up, even if some aren't.

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Never mind, all they have to do is to collect the fried bird caucuses* and sell them to McDonalds.
Hey Presto; cash flow problem solved

[*corpses? TM]

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

I can understand the reason for trying plants like Ivanpah, I can understand the optimism and I can even understand how more than one country might do the same things (they assume the other failures are due to local errors) but surely by now government ministers and departments must be getting the messge that replacing fossil fuels is more tricky than they thought? You'd think they'd stop making rash promises and maybe even start listening to those who expressed doubt from the start. I won't hold my breath.

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

They can always just adjust the target. Simples.

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterNiels

The road to hell is paved, laid with green intentions.

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

** News update : WSJ : California Regulators Give Ivanpah Solar Plant More Time
Lifeline gives owners up to a year to work out problems

.....................................................

BTW Also new today Clive James poem : “Imminent catastrophe”

another good recent poem by him "A Silent Speech by Julia Gillard"

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:39 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Scientific American: "will soon start sending electrons to the grid, ...."

What a stupid comment particularly from a (once) supposedly scientific rag. Just the kind of thing we expect from the mentally challenged global warming obsessives!

As everyone knows, electricity is a continuous flow out and back with no net change in the number of electrons anywhere.

Indeed, given that it is AC that will be transmitted, even the current is alternating out and in. The only thing that actually goes from one end to the other is power.

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:42 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Re: Phil Clarke

What isn't revealed is the size of the shortfall.

Previously it was only producing half of what was expected but since then both capacity and production have increased.

The amount of the shortfall depends upon whether capacity and production have increased at the same rate.

Personally, I suspect the shortfall is significant (>20%) otherwise there wouldn't be a serious risk of shutting down.

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Terry S

But they wouldn't want us to know that

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnother Ian

@Phil ....tell-em about the $500m loan write-off that poor little Google got for the project.

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:58 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

50% of f£@k all is still f£@k all...isn't it???

Mailman

Much like the 40% increase in CO2 since 1850

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterBLACK PEARL

Ivanpah produced about 60 MW in 2015 according to Breaking Energy and about a quarter of that came from gas (used to kick start the plant. and cover the cloudy periods)
The operators did say they would take 4 years to get up to speed, so why this reprieve wasn't built into the contract in the first place beats me.

If one wanted to be critical. it would be worth noting that
it is zero carbon apart from all the gas it burns
it is environmentally sound apart from all the birds it kills
its is free energy except for the massive cost to build and run it
it is reliable except it cant fullfill its basic contractual obligations

tis a failure

Mar 18, 2016 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

As I posted at WUWT, this is similar to Morocco’s $9Bn installation at Ouarzazate, currently providing 160MW of its ultimate 580MW capacity. (although someone said it was planned to be 2GW). Whichever way you look at it that's an awful lot of money to get power for 15 hours a day (they reckon a hot salt system will keep it running for three hours after dark.)

The funniest thing is reading the comments in the Guardian. There are people having wet dreams about how this is the answer to everything: One or two humungous solar power plants in the Sahara hard-wired to Europe. And no more coal-fired plants or nukes in Europe.

Mar 18, 2016 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Solar Panels Desert

Sand Dust Wind

Cleaning Fresh Water

Lack of

FAILED

Mar 18, 2016 at 10:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterL O L

"California Regulators Give Ivanpah Solar Plant More Time. Lifeline gives owners up to a year to work out problems" (Sorry, paywalled link)
http://www.wsj.com/articles/california-regulators-give-ivanpah-solar-plant-more-time-1458242826

Mar 18, 2016 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete Austin

EternalOptimist

It would also be worth noting that it's intermittent. It won't generate at all for over 26 weeks every year.

Mar 18, 2016 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

BigOil is eclipsing the sun again with their billions of dark money.

Read all about it in credible blogs like RealClimate and DeSmogBlog.

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:09 AM | Ayla
===========================================

Bless you. Of course, you live off grid, and won't use any of the thousands of products made from hydrocarbons, do you?

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

test

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:11 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Jeremy Poynton

Obviously, you don't live off internet, so by implication, you don't live off grid either. So what's your point of your question?

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

it is zero carbon apart from all the gas it burns

Straw Man No.1 Nobody made that claim. The gas required is dropping steadily.

it is environmentally sound apart from all the birds it kills

Tiny impact compared to other manmade avian deaths: cats, cars, high buildings and hunting.

The mourning dove was the most frequently detected species. There were a total of 412 mourning dove detections (118 from known causes and 294 from unknown causes), which represents nearly 60% of all avian detections in the first year. Considering there are more than 349 million mourning doves in North America (14.5 million of which are killed by hunters alone each year), this represents a very small proportion of the population – 0.0001% to be exact.

http://www.brightsourceenergy.com/ivanpahs-first-year-qualifies-avian-impact-as-low#.VuvjwPmLSM9

its is free energy except for the massive cost to build and run it

Straw Man No 2.

it is reliable except it cant fullfill its basic contractual obligations

http://www.brightsourceenergy.com/the-top-five-things#.Vuvjp_mLSM8

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

@Ayla I wonder if the people who don't understand your irony are all Sepos ?

..(and wouldn't understand what a Sepo is}

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:24 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Jeremy Poynton, Have you not realised that Ayla is on the Dadaist wing of the Sceptic movement?

It's a novel approach that I suspect will have ever greater impact.

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:25 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

@Phil
So you would contradict the assertion that there is a "massive cost to build and run it" ?

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:27 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

@Capell
'It would also be worth noting that it's intermittent. It won't generate at all for over 26 weeks every year.'

that's why they have three towers at Ivanpah. one for the first 26 weeks, one for the second 26 weeks, and one in reserve.

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

"One or two humungous solar power plants in the Sahara hard-wired to Europe. And no more coal-fired plants or nukes in Europe." Harry Passfield.

I suppose on their to do list they've got:-

1) Achieve World Peace and an end to terrorism.
2) Stop Sand storms and/or glass erosion.
3) solve all the other stuff.

As an underpants gnome plan it's fairly ambitious.

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

"The plant, located about 50 miles southwest of Las Vegas in California’s Mojave Desert, cost roughly $2.2 billion and received about $1.5 billion in federal loans, according to the Energy Department.

The plant’s two units that serve PG&E are expected to generate 640,000 megawatt-hours a year, according to documents from the commission. The units generated 45% of that amount in 2014, and 68% in 2015, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal and state documents."

http://www.wsj.com/articles/california-regulators-give-ivanpah-solar-plant-more-time-1458242826

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

@ Harry Passfield 10:35

You forgot to mention (as did the Grauniad), that Noor 1 absolutely depends upon fossil fuels to pre-heat the thermal fluid every morning, and, maintain its viscosity during cloudy periods.

It has 500MW of oil-fired boilers, and its estimated oil consumption is 81,874,610 kWh pa.


http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Environmental-and-Social-Assessments/Morocco_-_Ouarzazate_Solar_Power_Station_Project_II_-_ESIA_Summary.pdf

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Re: Phil Clarke

From your Top 5 things link

#1: The Ivanpah Project is Meeting Expectations

Obviously not otherwise why the threat of closure?

2) Ivanpah is complying with requirements of the DOE Loan Guarantee Program

No, it isn't. It had to apply to the DOE to defer payments which isn't complying with the agreement

3) Ivanpah’s impact on Birds is Minimal, But Also a Priority

That's a subjective opinion.

4) We Don’t Control the Weather

Neither do I. I guess that puts my on a par with Ivanpah.
On the other hand I haven't been overly optimistic on the annual amount of sunlight in my back garden.

5) Natural Gas is Used to Maximize Renewable Energy Generation in Accordance with State Law

The plant was only supposed to burn one hours worth of gas before sunrise. Instead it burns enough gas to account for nearly 25% of its output or enough to provide a stable electricity supply to over 20,000 homes.

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

'Lifeline gives owners up to a year to work out problems'

And if they don't make it? They'll give 'em another year.

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterGamecock

"Tiny impact compared to other manmade avian deaths: cats, cars, high buildings and hunting".

Wow, I never knew that cats were manmade, what a fantastic discovery for the animal kingdom!

Last I heard, the US Audbon Society estimate that Windmills/Solar arrays kill a mere 10,000 birds annually! A drop in the ocean it would seem to them such was their lack of concern!

In Exeter, UK, we have falcons nesting on tall buildings (local college) from which they hunt, it is well documented on local news items, & as I understand it elsewhere in the UK!

The corrupt RSPB propped up by the EU bribes it receives, claimed a few years back that habitat destruction & globull warming was killing birds, until somebody within that august organisation realised that it was all the feral cats munching their numbers!

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

What did the proof of concept model indicate?

Actually, I have no problem with fools being parted from their own money.

Mar 18, 2016 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

The plant has already had massive state subsidies. About 18 months ago the project applied for a $539million federal grant to help pay off a $1.5 billion federal loan. The original investors of course cannot afford to bail the scheme out. One of them is poor Google, who at the end of 2013 only had $59bn of cash and cash equivalents.

Mar 18, 2016 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

TerryS, so the gas-burning part of Ivanpah seems to work even better than projected! :)

Mar 18, 2016 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

George Osborne extra VAT on Sugar and now Sick Bags

You,re gonna need them, tomorrow is Earth Hour Yawn

Shame we can't turn the lights out on the Enviromental Movement

Permanently

PS Solar Power does a pretty good job of making everyone's lights flicker then go out

Mar 18, 2016 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterFat Smug W...ker Jamie

Just give it another 2 years to check the figures and then start discussing what to do. After all there is a lot of jobs to consider! Oh yes and that portfolio.

Mar 18, 2016 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Presumably Pacific Gas & Electric's customers don't require any electricity at night..?

Mar 18, 2016 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

From what I understand one of the things that they did not expect was just how little cloud affects operations. Sometimes even a jet contrail can trip the boiler. I would bet that is never going to work as originally advertised.

Mar 18, 2016 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger from NY

sherlock1 - I was once involved in what PGandE called its 'load management' and 'load research' work, wherein it threw money around at the behest of the state trying to get people to use power off-peak because they had power to give away when it was dark.

I'm skeptical about Ivanpah, someone needs to plot the fried-birds-per-mWh on that thing. But the load profile in California, especially in summer, does want a whole lot of power industrially and for residential AC, etc. midday into early evening.

Mar 18, 2016 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM

As the facility is in the desert one imagines that the birds per hectare count is lower than other environments. SO a meaningful number for impact on birds would have to be additional deaths per thousand birds.

Mar 18, 2016 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/03/18/sweden-earth-hour-blackout-cancelled-because-of-migrant-rape/

Mar 18, 2016 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterEven more L O L

Actually, if a quarter of the power output is actually power input from gas, it would be fair to say that a quarter of all the birds killed at Ivanpah are killed by evil fossil fuels.
I would not be surprised to find that all bald eagles , fluffy owls and iconic birds were the ones murdered by the evil frakking death gas , and the other three quarters, the vultures, crows and ravens are the 'tiny man made impact' to quote Phil 'streamer' Clarke

Mar 18, 2016 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Phil Clarke 9:10, what are the operators going to do with more time to increase production?

It is in a desert, known to be sunny. It was built with the best technology that subsidies could afford. They knew the sun does not shine at night.

How many more strawman (your preferred term) excuses are available?

"This first of its kind facility continues to set new records" Well whoopie-do! Any heap of rubbish is a first-of its-kind, and will set new records. The records being broken here, appear to be the most expensive, least performing, broken assurances, Government gullibility, etc.

Don't you think you damage your own credibility by doing PR for Green Financial Diasasters, that don't deliver what they said it would on the tin?

Mar 18, 2016 at 3:21 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The dissembling and arm waving of climate true believers like Phil Clarke is always entertaining. But they can only hope to delay the onset of reality so long. The bottom line is that skeptics are once again proven correct, and the climate kooks are once again proven to be wrong, of course at great expense to the public and no cost to the climate kooks.

Mar 18, 2016 at 3:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

@Ayla I wonder if the people who don't understand your irony are all Sepos ?

..(and wouldn't understand what a Sepo is}
Mar 18, 2016 at 11:24 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

I prefer the term,"Sherman" to septic, it's more respectful!

Mar 18, 2016 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

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