Another Obama sanctioned taxpayer funded boondoggle goes bellyup

Blythe Solar Power Project Groundbreaking

California Governor Jerry Brown and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar among others use golden shovels to break ground in this White House Blog photo from June 17, 2011. (Photo by Tami Heilemann, Office of Communications) click image for story.

From WSJ:

The financial pipeline was cut short before engineers could begin operating the Blythe Solar Power Project, a 1,000-megawatt system with capacity to power 300,000 homes, according to the company.

The company filed for Chapter 11 protection Monday, the day after it was scheduled to make a $1 million rent payment to the U.S. Department of Interior for the acreage. Company officials said that the bankruptcy case would also protect the transmission-rights agreements it made with utilities.

“Without the [agreements], the Blythe Project would be unable to deliver electricity to market and would be rendered near, if not completely, valueless,” said Chief Operating Officer Edward Kleinschmidt in documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.

From Reuters,

April 2 (Reuters) – Solar Trust of America LLC, which holds the development rights for the world’s largest solar power project, on Monday filed for bankruptcy protection after its majority owner began insolvency proceedings in Germany.

The Oakland-based company has held rights for the 1,000-megawatt Blythe Solar Power Project in the Southern California desert, which last April won $2.1 billion of conditional loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy. It is unclear how the bankruptcy will affect that project.

Solar Trust of America and several affiliates filed for protection from creditors with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware. It estimated to have as much as $10 million of assets, and between $50 million and $100 million of liabilities.

Blythe is about 220 miles (354 km) southeast of Los Angeles.

“We have been working with Solar Trust of America for a couple of years in getting this project going,” David Lane, Blythe’s city manager, said in an interview. “Although the project is not in the city limits, we are the only city within 100 miles. My sense is that with the large investment in what was to have been the world’s largest solar power plant, someone somewhere will buy it and build it.”

Here’s the big PR sheet for USDOI: doi_blythe_solar_power_project


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Bob Diaz

The video says it all:


Both solar arrays and wind farms are a blight on our landscape and have to be heavily subsidized to even exist as an energy source.

And the crocked DEms get richer at the expense of the American people.

Leon Brozyna

Another one bites the dust …


If solar power can’t be made to work there, just forget about it.

Michael D Smith

Was there ever any doubt?


RE: “Here’s the big PR sheet for USDOI: doi_blythe_solar_power_project”
It would be nice to that as a press release with the following updates:
1. Corrected to be in the past tense, including oucomes.
2. Model vs. Actual.

5,950 acres of desert habitat completely destroyed.

Claude Harvey

Solar is now and has always been an economic dog. The successful projects bleed the federal treasury for five years and and bleed ratepayers for the life of the projects. The federally guaranteed failed projects bleed the feds white right up front, but in most cases the utility rate payers escape (except when their income tax rates inevitably escalate to cover the federal bleeding).
Historians will look back on a country that ruined itself with such foolishness while awash in dirt-cheap natural gas and shake their heads in wonderment: “They did it because they believed WHAT????”


Blythe is about 220 miles (354 km) southeast of Los Angeles, and 180 miles (290 km) south of Las Vegas.
If they had moved the ‘investment’ a bit further north then at least the tax payers would have stood a chance.
I guess that they could have generated more electricity if they had just burned the money in a steam engine. So, what was the net carbon footprint of this debacle? (Not including the carbon footprint of actually printing the money)


Now you have more space for Algae tanks.

R Raymond

Madness, this stuff is madness. No rational human can endorse this insanity. If this isn’t madness, it’s intentional. That’s a bad choice. If it’s intentional it is evil. I hope for madness but fear it is evil. Bad choice, indeed.


If you start a bunch of projects, some projects will always fail. However, some projects will succeed and (could) make up for the ones that failed. It would be interesting to know which projects which receive a loan guarantee from Obama are successful or are on the right track, and how that compares to the ones that failed. Is such evaluation available?

Mike Wryley,_2011_DOE_report.gif
Pure genius, three to four times the capital costs vs. coal, up to ten times operation and maintenance cost. I wonder how much of the liability incurred was used for certain political contributions ? Who is John Galt ?

Another Obama taxpayer boondoggle, huh?
Your sources don’t say that any taxpayer money was spent.
If they have $50 million of liabilities, it sounds like the $2.1 in loan guarantees was never used.

Check out that chain they listed, too:
“…Solar Trust said it ran short of liquidity after Solar Millennium AG (S2MG.DE), which holds a 70 percent stake, sought court protection in December.
Solar Millennium then tried to sell that stake to solarhybrid AG (SHLG.DE), but that transaction collapsed when solarhybrid also sought court protection in Germany…”
The whole lot of them are going down.


Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood,
In your neighborhood, in your neighborhood.
Say who are the people in your neighborhood–
The people that you meet each day?

Why for the Blythe Boondoggle, that would be the cute desert critters… out in the wilderness.
Wikipedia has this to say about the Palen/McCoy Wilderness Area:
Within the Palen-McCoy Wilderness are the Palen , Granite, Arica, Little Maria, and McCoy Mountains, which are five distinct mountain ranges separated by broad sloping Alluvial fans-baJadas. Because this large area incorporates so many major geological features, the diversity of vegetation and landforms is exceptional. The desert wash woodland found here provides food and cover for burro deer, coyote, bobcat, gray fox, and mountain lion. Desert pavement, bajadas, interior valleys, canyons, dense ironwood forests, canyons and rugged peaks form a constantly changing landscape pattern.
It’s nice to see all that FEDERALLY OWNED land being taken so well care of… in the interest of the environment… ya know. Since the rest of the area is either a designated wilderness area or soon to be designated as such… off limits to development and meddling by mankind.
Well, until a friend of a friend needs a place to put their cash cow so they can nestle up and suck that teat dry.


Duncan, try to pay attention. It was built on borrowed capital with a loan guarantee from DOE of up to $2 billion. The project folds so the creditors go to DOE to demand their money according to the terms of the guarantee up to the guarantee limit. The Feds will refuse, it will go to court, and 10 years later the Feds will lose with court costs.

John F. Hultquist

From August 18, 2011
Lindsay Riddell, Reporter
Solar Millennium is giving up the $2.1 billion loan guarantee it was awarded from the U.S. Department of Energy to seek commercial financing for its large-scale solar project, according to this press release from the company and first reported by Todd Woody at Forbes.
The move comes as the solar plant developer has decided to switch technologies — from its proprietary solar trough technology to the more common solar photovoltaic panels to generate power at its solar sites.

I’ve spent about 20 minutes searching to see if anything other than a colored map and virtual images have been undertaken. This seems like a tangled web (over cooked glob of spaghetti) that will be years in the courts enriching lawyers, sucking money from useful activities, and producing no electricity at any cost. That sounds like a boondoggle to me.


“Golden shovel” — — — has anyone ever come up with a more fitting symbol and metaphor of a gummint-subsidized project?


The Genesis Solar Energy Project, also near Blythe, is in trouble, too. As reported in the LA times on February 11: The unexpected deaths of kit foxes and discovery of ancient human settlements threaten to delay or even cancel a $1-billion, 250-megawatt installation on federal land in the desert near Blythe.

Acorn1 - San Diego

Why does any government need to experiment with what an industry can do itself?
And this industry is the biggest ; its scope is world- wide. No to all interference…
Say this, as interference it is. The Energy industry has supplied us with cheap
electricity and gasoline for 70-90 years, always improving. Let it continue. Do not
use taxpayer money..! Prices are UP, so get governments out of it, and back
down they come.

Donald Mitchell

I have no knowledge of what stray reflections would be coming from those acres of mirrors. I do know that I would not pilot an aircraft into that airport without very reliable knowledge concerning them. I doubt that I would trust information from the Blythe Chamber or Commerce. I might not even trust the FAA if Obama is still president.

Brian H

The dominoes are falling faster and faster. From Germany to California. The Invisible Hand is landing fatal uppercuts.

Bad Manners

The way they hold their shovels it looks like none of those blokes has ever done any hard work


Just checked Google Maps and in the area shown on the schematic drawing there is nothing on the ground except some levelling close to the airport. To the northeast of the airport there are some structures.

Donald Mitchell says:
April 2, 2012 at 10:38 pm
I have no knowledge of what stray reflections would be coming from those acres of mirrors. I do know that I would not pilot an aircraft into that airport without very reliable knowledge concerning them. I doubt that I would trust information from the Blythe Chamber or Commerce. I might not even trust the FAA if Obama is still president.

It should just be a momentary (but very *large*) bright spot.
That said, there’s no indication of any construction in that area on the latest Sectional Chart, and it would be there for landmark purposes, at the very least — so it sounds like the WSJ quote of “…cut short before engineers could begin operating…” is overly-optimistic about the project’s actual state-of-being.

EO Peter

Probably the Chinese fault, again…


It’s amazing. Is this the only conflict in which the winning side is continuously made to feel bad all the time? They fail and declare bankruptcy, we mourn the wasted money. Earth’s temperature dips slightly, we fear the consequences because we know.


It seems these green jobs projects are not yet ready for prime time. By rushing these projects out too soon, they may have set green technology back for decades. Who will want to invest their money in future green projects with a track record like this?

Google Earth Location:
33°38’59.97″ N 114°45’33.86″ W
Most recent photo is 9/10/2009, nary a ROW, road nor solar panel.
It seems to be on the eastern flank of a NW trending ridge, not steep, but not flat either.
Now that got me thinking. Why isn’t a natural place to locate multi-square-mile solar farms at major airports near cities? What else are you using the land for? It’s flat. There is already plenty of access. People you employ on tarmacs are used to working around big fragile metal things. It’s a natural! There has to be a reason why they don’t put them there.
Answer: Too many people flying in and out of the airport can see what is going on.
REPLY: The GE imagery is from 2004 – Anthony

P. Solar

What a mess. A major project gets stalled because seven desert foxes died. (Let me guess the distemper infection came from the coyote piss they were spraying around everywhere) . The so-called burial site sounds more like a neolithic barbecue. Two stones for grinding grain and some ash: a site “too sacred to be disturbed”. OK give the indian reservists some free electricity from the plant and they’ll soon realise the ash was from the fire used to cook the grain. They’re almost certainly running on diesel generators, so giving them solar will save lots of “carbon”.
Belching millions of tons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico was only temporary barrier to deep sea drilling but 7 foxed dead and OMG ! Mind you they are “Kitty” foxes so they must be really cute and must be “protected” at all cost.
And how many ants have had their lives ruined by all this earth moving, does nobody care about the ants ??! They’re a unique species of desert ant only known to inhabit this area they will be lost forever. What about biodiversity ?
As J Peterson says above: “Both solar arrays and wind farms are a blight on our landscape” . Yeah, I was planning to spend the summer is the Nevada desert this year but will all these “ugly” constructions I’ve cancelled by reservations and I’m going to the Seychelles instead. Has anyone considered the impact this kind of madness will have on the desert tourism industry?
The Spanish can manage to produce base-load solar why can’t the US get its act together?

Stephen Rasey says:
April 2, 2012 at 11:45 pm
There has to be a reason why they don’t put them there.
The reason is usually because the area’s already pretty built-up. The reason we’ve lost a lot of smaller airports along the Atlantic seaboard is because of suburban sprawl.


Anyone round here want to make a quick 2 Billion, we’ll buy some cheap solar from China and then transfer the rest of the cash to some off shore account.
As the saying goes if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.


Do any of those pictured look like they have any idea whatsoever how to use a shovel?
And did they manufacture special golden turds to slide effortlessly onto the golden shovels? this entire fiasco just another crock of golden shh… or what?

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

$2,100,000,000 conditional loan guarantees
÷ 300,000 homes
= $7000/home
Does that seem reasonable? Could they have wrung an average $7000 out of every home supplied, and that’s without including interest?
2,200,000,000,000 W-hrs
÷ 1,000,000,000 Watts peak production
= 2200 hrs peak production
÷ 365 days/yr
= 6.0 hrs/day peak production
Not outrageous for a good day with perfect conditions, but they’re expecting that every day of the year? And $7000/home for 6 hrs a day?
1,000,000,000 Watts peak production
÷ 300,000 homes
= 3,333 1/3 Watts/home at peak production
Better than some “homes served” figures I’ve seen for renewable projects. Figure in transmission losses, and when the skies are clear and the sun is high and generation has peaked, everyone can run a small room-sized window-mount air conditioner, an efficient mid-sized refrigerator, and… Well I suppose you could turn one of those off for a bit to run a microwave or coffee maker.
Still, it’s better than the average available electricity for the impoverished third world, both in amount of watts and duration during a day, so it’s all good, right?

Baa Humbug

These people keep attempting to generate electricity from all that daytime solar insolation. So how come they haven’t tried to generate electricity from all that BACKRADIATION that’s present 24/7? Heck, we even get more Wm2 on a cloudy day…….so they tell me. /sarc off

Old Goat

Are they digging Al Gore’s grave, ot merely starting the hole in whcih all the CO2 is going to be buried?


P. Solar:
At April 2, 2012 at 11:57 pm you assert and ask;
“The Spanish can manage to produce base-load solar why can’t the US get its act together?”
I answer that it must be either:
1. The US does not know how to make the Sun shine at night and the Spanish are keeping that secret to themselves.
2. You are spouting nonsense.

It seems every day there’s news of a solar power company that simply fails to be competitive on the open market.

Dodgy Geezer

@richardscourtney says:
“..The US does not know how to make the Sun shine at night and the Spanish are keeping that secret to themselves…”
This is, in fact, the correct answer. refers
It appears that Solar Power can be sold to the Spanish grid for more than the cost of buying electricity from the grid. So the entrepreneurial Spanish used to hook up lights above the PV cells, and keep them generating even during the night. Later, they learned that you didn’t actually need any PV cells at all – all you needed was the paperwork and a grid connection. Once you had that, you could attach your house power to the grid input, and watch the profits roll in….

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

From P. Solar on April 2, 2012 at 11:57 pm:

The Spanish can manage to produce base-load solar why can’t the US get its act together?

World’s First 24/7 Baseload Solar Power Plant Now Fully Operational In Spain
by Joseph Tohill on 06/30/2011

Gemasolar is a sleekly designed, 19.9-MW solar power plant with an expected production of 110,000 MWh per year, or enough energy to power 25,000 homes. But the real gem of the plant is a 15 hour battery to ensure that electricity may still be provided even when solar power is inaccessible.

But Gemasolar solves this problem by incorporating two tanks of salt thermal energy storage. These tanks are filled 60% with potassium nitrate and 40% with sodium nitrate. Environmentalists would be pleased to note that both compounds are environmentally safer and cheaper than their chemical-based counterparts. These “salt” batteries can retain heat generated from the plant for up to 24 hours.

“Use it or lose it” heat retention, it goes away in 24 hours, or you can tap it and get 15 hours of electricity. Doesn’t seem to be a very efficient storage scheme.
How can this be “24/7 Baseload”? Every day must be a sunny day that recharges the system, or the power runs out. Base load must be far more reliable and consistent than that.
19,900,000 Watts
÷ 25,000 homes
= 796 Watts/home
Wow, that’s stingy.
110,000,000,000 Watt hours per year
÷ 19,900,000 Watts
= 5528 hours/yr
÷ 365 days/yr
= 15.1 hrs/day
They don’t even have that stingy 796 Watts/home figured for a full 24 hours? Don’t Spaniards have refrigerators and other loads that just about everyone will have on for just about the entire day? Actually, since it’s supposed to be 24 hours a day, I’d go with 15.1/24=0.63, they only expect production 63% of the year.

Part of the success of the plant can be attributed to its utilization of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) or thermal solar technology. Gemasolar uses 2,650 large reflective mirrors called heliostats which reflect sunlight to a single point on a tower. This tower contains a fluid which heats up several hundred degrees Celsius, generating enough steam to drive a turbine to produce electricity. To ensure they are properly angled for optimal solar concentration, the heliostats move with the sun using two motors and built in programmable logic controllers.

5300 individual motors just on the mirrors, plus PLC’s, plus the pivots and mountings, and all that wiring, and then comes the servicing of the main stuff. Ouch.
Why didn’t they just design it for all-out electrical generation when the sun is out, and use the excess for pumped storage with hydroelectric generation? Seems likely it’d be more efficient, and there could be several days of reserve power.
I found an advanced article about the Gemasolar plant:

The annual electrical output of 110 MWh/year equates to a capacity factor of 63.1%. This is the highest value of any production solar plant in the world. This is not quite baseload, but it would need half the fossil fuel backup of PV technology. It would also have one third of the transmission cost of PV (making the best solar choice for projects like ). The secret of the high capacity factor is the sunny location (expected 270 productive days/year), and a solar field that is so over-sized that significant summer collection is discard in order to get more operating hours during the rest of the year.

Check out the article for the ground-level picture showing the wasted space. They could have installed Six Times the area in standard solar panels.

The UK’s Daily Mail has reported the cost of this small first-of-a-kind plant to be £260million, or about US $419M. This equates to a quite pricey $33 per average Watt delivered, several times higher than the cost of wind, geothermal, or nuclear. However, it’s only somewhat higher than other solar options: $4/Wpeak PV would be $20/Wavg.

Ah, the joys of FREE ENERGY.
÷ 25,000 homes
= $16,760/home
Wow. Referencing previous post, this one costs more than twice per home what the failed one might have cost, while providing less than a fourth of the wattage per home.
So the Spaniards have successfully done what the failed project didn’t do, at only roughly more than Eight Times the per Watt per home cost. Oh yeah, P. Solar, they got this groundbreaking technology down pat, we should hope the US can do as well someday. Go Spain!

Tom in Florida

This is just another pilfering of the U. S. taxpayer by a corrupt government. None of these companies are ever expected to produce anything but cash flow from the Treasury. This is the new way to redistribute wealth, stealing money right out in the open using climate change as the distraction.

Claude Harvey

P. Solar says:
April 2, 2012 at 11:57 pm
“The Spanish can manage to produce base-load solar why can’t the US get its act together?”
Yes, Spain did it and Spain is now bankrupt. While we were paying under 4-cents per Kwh for wholesale electric power in the U.S., Spain guaranteed as much as 58.5 cents for solar. When Spain abrogated those contracts and unilaterally dropped the price to 40-cents, many of its operating solar plants couldn’t service their bank loans.
Let me repeat: “Solar is an economic dog.”


In 2010, the median household income was $52,026, meaning that wasting $2.1 billion destroys the entire annual income of more than 40,000 households. Worse, government will borrow the money to make the good on its loan guarantees, but it never intends to pay off that debt. This leaves future taxpayers, and citizens liable to service it forever, effectively consigning them to a life of debt serfdom. What a foreign military power could not do, we have allowed our own government to do to us, with our own money.


P. Solar wrote: “The Spanish can manage to produce base-load solar why can’t the US get its act together?”
You do know, of course, that Spain now has the highest unemployment rate in Europe, and the huge amounts of money they spent on solar helped put the entire nation on the fast track to bankruptcy? Back in the good old days 2 years ago, the best way to make money was to install some solar cells and then shine a gasoline powered floodlight on them 24 hours a day, since the grid was forced to buy the power at a high multiple of what it cost to produce that way.
Well, all that fell apart and now Spain is bankrupt – may even take down the EU’s entire financial system when they go, but that’s a story for another time and place.
As far as the desert foxes, it does point out a sad irony of leftist governance as practiced today. Leftist governance has come to the point where *no* new initiatives can be implemented, because everything impacts some potential interest group that will be offended (no not foxes, the enviroweenies) And therefore liberalism can no longer even implement its own goals without obstructing itself.
Which is why it is dying, as a movement. But it still threatens to take a lot of us down with it as it goes.

Chuck Nolan

George says:
April 2, 2012 at 8:50 pm
5,950 acres of desert habitat completely destroyed.
George that’s “pristine desert habitat”

Keith Battye

The real lesson from this and Solyndra and Spain and Holland is that the market (the invisible hand ) will always prevail over time. Always.
The political elite often seems to think that it can outguess the market and pick winners but it never works. The market is the big decider (pace GWB ) and it never gets it wrong for long.
The whole CAGW scare is being rejected by the market now. The market of ideas. This “renewables” nonsense is built on the huge lie of Anthropogenic CO2 as the enemy and you can’t build anything sustainable on a lie.
No doubt the big players have already left the table with their sizable winnings but lots of little guys are going to see their arses because of this nonsense they have been fed and they are going to be annoyed. Even those dear folk at the BBC who have had a big slice of their pension funds invested in this lie are going to get upset when they find that the normal caveats weren’t given or followed.
Today there is some maniac in Her Majesty’s Government stating that they will chuck in a quick billion pounds into Carbon Capture development who took great delight in the fact that over two hundred companies had attended a conference on the matter. He seemed unaware that they attended with one thing in mind, getting a slice of that green money. He also mentioned that the plan is to remove the carbon dioxide before combustion ! I mean really, how dumb can you get?
It seems to be a disease of the liberal/left to throw other people’s money at stuff that only helps their buddies rather than the population at large.
Makes you sick really.


The free pass Obama is getting on this obvious waste of tax payer resources is disgusting.
Look at the idiocratic defenses of the believers: they do not even understand that government funded solar is a boondoggle in places like Spain and Germany.
Perhaps part of being an envirocrat is to set aside one’s ability to think critically.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

Attention Anthony:
Here’s the big PR sheet for USDOI: doi_blythe_solar_power_project
Newsflash: AFTER they got the $2.1 Billion in conditional loan guarantees, THEN they completely changed the project. The USDOI link is for when they got the agreement as an innovative Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) project.
Then with contracts in hand, like the prominently-mentioned transmission rights agreements with the utilities, they switched to an ordinary PV installation:
Important Info: With the switch they lost those loan guarantees.

The change in technology for the first half of the project also will mean a change in how the project will be financed.
The Department of Energy offered $2.1 billion conditional commitment of a $2.1 billion loan to support construction of the first two, 250-megawatt CSP systems. But with the drastic change in the project, Solar Trust will seek funding from other sources.
“We will finance the project in the commercial bank market,” Sullivan said.

“The switch will mean the company has to walk away from a $2.1 billion federal loan guarantee.”
Also, at that link is much moaning about CSP being abandoned and unexplored, with 3 gigawatts of solar thermal projects going PV instead.
So to capitalize on the sucking, the authorities just authorized a massive CSP project in Colorado (bold added):

Make or Break Time for Concentrating Solar
Published on Date April 2nd, 2012 by Matter Network
The San Luis Valley in southern Colorado is a place of desolate beauty, roughly the size of New Hampshire, the driest high-elevation area in the United States. It’s also becoming a proving ground for both wind and solar power projects, some of them of vast scale. This week the Saguache County Board of Commissioners voted to issue a permit for a sprawling solar power facility that would generate 200 megawatts (MW) – three times the electricity of the three solar plants already existing in the Valley.
The San Luis project, being developed by Santa Monica, Calif.-based SolarReserve, is also noteworthy because it uses concentrating solar technology, which uses arrays of sun-tracking mirrors, known as heliostats, to amplify and focus the sun’s energy onto a fluid – water or molten salt – that is heated to make steam. Covering 4,000 acres, SolarReserve’s plant will include two 656-foot towers surrounded by 1,700 acres of heliostats. Although SolarReserve has a contract with Xcel Energy for 100 MW of transmission capacity on a nearby Xcel power line, it has not yet found a buyer for power from the complex.

There is also mention of a CSP project, the “…392 MW Ivanpah plant being built by BrightSource Energy.”

BrightSource was also in the news this week as it filed for an initial public offering in which it plans to raise $182.5 million. Backed by Google and by power producer NRG Energy, BrightSource is also the recipient of a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy – a fact that could become politically inconvenient once it’s a publicly traded company with millions in shareholder cash. BrightSource already has 13 contracts to sell power to utilities including PG&E Corp. and Edison International. The IPO is scheduled for mid-April, according to Bloomberg.

At which point, when faced with a cheaper proven technology, does an “innovative emerging technology” officially become a funding-sucking scam?