Solar Fossil Fueled Fantasies

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach.

Sometimes when I’m reading about renewable technologies, I just break out laughing at the madness that the war on carbon has wrought. Consider the Ivanpah solar tower electric power plant. It covers five square miles in Southern California with mirrors which are all focusing the sun on a central tower. The concentrated sunlight boils water that is used to run a steam turbine to generate electricity.

ivanpah solar power plant

 

Sounds like at a minimum it would be ecologically neutral … but unfortunately, the Law of Unintended Consequences never sleeps, and the Ivanpah tower has turned out to be a death trap for birds, killing hundreds and hundreds every year:

“After several studies, the conclusion for why birds are drawn to the searing beams of the solar field goes like this: Insects are attracted to the bright light of the reflecting mirrors, much as moths are lured to a porch light. Small birds — insect eaters such as finches, swallows and warblers — go after the bugs. In turn, predators such as hawks and falcons pursue the smaller birds.

But once the birds enter the focal field of the mirrors, called the “solar flux,” injury or death can occur in a few seconds. The reflected light from the mirrors is 800 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Either the birds are incinerated in flight; their feathers are singed, causing them to fall to their deaths; or they are too injured to fly and are killed on the ground by predators, according to a report by the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory.”

– David Danelski, Solar: Ivanpah Solar Described as Deadly Trap for Wildlife,” Riverside-Press Enterprise, April 8, 2014.

 

But of course, that’s not what made me laugh. That’s a tragedy which unfortunately will be mostly ignored by those good-hearted environmentally conscious folks suffering from chronic carbophobia.

The next oddity about Ivanpah is that despite being powered by light, it is light-years away from being economically viable. Like the old sailors say, “The wind is free … but everything else costs money”.

But being totally uneconomical doesn’t matter, because despite costing $2.2 billion to build, Google is a major shareholder, so at least they could afford to foot the bills for their high-priced bird-burner …

Ivanpah Solar power II

 

… get real. Google would much rather use taxpayer dollars to burn birds alive than foot the costs themselves. Being good businessmen and women they sought and got a $1.6 billion dollar taxpayer funded loan, presumably because no bank on the planet would touch the project. And if the banks wouldn’t touch it, why should you and I?

But that’s not enough for these greedy green pluted bloatocrats. Now, they are applying for a $539 million dollar GIFT of your and my taxpayer money in order to repay the money that you and I already lent them … we should give them the money to repay ourselves? Give an unimaginably wealthy company money to repay us what we have loaned them? Have I wandered into a parallel universe? This is GOOGLE, folks, and they’re trying to poor-mouth us?

And of course, that’s not what made me laugh either. That is another tragedy which unfortunately will be ignored by those who wish to see electricity prices rise … you know, folks like President Obama, who famously said:

Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket …

Of course, such an electricity price rise would mean nothing to him, like every recent President he’ll leave office a multi-millionaire. And such an energy price rise means nothing to the Google execs who are burning birds alive … but for those of us here on the ground, causing the electricity rates to skyrocket is not the moral high ground, it is a crime against the poor.

So that is no laughing matter at all.

No, the part that I didn’t know about Ivanpah (and other solar steam plants), the part that got me smiling, was that there is a problem with a solar tower that is generating steam. This is that steam turbines don’t do well at all with half a head of steam. For full efficiency a turbine needs full pressure steam in order to operate. And it has to have full pressure, not when the valves are closed to let the pressure build up, but when the turbine is actually using the steam.

And since you can’t store steam, that in turn means that Google can’t start up their you-beaut solar tower until fairly late in the morning.

Well, the solution that the good engineers hired by Google came up with was simple.

Start the sucker up using natural gas. That way, first you can heat the cool boiler water before the sun comes up. Then, as more and more solar energy comes online during the morning, you can taper off on the natural gas.

But having a solar plant that runs on natural gas, although funny, wasn’t the best part … it gets better:

One big miscalculation was that the power plant requires far more steam to run smoothly and efficiently than originally thought, according to a document filed with the California Energy Commission. Instead of ramping up the plant each day before sunrise by burning one hour’s worth of natural gas to generate steam, Ivanpah needs more than four times that much help from fossil fuels to get plant humming every morning. MARKETWATCH

These good folks have underestimated the amount of fossil fuels that the plant would need by a factor of four, and they want us to follow their lead in reorganizing the world’s energy supply? And of course, in the familiar refrain, the taxpayer is expected to foot the bill for their ignorance and their inept calculations.

So now, I find out that the Ivanpah plant runs on natural gas four hours a day, and I gotta say, I did find that funny. But in the most ironic twist of all, the above link goes on to say:

Another unexpected problem: not enough sun. Weather predictions for the area underestimated the amount of cloud cover that has blanketed Ivanpah since it went into service in 2013.

And that brought the joke all the way around. I found that hilariously ironic. Because of alarmism based on computer model predictions of rising temperatures in 100 years, we’ve built a fossil-fuel fired solar plant which is already in trouble because of failed computer model predictions of the clouds over the next few years … don’t know about you, but that cracked me up.

Now, even the best solar energy conversion devices don’t operate 24 hours a day, or even 12 hours a day. Generally, eight hours a day or even less is the norm. And that has been cut down by clouds … so at present, dreaded fossil fuels are likely providing a third of the energy to fuel the plant.

Gotta say, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about things like the natural-gas powered Ivanpah solar power plant fiasco. On the whole I have to favor laughter … but dear heavens, the damage that environmentalists are doing in the name of the environment is appalling. Burning birds alive in the name of making energy prices skyrocket? Have we sunk this low? Really?

In any case, my best guess is that this is a self-limiting problem, or it would be without subsidies. The “levelized cost” of solar thermal is horrendous. It is the only technology which is more expensive than offshore wind, and it is the most expensive of the commonly analyzed grid-scale renewable choices. It won’t work without the kind of multi-million dollar taxpayer subsidies that the Google folks think that they deserve … me, I would never have given them the loan of taxpayer money in the first place, that’s the bank’s job, not the government’s job. More to the point, I think they deserve to pay the damn loan back themselves.

Let me close on a more optimistic note. The referenced article says:

Bird carnage combined with opposition by Native American tribes to industrial projects on undeveloped land has made California regulators wary of approving more. Last September, Abengoa and BrightSource abandoned their quest to build a solar-thermal project near Joshua Tree National Park when the state regulator told them the plant’s footprint would have to be cut in half.

In March the Board of Supervisors of Inyo County, a sparsely populated part of California that is home to Death Valley National Park, voted to ban solar-thermal power plants altogether. “Ivanpah had a significant effect on the decision making,” said Joshua Hart, the county’s planning director.

If the final end of Ivanpah is the end of any further Ivanpahs ever, I suppose that I’d say that Ivanpah was worth whatever it cost … although I’m sure the birds would have preferred a different path to that outcome. As long as Ivanpah is in operation birds will continue to be burned alive in the name of driving up electricity prices … and these monomoniacal carbophobes still think that they have the high moral ground regarding fossil fuels?

Because I rather suspect that neither the birds nor the poor would agree …

w.

De Costumbre: If you disagree with what I or anyone says, please have the courtesy to quote the exact words that you object to. That way, we can all understand exactly what you find objectionable.

Advertisements

455 thoughts on “Solar Fossil Fueled Fantasies

  1. I live near Ivanpah, and drive by it a few times per year. It’s very pretty to look at but of course this technology can not and will not ever replace traditional sources of energy. This article makes me want to kill my Gmail address. Google, you stink.

      • That sounds good, but in practice, Google looks at your search preferences and uses them to push ads designed to get your attention everywhere you go. If you use Chrome, they get even better information on you. They make money selling that information to other companies who push their ads on you. You Tube forces you to take an ad break you can’t ditch and annoying pop ups sometimes block parts of the video you want to watch. I very seldom look at You Tube, anymore, I’m so annoyed.

      • “(Google) makes money selling that information to other companies who push their ads on you.”

        Source?

    • Before you kill your Gmail account, consider the following: BrightSource Energy and NRG Solar received a conditional loan from the DOE’s 1705 program, in late 2010. They then sought investors. NRG Solar committed $300 million, Google $168 million, and others (VantagePoint, Morgan Stanley and CA State Teachers’ Retirement, to name a few) for a total of $600 million in investments. This stake gave Google and NRG 86% ownership of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in April 2011. Google, as they usually do, dove head-long into the project within the scope of their already existing project, RE<c. Google engineers worked extensively on two main issue. Heliostats and water consumption of the project. A wealth of information was gathered, recommendations made, but fell on deaf ears. So, in November of 2011, Google retired it's RE<c program and engineering involvement in Ivanpah. It made the results of it's work public and moved on.

      Ivanpah is not generating electricity as they thought, so projected profits are not there. NRG, who has had operational control of Ivanpah since December 2013, applied for US Treasury Department's 1603 cash grants which reimburse renewable energy projects 30% of their costs as a grant. They would have done this regardless, but instead of added 'profit', this money is going towards making the payment on the loan. This is not a bailout. This is not a loan. This is not a GIFT.

      I come here for the science. Not knee-jerk hit pieces on Google who have done pretty awesome things that I benefit from daily, at no cost to me. I hope Google continues pumping money into energy technology, and since a huge part of their business involves electricity, I'm sure they will, with or without you using their free email account, scholar, drive, maps, navigation, browser, search engine, calculator, translator, sky map, etc., and of course you would be hard pressed to never again tell Google to "do a barrel roll" ;)

      • HermosaBeachBum June 17, 2015 at 12:18 am

        Ivanpah is not generating electricity as they thought, so projected profits are not there. NRG, who has had operational control of Ivanpah since December 2013, applied for US Treasury Department’s 1603 cash grants which reimburse renewable energy projects 30% of their costs as a grant. They would have done this regardless, but instead of added ‘profit’, this money is going towards making the payment on the loan. This is not a bailout. This is not a loan. This is not a GIFT.

        Hermosa, if this is the extent of your financial knowledge I can see why you are a beach bum. A GRANT IS A GIFT! It is free money, no need to repay it, and in general the money is coming out of the pockets of those of us taxpayers who are not beach bums …

        So I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but it is indeed a bailout. It is indeed a gift. Not only that, but it is a gift of my taxpayer money to some of the richest companies and individuals on this planet. It mystifies me that you would defend that kind of blatant ripoff of the public purse.

        Hey, I’m a surfer myself, so I do love spending time at the beach … but next time you’re on the sand soaking up rays you might want to crack open an economics primer …

        w.

      • Willis, I’m sure if we were chatting in the line up, waiting for that next set, we would be nodding in approval over our mutual disgust for crony capitalism. So it is with the utmost respect that I offer the following:

        The 1603 program offers a grant in lieu of the Section 48 tax credit. Companies that take advantage of tax credits, or grants in lieu of, are entitled to do so under the law. They are not stealing, being loaned or gifted the money.

        An analogy: If you install solar panels, you receive a tax credit of $500. So you can subtract that from what you owe the government in taxes. If the 1603 program was applied to this analogy, the $500 would be in the form of a grant, paid after the panels are installed, instead of at the end of the year when you file your taxes as a credit.

        In the case of Ivanpah, it is better for them to take the money now (grant), than apply that money as a tax credit later, because Ivanpah is not doing well financially. Whether Ivanpah will be a success is yet to be determined. Personally, I’m with Google on this one. Ivanpah’s Solar Towers, are not the path we should be pursuing.

        Faulting a company that Google is an owner of, for taking reimbursements that it is entitled to under the law, is misplaced. All the brow-beating in the world will not stop companies from collecting 1603 grants or the Section 48 tax credits. Our issue then, is with the 1603 program and the entire Recovery Act that it falls under. In the repeal of such disastrous legislation, I support you 100%.

      • Hermosa, tax credits are for profitable businesses. A business that’s unable to generate a profit shouldn’t be given anything. Plenty of companies die with millions of tax-losses that become worthless. Renewable projects that couldn’t generate a profit shouldn’t be any different. Google is an equity owner that was able to take an incredibly large risk using tax-payer money. The project didn’t work, so the equity owners should be forced to “work-out” their loan like all equity owners that can’t maintain their loan covenants. Yes, we are criticizing the grants and tax credit systems that allow an equities holders such as Google to squander so much taxpayer money on pre-mature energy technology bets.

      • Hermosa, I just want to make sure you understand the difference between a tax credit and a grant.

        A tax credit lets you keep some of the money you earned. A grant lets you keep some of the money I earned. The latter is a gift from me to you, by force. The former was yours to begin with.

        Got it?

      • Jtom commented:
        “A tax credit lets you keep some of the money you earned. A grant lets you keep some of the money I earned. The latter is a gift from me to you, by force. The former was yours to begin with.

        Best explanation ever!

      • HermosaBeachBum June 17, 2015 at 2:23 pm

        Willis, I’m sure if we were chatting in the line up, waiting for that next set, we would be nodding in approval over our mutual disgust for crony capitalism.

        Thanks, Hermosa. True dat …

        So it is with the utmost respect that I offer the following:

        The 1603 program offers a grant in lieu of the Section 48 tax credit. Companies that take advantage of tax credits, or grants in lieu of, are entitled to do so under the law. They are not stealing, being loaned or gifted the money.

        An analogy: If you install solar panels, you receive a tax credit of $500. So you can subtract that from what you owe the government in taxes. If the 1603 program was applied to this analogy, the $500 would be in the form of a grant, paid after the panels are installed, instead of at the end of the year when you file your taxes as a credit.

        Hermosa, whether it is called a “grant” or a “tax credit”, it is money that is going from the taxpayers to Google without any requirement for repayment. This is usually termed a gift to differentiate it from a “loan”, where the money needs to be repaid.

        So I’m sorry, Hermosa, but your and my taxpayer money is indeed being given to Google without need for repayment. Do I fault them for taking it? Of course not.

        I fault Obama and his cronies for giving it to them.

        Finally, you say:

        They are not stealing, being loaned or gifted the money.

        While they are not stealing or being loaned the money, since they are under no obligation to pay it back they assuredly are being gifted the money. That’s what “gift” means—it’s not a reward for work done, and you don’t have to pay it back.

        w.

  2. but but but…many many more birds will die and go extinct because of global thermal hysterical warming

    which BTW it has not warmed just yet…
    …but one day bam

    40% are totally insane

    • Totally left out the part about the blinded airline pilots.
      This was the first of the awful unintended consequences to get any press.
      Which is logical…it aint the poor flying into LA, Las Vegas, or any of the other places that use this route.

      • @ Tom –

        They claim that the bird frying phenomenon only occurs at standby, yet their numbers don’t add up. They claim 115 smokers in four hours of standby in one day, yet the total body count was supposedly 321? And they claim that it’s only an avian hazard during standby mode?

        I call BS on their exercise in penance.

      • @Tom Harley
        The “one weird trick” article brought two questions to mind.
        1. Why have a standby position at all? You have to make “hay while the sun shines.”
        2. So standby now defocuses the mirrors and points them above the tower — making the irritation to pilots even worse and longer lasting.

        Willis is absolutely right — Google should get no “gift”.
        Now, let’s see what politician is going to stand up to the money and power of Google.

      • No, what they are saying was that bird deaths will no longer occur while the system is in standby mode because standby mode doesn’t concentrate the sun more than 4x at any single point. They failed to mention that the system will still be quite lethal to birds while operating normally. The article was pointing out that bird mortality during standby mode is unnecessary. What’s implied is that bird mortality during operating is still considered an unfortunate reality.

        I also the 115 deaths occurred during a single incident. 321 is supposedly the total during a period of time.

      • wobble commented: “No, what they are saying was that bird deaths will no longer occur while the system is in standby mode because standby mode doesn’t concentrate the sun more than 4x at any single point. They failed to mention that the system will still be quite lethal to birds while operating normally. The article was pointing out that bird mortality during standby mode is unnecessary. What’s implied is that bird mortality during operating is still considered an unfortunate reality.”

        How I understand it…….the focal point will be different and enlarged during standby reducing the power. Under ‘normal’ operation I’m skeptical there would be much area of concentration besides the tower and wouldn’t the birds try to avoid the tower? I hope this effort solves the problem but once again…..I’m a skeptic.

  3. No doubt Google’s battalion of lawyers made sure that Google will never have to worry about paying back a single dime greater than some nominal amount specified in the contract.

    Isn’t Google’s corporate motto “Don’t be evil”? I guess they have their own definitions of “Don’t” and “evil”. Hmmm…. I might google that some day.

    /snark

      • “Al Gore is on the board, they have no worries.”

        Well, after all, he DID invent the Internet, didn’t he!

      • The funny thing about GoogleGate (as it was called at the time) is that Google did autosuggest “ClimateGate” intially (I know because I had an interest in following the term at the time, for obvious reasons), but then it dropped off autosuggest and Climate Guatamala appeared as the top suggestion. This occured even when typing in the entire word “ClimateGate.” Google can pretend they didn’t tamper, but given the founders are billion dollar investors in “green energy” and Al Gore was an advisor, one does have to wonder. It was all very fishy at the time.

        These days they make sure the Wikipedia and Skeptical Science entries come up first so that searchers are quickly led to believe it is all bunkum.

      • sorry but when typing “climateg” i google suggested “climategate” as n°1, and its variant (+”email”, “complot”, “2” etc.) as suggestions 3 to 10. Only 2nd is not related, it’s “climate games”.
        Pretty same thing when typing “climate g” : i get “climate gate” as second to “climate group”. and then a bunch of “climate place-with-initial-G-in-name” (germany greece, georgia gran canyon etc.).

        google notoriously adapt its result to user’s googling history, so i guess you googled about something related to “guatemala”

      • paqyfelyc, yes, google has since released it’s control on the automation related to autosuggesting for climateg. But it was most certainly clear at the time of climategate that google had interfered.

    • Wonder what will happen if I google “Google burns birds” or “Google takes welfare” or “Google gets welfare to burn birds”? How about Google execs should be made to eat their burned birds?

      • Google will apparently let you know they are roasting birds alive, even listing a You Tube video first. It is apparent they have researched and determined 98 percent of googles don’t care, so they can afford to let you see the information.

    • Don’t be evil is aspirational.

      Google’s founders realized up front that KNOWING the identity of every searcher and storing forever the search made gave them tremendous power. Gosh, all the C level executive staffers at Heinz have been searching for information on every aspect of Kraft Foods for months. And now those searches are coming from the M&A team at Heinz’s banks.

      No value to that intelligence. Nope. None at all.

  4. You find it “pretty rather than an offence against the natural beauty of the desert hmmm. The land of fruit and nuts gets crazier and crazier.
    I do like this alliteration;
    Chronic Carbophobia.

    • I too like it and will ask my wife(physician) how she treated patients with “Chronic carbophobia”

  5. “their high-priced bird-burner …”
    We have all jumped to quickly to conclusions, we have to wait for stage two of the project: it is envisaged that, under the path of the Sun-Beam (Not the appliance mob) a series of 200 tables will be installed.
    Patrons would sit and wait for a direct delivery of perfectly roasted birds to their dinner (Lunch?) plate.
    The restaurant will be called “Cannot-be-fresher-than-this” It is estimated that an injection of $250Mil will be needed to start up the business. Pay back time: approx 650 Years!

      • They missed an oppurtunity here for a fast food outlet …

        Wind Turbines + Solar Plant = Sliced, diced and flash fried birds …

    • Why not make it a goverment subsidized NPO to serve the birds to the poor, reducing their cost of food, leaving them with the money to pay the higher cost of electricity?

      Perhaps someone here could get a grant for a feasibility study and hire the rest of us. Our first government-paid-for-meeting could be held in Aruba.

  6. “Weather predictions for the area underestimated the amount of cloud cover that has blanketed Ivanpah”

    …It’s worser than we thought!

    • And this during the ‘drought for the ages’. What are they going to get during the raining years?

    • Is there no end to the evil of global warming. Now it’s causing clouds to form over solar power plants.

      • It’s all the fault of:
        ☐ George Bush
        ☐ Koch Bros.
        ☐ Jupiter Pluvius
        ☐ Capitalism
        ☐ Big government
        ☑ Big sarcasm

    • Well Nigel, it’s a whole lot worser than we thought; almost worsest imaginable, one might say.

      I have an aerial photo of the somewhat similar one in Nevada at Tonopah, I guess it’s called, as my laptop desktop, behind this memo.

      As everybody by now knows, the target tower is about in the middle of a roughly circular array of mirrors. At least the Nevada one (which I think is the latest one) is arrayed in a number of circular arcs.

      Clearly, not all the mirrors are at the same distance from the tower, but all are at least the tower height distance from the target.

      So an efficient structure would have each mirror be a parabola whose focal length was its distance from the tower.

      Well now; the sun does not travel around this array in a circle, or anything like one. The sun is “over there” in that direction, and if it was on the equator, about half of the mirrors would be on the sun side of the tower, and the other half, would be “down sun” from the tower. At sunrise, some of the down sun mirrors operate at relatively small incidence angles, near the normal to the mirror.

      But the mirrors that are on the sunny side of the tower, where the sun shines directly on the tower, are operating at a near grazing incidence angle in some cases; the sun rays have to deviate by an angle greater than 90 degrees, and in some cases approaching 180 degrees.

      And all of that geometry changes constantly during the daylight hours.

      Now a parabolic mirror simply does not want to operate optically in an off axis mode. The optical aberrations are huge, even at a single fixed angle.

      So nyet on the parabolas, even though their focal ratio is very large. But the same applies to spherical mirrors; they too do not like to operate off axis, and they don’t like the varying angle either.

      So the only viable shape for those mirrors is dead flat. Each mirror forms a sun image on the tower, that is the distance from the boiler, times 1/2 degree (in radians); about 1/120 of the distance from the tower., and it intercepts the ground level TSI of maybe 1,000 w/m^2 max under the best of circumstances.

      But wait, there is more; you have to multiply the area of the mirror by the cosine of the incidence angle of the sun relative to the mirror normal, and that approaches 90 degrees for some of the up sun mirrors.

      So optically the contraption is a piece of desert scat.

      Now as the sun transits the sky, each of those mirrors casts a shadow on the ground; or on any adjacent mirror that might be too close.

      So the total solar intercept area is a small fraction of the total land area put to wasteful “use” with disastrous environmental impacts on the flora and fauna.

      I believe that the one in Nevada, actually melts a molten salt, which is then pumped through the system and then a heat exchanger boils the water to make steam. I think they still use fossil gas to initially melt the molten salt, so with that system, they can actually run at night as the molten salt cools (water cooled) and gives up its latent heat.

      It would be nice to think, that with proper design, they could actually use the solar energy to melt the salt, instead of fossil fuel. But that assumes that the solar duty cycle, including Willis’s cloud build up, is enough to do that on a steady state basis.

      With all the inefficiencies in the optics, somebody would have to prove to me, that is possible.

      All in all, I believe that you could replace that field of mirrors, with an array of stationary bicycles, and pay unemployed workers to pedal a flock of bike generators, and generate more electricity that this Kentucky fried chicken factory.

      These things rival the Solyndra cylindrical solar tubes for optical stupidity.

      Optics is basically applied geometry (well one branch of optics is). and you simply cannot squeeze a high energy solar power plant into a shoebox.

      I think Willis’s guffaws at Ivanpah, or Tonopah, is the correct scientific response to this man made folly.

      g

      • And I guess I should have pointed out that each mirror’s sun image, is at least equal to the cosine projected are of the mirror, plus the 1/2 degree solar angular size penumbra.

        No matter how many words you use, somebody will always point out that you forgot some detail.

        Maybe I over assume that folks should understand all those details by themselves.

        Geometrical optics isn’t really all that hard to understand.

      • George –

        It’s all well and good to state that the mirrors have to be planar, but actually making them stay planar through installation and through the full range of operational variables (ambient temperature, support structure temperature, aiming angle, so on and so forth) is a fool’s errand.

        Sorry… just wanted to pile on. Hearing about people wanting my tax money tends to do that to me.

      • @ Lee Harvey,

        Well Lee, the original Hubble Space Telescope mirror was manufactured and tested to exactly the correct prescription, as accurately as it is possible to do anything these day in geometrical optics fabrication.

        Unfortunately it was ground and tested on earth; subject to earth gravity; whereas it was to operate in space in a gravity free environment, without mechanical distortions. It took an optics miracle to correct that [faux pa] out in space, to get the imagery we now have.

        So is it absolutely necessary for me to explain every time that after designing something correctly, you have to make sure that the design is implemented correctly in the application environment.

        As it turns out, the numerical aperture of these mirrors is so tiny, that it almost doesn’t matter how badly made they are; they will pretty much operate in a diffraction limited mode, regardless of what shape they are.

        Poorly fabricated and mounted mirrors are an irrelevancy if the basic design is faulty; and I shouldn’t have to tell people that simple factoid.

        [Is a misspelled fox pass the same as a faux paws? .mod]

  7. It would seem that a distributed solar power system would be more cost effective, more efficient, and would NOT destroy untold acres of desert. But, you say, putting solar panels on every roof in California won’t solve power needs. Nope. It won’t. Neither will the abominable desert solar plants. But it would reduce dependency on fossil fuel while NOT ruining desert. While this would seem make sense, people with lots of money to spend don’t want to lose control, and distributing the power across every building in the state would not allow them to charge whatever they can get away with for electricity. Discrete power plants, no matter how inefficient, serve that role better.

    • Richard, you have it all wrong. Most of the use of “fossil fuels” is in transportation, not electricity generation. Reliance on solar will not have a serious impact on our use of safe, reliable, high energy content resources like gasoline and diesel. As for the those with lots of money to spend who you believe are out to keep control, most residential solar installations are 1) highly subsidized at the federal, state and even local levels, 2) the vast majority go on high net worth/income residences and not the middle class ratepayers that pay for the subsidies through higher electricity rates and fees and 3) it is the greedy rich solar owners who aren’t satisfied with the subsidies to install the solar, but demand feed in tariffs and above the marginal cost of generation (cost shifting onto the rest of the rate payers) for any excess kwh that they push into the grid. Like Ivanpah, offshore wind and other incredibly uneconomical “green energy” solutions — distributed solar, if left to stand on its own (even after decades and decades of heavy government support) will fall by the wayside as it is economical in only the narrowest of niche markets. But it is the wealthy green hypocrites that demand we continue to clobber the middle class to assuage their green guilt.

      • Most of the use of “fossil fuels” is in transportation, not electricity generation. Reliance on solar will not have a serious impact on our use of safe, reliable, high energy content resources like gasoline and diesel.

        Some folks are experimenting with ammonia as a motor fuel. In theory it could be made by electrolysis of water to get hydrogen. It sounds like a good idea …

      • ‘Fossil Fuel’ doesn’t just mean Oil. Coal and Natural Gas are also included and predominantly are used in energy production.

      • commieBob

        You say

        Some folks are experimenting with ammonia as a motor fuel. In theory it could be made by electrolysis of water to get hydrogen. It sounds like a good idea …

        Sorry, but it does not sound like a good idea.

        Please look up efficiency. Using ammonia as a fuel would be very, very expensive power obtained with risks to public safety.

        The proposed hydrolysis would use energy from renewables to obtain the hydrogen (H) by splitting water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen (H). Some of the energy from renewables would be used in the process to combine the hydrogen with nitrogen (N) to create the ammonia (NH3).

        Fuels are stores of energy. They release the stored energy in controlled rates and this is important; e.g. ignition of 1 kg of gelignite releases less energy than ignition of 1 kg of coal but gelignite burns faster than coal.

        Petroleum and diesel fuels may burn do not explode in vehicle crashes. Hydrogen explodes when ignited and can spontaneously ignite if mixed with air in appropriate ratios.

        The proposed ammonia is constructed from hydrogen and nitrogen because it does not explode. But it is a very inefficient fuel. It is NH3 and when burned (i.e. combined with oxygen, O) its energy release is from its hydrogen being burned with some of the released energy being used to strip the nitrogen from the hydrogen.

        Importantly, the combustion temperature must be low because higher temperatures oxidise the nitrogen to form oxides of nitrogen (NOx) that are serious air pollution (they create ‘acid rain’). The required low combustion temperatures make ammonia a very inefficient fuel. The poor efficiency can be reduced by use of additional expensive catalytic converters.

        In summation,
        a vehicle would need a very large fuel tank if it used such an inefficient fuel as ammonia,
        the required degree of renewable energy to provide ammonia for significant amounts of vehicle fuel is expensive and impractical when compared to e.g. refined oil products,
        and
        ammonia as a transport fuel would be extremely polluting unless vehicles were fitted with additional and expensive catalytic converters.

        Richard

      • Richard, you have it all wrong. Most of the use of “fossil fuels” is in transportation,

        I beg to differ, I was under the impression that the majority of “fossil fuels” (which is misleading statement), go to manufacturing just about everything we use, like plastics (computers and i-pads and the like, sheathing for power lines, vinyl for your house’s siding, roofing, cars, bikes etc etc etc etc. Add in the energy used to produce all of these things , I doubt “fossil fuels” are mostly used for transportation and if that is a big problem let the Al Gore’s and Suzuki’s off this planet WALK to Paris!.

      • The bit of truthiness is that oil is mostly used for transportation, and coal is used for electricity. NG is used for everything. Beyond that I have no idea how much oil is used for plastics, vs transportation.

        So yeah, when you hear a solar plant is going to reduce oil imports, look skeptically – oil in the form of diesel is usually only used at construction sites, and as back up generators. Diesel is way to expensive for home and general business electric generation, it costs about 5X as much as coal for the same energy output.

    • So Richard, what the costs per installed and operating kW/hr for the five hours a day at half the rated capacity of Ivanpah? Does a plant like this every even recover the fossil fuels necessary to manufacture all the mirrors, turbines, land clearing/ grading etc?

      Probably not.

    • Go ahead, put as many solar cells on your roof as you want.
      Just don’t demand that others pay for them.
      By the way, are you really this delusional? Do you really believe that power generators get to charge whatever they want?

    • Richard

      While you were asleep, the state of CA regulated the retail cost of energy, and deregulated the wholesale price (i.e.: what the utilities have to pay to buy power from out of state because CA does not have enough generating capacity).

      Pacific Gass & Electric (PG&E) already went bankrupt in 2001 as a result of this stupidity.

      “So what?” you say…well, it’s no so trivial to all the widow & orphans (not to mention retirement funds) that, at one time, owned billions of their stock.

      Richard, it’s silly inconsequential people like you who are so easily manipulated by Gore et al.

    • Solar panels on roofs won’t cut back on any fossil fuel usage. Dirty secret is, that roof solar is so variable that very little if any of it can really be used with 92 – 100% backup power required.

      It is just a subsidy for the rich who can afford to buy 30k worth of solar equipment, and to cover their electricity the rest of us have their rates jaced up. Power in San Diego is 18.8¢ per kWh for the first half of your need and 25.5¢ for the rest. Almost twice Texas. And the extra money goes to subsidizing rich solar folks as well as tons of dubious eco projects the state government desires. You can be sure Google is getting paid outrageous amounts by our utilies, for their unusable solar energy, being forced to by the state.

      • If the wafer fabs making the cells were all located in places like the Pac NW or Quebec, where they get a lot of power from hydro, one could almost rationalize the power used in manufacturing. But that is not the case. 30 or so years ago, most of the fabs were in the SW US and back East, using coal powered juice. Now, most are in China, using even dirtier coal powered juice.

    • Now, Richard may be a crazy AGW fanatic, but it’s sure not in evidence based on what he wrote here. It seems like a lot of people here are engaging in two minutes of hate (1984 reference). I know a lot of you are spoiling for a fight, but don’t be so reactionary.

      While I don’t agree that solar power plants destroy deserts or that there is any reason to reduce dependence on beautiful hydrocarbons, I also don’t see anything wrong with solar energy, whether on roof tops or in a solar power plant. I don’t like mirrors, and subsidies should be consistent with other major businesses. I condemn all of these green energy scams.

      However, you people with the strong anti-AGW emotions are projecting AGW onto everything and everybody. China is building solar power plants and regardless of what anybody says, they don’t care about the environment. They are doing it because once built, the energy is free.

      Now before you unleash your two minutes of hate against me, please be aware that several years ago, I was challenged by my impertinent son to prove that solar power wasn’t viable (since I had been saying the same things you folks have been writing here). I created a very detailed spread sheet using a working knowledge of power EE (my long ago specialty). I was surprised and chagrined to conclude that it was definitely a viable business. No government subsidies required.

      Saying that solar power is not profitable just because of early crony capitalist boondoggle government scams, is like saying that the Railroads were never going to be profitable, just because it started with a government boondoggle of mammoth proportions. The transcontinental railroad cost $100 M in 1860 dollars, which is about $2.6 Billion in 2014 dollars.

      However, today, Union Pacific “generates profits at a rate that rivals those of the best tech, pharmaceutical, and financial services companies. In 2014, Union Pacific logged $5.18 billion in net profits on sales of $24 billion, for a return-on-revenues ratio of 21.6%. By that measure, the railroad company ties Apple (21.6%) and beats J.P. Morgan (21.3%), Goldman Sachs (21.1%), Intel (20.9%), Google (20.2%), and Pfizer (18.4%)”.

      • VikingExplorer commented :
        “….seems like a lot of people here are engaging in two minutes of hate (1984 reference). I know a lot of you are spoiling for a fight, but don’t be so reactionary.”

        I think you are misinterpreting. Of course solar power is viable…..it’s proven. The point is today it’s not a replacement in either function or cost effectiveness over fossil fuel. And since we now know….through empirical evidence…that there is little to no AGW why force it on society? This is a classic example of unintended consequences brought about by zealous environmentalists that don’t know shat from shinola nor care about mankind.

      • >> not a replacement in either function or cost effectiveness over fossil fuel

        I’ve certainly never said it was. There might be a few crazies who say that, but by and large, you folks are putting words in people’s mouths with your AGW tunnel vision. With a single payer power industry mindset, people are saying “needs a back up source”. Well, that’s all a load of crap. Is McDonalds not a viable business just because it’s incapable of being the sole source of food for the nation?

        Solar power doesn’t need to store energy for the night time, because it’s niche is during the heat of the day, which is also when we hit max power usage in the summer time. And don’t argue this point, because I’ll just show you power curves from PJM, the big sub grid on the east coast.

        >> why force it on society?

        I don’t see how solar is being forced on society. A tax credit is keeping money that should never have been owed or paid in the first place. It’s not your money. Government does use force, and this administration is using force to harm the energy business in general, and the coal industry in particular.

        This administration is not so much pro-solar, as it is pro-spending and anti-free markets and anti any productive and profitable business. He’s targeting energy because this is the jugular of the economy. If a lion goes for the throat, one does not conclude that the lion is pro-heart and lungs. The lion aims to kill the body and feast on it’s remains. He who is anti-heart because he completely misreads the lions intentions, is truly clueless.

      • The Kool Aid is strong in this one. Nobody is ‘fighting’ solar power. The facts are that it is not economical when compared to fossil fuel and…..I repeat….empirical evidence proves CO2 does not cause CAGW. That’s all, no ulterior motive. It’s being ‘forced’ on us because conventional energy methods are being phased out under pressure before their time. We’re not ready….simple as that. The “need” is not there other than some propaganda designed to scare people into submission.

      • My understanding is that the transcontinental railroads actually repaid the federal subsidies. Unlike today’s energy boondoggles.

      • >> transcontinental railroads actually repaid

        Yes, loans were repaid, partly because the underlying business was profitable, and partly from being given the land, which allowed them to sell land-grant bonds. However, it was a huge government boondoggle.

        My point is not that businesses should start with a government boondoggle, my point is that the fact that it does would not by itself imply that the business model itself is not sound.

        My secondary point is that the US government has always been engaged in boondoggles. I’m horrified by it all as well, I’m just finding the outrage a bit selective around here. Instead of complaining about people keeping their own money with rooftop solar power, why don’t you all complain that Amtrak has cost the taxpayers over $45 billion in subsidies over the last 44 years.

      • >> The facts are that it is not economical when compared to fossil fuel and…..

        Well, actually, that’s not a fact. Solar power can be a viable energy business. It doesn’t have to be more economical than every other source. Should restaurants not exist, because McDonalds does, and it’s cheaper?

        I was pro-nuclear until about 2000, when I was working for a reinsurance firm. I was researching insurance in general, and discovered that without government help, nuclear power would not exist. There has never been any insurance company that was willing to insure a nuclear power plant. They exist because the government took on all the risk. That’s a huge subsidy.

        This analysis shows that solar is quite competitive with other sources.

        >> I repeat….empirical evidence proves CO2 does not cause CAGW. That’s all, no ulterior motive.

        Why do you repeat it? Did I say any different? I would speculate that compared to me, you’re a left wing AGW nut case.

        >> It’s being ‘forced’ on us because conventional energy methods are being phased out

        I’ve already explained that with the lion analogy. The other sources are being phased out because there is no other viable replacement right now. An early environmentalist was quoted as saying “the worst case scenario would be if a technological solution were found”. You think they are pro solar, when in fact, they are anti-human. This administration would probably sabotage a productive and profitable large solar farm that didn’t depend on subsidies. “You didn’t build that”.

        If there existed right now multiple large solar farms providing a significant chunk of US power, this administration would probably be pro coal power, in favor of the hard working people who are part of the glorious big brother adoring unions. The argument can switch on a dime, and always does, and in this scenario, people around here would be arguing against coal.

      • As further evidence of my thesis that environmentalists are against every form of energy business, consider the biggest power plants in the world .

        They oppose Hydro because it’s it’s viable, CO2 free, and the cheapest energy source. Only the naïve would think that if they really believed that CAGW was true, they wouldn’t mind dams that much.

        They oppose Nuclear because it’s viable, CO2 free, and economical.

        They oppose Natural Gas, despite the appropriate marketing name, precisely because it’s viable, 1/2 CO2 emissions, and economical.

        They oppose Fossil Fuels, despite the lack of a viable CAGW theory, precisely because it’s viable and economical.

        They oppose Solar Power, precisely because it’s viable and economical. They were only in favor of solar until they realized that it was viable.

        Environmentalists Oppose Every Practical Source of Energy because energy to a human economy is like oxygen to a human being.

        Once you realize this, you would see that opposing what they claim to be in favor of is silly, counter productive and just playing right into their hands. You’re like Saddam fighting the US army in a tank war. Stupid and ignorant. It’s like countries thinking they can win the Olympic gold medal in basketball. Foolish and delusional.

      • The returns from solar PV are much easier to predict than those from wind or solar thermal. In the UK, a ballpark figure is that a panel will return twice its watttage rating in watt-hours per day, averaged throughout the year.

        The downside is that most of that will be produced in summer, when less energy is typically used.as we rarely need aircon and spend more of our time outdoors. In the winter the output in our cloudy climate may be next to nil for weeks on end. I believe it’s the case that in Arizona a panel wil return twice the UK average output due to less cloudy conditions, and the other advantage is that the energy will be available to run aircon at the times when that is typcially needed. So, it’s a case of deployment where there is a cost/performance advantage.

        The problem in the UK is that subsidies are promoting non cost-effecftive instalaltions, and the public are being expected to pay the shortfall in financial return. So, it’s not so much a question of the technology being useless but of political incentives driving its mis-application.

      • VikingExplorer

        You assert

        Solar power can be a viable energy business. It doesn’t have to be more economical than every other source.

        I can accept that as a hypothetical possibility. Any renewable may have a small niche market (e.g. wind power is useful for pumping water for agricultural animals to drink in remote locations).

        Please state the real world examples where you think “Solar power can be a viable energy business” in the absence of subsidies.

        Richard

      • Richard, check out my link “This”. It shows solar pv at 125, which beats advanced coal out of the box, without subsidy. I gave restaurant examples to get people thinking in terms of business. Olive Garden here in the U.S. provides great food at reasonable prices. However, there is always a long line. So people go to other restaurants.

        Similarly, people buy up all the energy that a nuclear power plant has to offer. You see, on the east coast of the U.S., electricity is sold in a market, like any other commodity. Solar pv is in prime position to outbid a whole host of more expensive options, like jet engines, etc, that are used during the day.

        The reality is that once built, solar pv has almost no operating costs, so it can even outbid nuclear, but that wouldn’t be maximizing profits. Natural gas has high operating costs, so they can’t bid below that level.

      • @Viking
        You seem confused. You claim that the US Government is lying to us and forcing us to switch to a particular power source AND then cite “This analysis shows that solar is quite competitive with other sources” EIA ( US Energy Information Agency (Think US Government) To support your misguided impression the PV is the way to go. Did you carefully study that page and all of the links or do the thing they wanted and jump to the conclusions they wanted you to? problems with that page –

        It shows the cost of onshore wind at 8 cents /kWh, offshore wind at 20 cents /kWh, PV solar at 13 cents /kWh and thermal solar at 24 cents /kWh. — But these are for 2019, four years from now. These are merely estimates and are not actual costs. Obviously, the cost of these renewables is higher today, since the estimates are based on anticipated improvements in these renewables.
        Again, the media and proponents of renewables use this data to spin the so-called benefits of renewables. They merely say, “As reported by the EIA, wind costs 8 cents /kWh.” But wind doesn’t cost 8 cents /kWh, it actually costs much more.
        And you bought it hook. line and sinker.

        You claimed to be pro nuke, but then repeat the many times disproven “Massive Nuclear Subsidy” meme. Again-m Study the “Price-Anderson Act” And since you claim to have worked in reinsurance, then read NRC WASH-1400″ Insurance works on risk. When the first nuclear power plants were built they had no idea what the risk was Thus no one would write an insurance policy or take on the unknown risk. Thus the Price Anderson Act. It actually sets up a more-or-less “Assurance” program. Where ALL commercial nuclear power plants purchase first tier insurance from the American Nuclear Insurers (Private – non government) at about $500 Million a year (total) for first tier insurance. For second tier ALL Commercial NPPs are held equally responsible for a NPP accident and provide funds to cover the costs of the accident. For the third tier the commercial NPPs are giving the federal government about $500 million (total, every year) that goes into a pool that accumulates to pay off the catastrophic accident. Presently, there is over $12 billion in that catastrophic fund. Even with the Three Mile Accident the Federal government has not had to dip into the catastrophic pool. So How is that a government subsidy. The Anti-nukes spin the fact that IF the nuclear power plants were to purchase an insurance policy from a private insurer that covered the total, theoretical, potential damages and pain and suffering and restoration of the power plant and surrounding area. it would cost much more than that -m thus the federal government is GIVING the Nuclear Power Plants a Subsidy. I say BS, The feds have not given NPP one single dime with regards to “Insurance.” Additionally, NPPs are paying over $2 Million a year (round numbers) to pay for the entire cost of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as a license fee. Compare that to the fact that in the airline industry they only pay $5.00 a year to license an airplane. How much is that subsidy, considering the feds operate and pay for the entire air traffic control system and equipment?

      • I’m not confused at all.

        >> US Government is lying to us

        Actually, I said that the government uses force, for example, by basically forcing coal plants out of business.

        I said nothing about Wind, as I consider it stupid. You are assuming a lot, and putting words in my mouth. If you had read all my comments, you would know that I’ve done a detailed study of PV. I’ve asserted without fear of contradiction that the variable operating costs of solar PV are very low.

        >> misguided impression the PV is the way to go

        I’m only claiming that Solar PV is a viable business. I love burning hydrocarbons and the latest Fission designs are extremely safe. From an economic POV, I think nuclear and Solar PV are superior because they are more predictable than those with variable fuel costs.

        From a science point of view, I like nuclear, but I’m also a free market libertarian. As for the Price Anderson Act, it made me realize that without government intervention, the nuclear industry would never have come into existence.

        All of your detail doesn’t change the fact that without government legislation, the cost to start a nuclear power industry would have been extremely expensive. That cost should have been included in the kWh cost.

        Everything you wrote only means that no major accident happened, so it’s been cash flow positive for the government. You wrote “I say BS”, but you don’t actually refute the sentence right before that. Your only response is that no cash subsidy occurred.

        I’m glad that we have a nuclear power industry. My only point is that there is selective outrage regarding solar tax credits and subsidies, but many major businesses have been subsidized in some way.

      • Viking,

        Thanks for adding your voice to the discussion. You’re bringing up valid points and definitely advancing the conversation.

        Couple of comments, though. It seems that PV only compares favorably to fossil fuels when they (ff) are burdened with CCS requirements. Subtracting the CCS costs, which one assumes are predicated on a belief in CO2 forced AGW, renders the PV basically uncompetitive. Furthermore, I sincerely doubt that long-term PV costs have been established well enough to accurately estimate via 30-yr cost levelization. That is, we have decades of data on life span and O&M costs for fossil and nuke power generation. Do we really have the same level of confidence in PV’s life span and operating costs?

        Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but the nuclear insurance subsidies that everyone likes to point out have actually cost the country $0.00, since we’ve never had a nuclear accident in which the government had to step in and pay for mitigation costs. Thus, avoiding the cost of insurance for an event that has never happened here is hardly a subsidy. At least, not in the same sense as normal subsidies, where the government takes our money and provides it to companies whose business plans are too weak/risky/unprofitable to secure private funding.

        Anyway, I agree with your larger points. Just because you favor solar power, doesn’t mean you’re an ACGW proponent. And I, too, am weary of our “two minutes of hate” approach to competing ideas. (Seriously not pointing fingers here, just stating a personal preference to avoid overly combative conversations.)

        Thanks again.

        rip

      • VE:”There has never been any insurance company that was willing to insure a nuclear power plant. They exist because the government took on all the risk. That’s a huge subsidy.”

        That is just not so. The Price-Anderson Act is a federal law first adopted in 1957. It is no-fault compensation statute that requires each nuclear power plant plant operator to obtain $375 million of first tier liability insurance (which is provided by an pool of private insurance companies). If that amount were inadequate, it then requires all licensed reactors (~100) to kick in an additional $127 million a piece into a compensation fund. The total available coverage for an incident therefore is about $13 billion, which is a lot of money even in 2015. There have been no payments in since $71 million was paid for the 3 Mile Island accident 35 years ago.

        Since reactors are owned by public utilities organized as corporations, the owner’s liability would be limited to the net assets owned by the corporation. In the absence of Price-Anderson, there would be no necessary fund to compensate victims of a malfunction, nor would liability necessarily be imposed in the absence of a showing of negligence. In the Fukushima case, it would be arguable that the disaster was an act of god, and that the plant owner had no liability. Under Price-Anderson, those considerations are not relevant.

        The real purpose of PA is to protect rate payers who would be stuck holding the bag if there were a big accident How you can turn this into a subsidy for operators is beyond me.

      • ripshin,

        Thanks.

        >> renders the PV basically uncompetitive

        Actually, you missed my point. Simply comparing the average generic costs of a type of source is way too simplistic. If you would watch the YouTube video I linked to about the electricity market, you would learn how dynamic it is. First of all nuclear and hydro are out of the picture because they are base load. No generator can beat nuclear because nuclear generators simply charge as much as they can, but always slightly less than the lowest competitor. That’s the reason they are at near 100% capacity.

        The spot prices vary widely, and the main point is that just like with nuclear, solar PV has no floor below which it cannot bid, since there are no operating costs to speak of (no fuel). They can underbid anyone during the window they have capacity. The only consequence is that they either pay off the original investment faster or slower, just like with Nuclear. Demand in the summer often exceeds supply, so prices go way up.

        >> avoiding the cost of insurance for an event that has never happened here is hardly a subsidy

        As for Nuclear, I’ve explained my position clearly. In short, currently, even with Price-Anderson, the economics of a nuclear power plant are not that favorable. Clearly, it indemnifies nuclear operators.

        I’ve never had a car accident. If the government was indemnifying me from liability in a car accident, my insurance bill would be far less. It’s completely irrational to point to the small payments I have made, and that I’ve never had an accident as relevant to the level of risk that I’m not paying for. That’s a subsidy, plain and simple. If it wasn’t, why does the nuclear industry fight so hard to keep it?

        >> The real purpose of PA is to protect rate payers who would be stuck holding the bag if there were a big accident How you can turn this into a subsidy for operators is beyond me.

        Walter, is it really beyond you? This statement proves my point. The PA act indemnifies operators from the risk of a big accident. If there was no PA, the operators would have to get this insurance from the market. Some estimates are that it would be somewhere between 5 to 30 cents/kWh. No one really knows. Why don’t we remove it and see?

      • The USA has already had a nuclear accident. And even though from improper training, failed instrumentation. improper and misguided actions did exactly the wrong thing at the time it would cause the worst harm to make the accident worse, the reactor protected itself from the dreaded China Syndrome or explosion that all the Anti nukes wanted. And as I said the payments to “harmed” parties were maid from an “assurance” policy and NO government money was used. Technically, the plant could have had the molten core material removed, the reactor vessel replaced (primarily for feel good reasons) and the plant restarted. Another accident, worse than TMI, Fukushima, happened at a plant that essentially was a first generation commercial power plant. And this week Japan has given the go ahead to move back into an area that WAS NOT harmed by the NPP accident, but Anti Nuke Fear Mongering. PERIOD. [How do you factor that into any insurance policy?] No one was killed and no one will die from the small release of radiation from Fukushima. Period. The background radiation levels are presently worse in Denver CO than from any of the Fukushima releases populated areas. The present US NPP fleet has safety features today that provide several orders of magnitude less risk than the Fukushima plant and yet, are presently upgrading to make them at least another order of magnitude safer again.
        Compare the difference in an Assurance policy and Insurance Policy. US nuclear power plants have a tiered Insurance and Assurance policies. There is no need for only an Insurance Policy. The PA act has established a program that will provide compensation to the harmed parties and not make the Insurance companies rich. The only thing an Insurance policy would do is make the Insurance company RICH, Rich beyond your dreams. Look at the cost of the cash passed out to the 9/11 victims. The US Nuclear plants have already given more than that amount of money for the stalled Yucca Mt. Storage Facility And that only adds mills ($0.00001) on the charge for each kW of electricity.
        What is the probability of that type of a NPP accident at a US NPP? ( About 0.000 – 20 or so more 0s then 01, or so) The only thing that could reduce that probability of occurrence is earthquakes, dam breaks a seiche/tsunami, or meteor/asteroid strikes. And these are either already planed for or actions being taken to mitigate for at every NPP in the USA. Without a doubt, if I was told that one of these were to occur I would go to my nuclear power plant and feel perfectly safe. And the probability of you being harmed is several orders of magnitude less than the occurrence of those events. Even if you live within 3 miles of them. We have already proven lesser events will cause only a minor disruption of service, think TMI and the fact that it could have been restarted in two years at most. The only reason for not restarting was purely political. I know I worked there when it happened.

        So justify WHY do we need private insurance How is it going to make you or your loved ones be remunerated for actual harm or receive it faster and receive more and cost you less? Why is it necessary to make insurance companies rich, super rich, for a so called subsidy that is not an actual subsidy, just a paper subsidy that if the PA act was not there would benefit only insurance companies? Why not demand that airlines pay a license fee that fully supports the true cost of the FAA and air traffic safety system. That has the potential to actually save the life of someone you know. and could have saved the life of someone you did know. Just think, we could have GPS flight control, fewer, better trained ATC operators, Better crash avoidance systems, etc. etc. Why the double standard on subsidies?

      • >> So justify WHY do we need private insurance

        I don’t need to justify anything to you. You are some kind of pro-nuclear occupy wall-street person who doesn’t want to face the reality that in a free country, people use insurance to mitigate risks they can’t directly tolerate. You want to live in a fantasy world where Big Brother takes care of everything, fine, but don’t ask me to explain to you how free markets work.

        >> Why the double standard on subsidies?

        You’re asking me that? I’m the one asking other people that. After hearing from people who were complaining about roof top solar tax credits and others who were claiming that solar PV couldn’t outbid competition without a subsidy, I just said that Nuclear also receives a big subsidy. I was happy to let the PA stand, but you popped up and have been denying that they even receive a subsidy. So I say “in that case, remove the PA”, and then you doth protest too much. You now reveal that you desperately want the PA because you can’t bear the thought of nuclear operators having to purchase insurance and you start whining “why do we need insurance?”

        >> Why is it necessary to make insurance companies rich, super rich, for a so called subsidy that is not an actual subsidy, just a paper subsidy that if the PA act was not there would benefit only insurance companies?

        The contradictions inherent in this statement are rich. If it’s not a big subsidy, then why would removing it make the insurance companies rich? You can’t have it both ways.

        >> The USA has already had a nuclear accident

        Oh, that little $71 million for 3-mile island? Independent estimates put the total economic cost of the Fukushima disaster at $250-$500 billion. The PA requires that any damages above $12.6 billion would be covered by the US taxpayers. So, if a Fukushima type disaster would occur here, then we’re on the hook for about 238 – 488 Billion USD.

        The bottom line is that one estimate for the subsidy is from 5 to 30 cents per kWh. Another estimate is about 15 cents per kWh. Even the low estimate would make Nuclear uncompetitive. In the US, nuclear power faces competition from the low natural gas prices. Ironically, the subsidized nuclear industry is being hurt by free competition with subsidized natural gas.

      • @Viking
        “in a free country, people use insurance to mitigate risk” They have insurance. It is provided by the American Nuclear Insurers for tier one. If it exceeds that amount then ALL of the commercial NPPs pay the damages. If it exceeds that, which has happened only once, and the majority of the claims were pure utter, unadulterated, BS caused by media hype. No one died, no one got sick, no one glowed in the dark, no one lost all of their hair, but many collected atrocious amounts of money. The majority of the payments were simply to settle the fears. You claimed to work in reinsurance, and made a false statement that NO one will sell a NPP insurance, well all of them are buying insurance from a private insurance company. They then have an Assurance policy. That is like a mutual insurance only it has much tighter controls. They all pay an equal amount for the damages. There is little if any probability or possibility that any accident at a US Nuclear power plant will exceed that amount, thus they do not need any further “Insurance”
        Who is paying the insurance for the city that you live in? They (most) have “self insurance” that is, they have NONE. When an accident happens the city (YOU) pay for the accident with higher taxes. Why don’t they have insurance? Why don’t they pay for insurance? Because, according to you, they have a subsidy. Why do they get a subsidy? Who is paying that subsidy? Same for your water company, sewer company, and municipal electric company (if you have one) like Los Angeles Water and Power, and just about every other utility in California. And when they run out of money the state and then the feds pay. Meaning I could pay for the damages of some potential earthquake or tsunami in Los Angeles. And if you live in California you are getting a subsidy for not buying that insurance. And for all of the other utilities not buying any insurance. Sounds like socialism to me, Welcome to socialism. But it is not a good argument for not using Nuclear power to combat AGW (if you believe in that.)

      • >> thus they do not need any further “Insurance”

        That’s not up to you to decide. People and businesses decide how to mitigate risks using insurance. However, the government should not be interfering in the market by picking winners and losers. By giving nuclear power generators a 15 cents per kWh subsidy, that’s exactly what they are doing.

        >> Who is paying the insurance for the city that you live in?

        Cities normally get Municipality insurance for various liabilities, including improper police actions.

        >> Same for your water company, sewer company, and municipal electric company

        Utilities do get insurance, for example Allianz and Travelers cover various risks like Failure to Supply.

        >> Sounds like socialism to me, Welcome to socialism.

        You are seriously confused. Your argument is that nuclear operators shouldn’t have to get insurance because cities and utilities don’t have to. However, the entities you mention do get insurance for the risks they incur.

        >> But it is not a good argument for not using Nuclear power to combat AGW (if you believe in that.)

        I certainly do not believe in AGW. Are you a nutcase? A nuclear power generation facility should and must be justified on economics alone. They should create a viable business model and design a safe reactor that can be properly insured.

      • @VE
        15% Cents per kWh WHY? The number is pure BS. Calculate what just 0.1 cents per kWh will accumulate over the period of operation of the US nuclear power plants collected from ALL NPPs, under a shared risk program. 15 Cents is ridiculous and not needed to cover the actual risk. And I mean actual, not theoretical risk. The present plan is covering the most probable occurrences and an additional 0.1 cents would cover your imaginary proposed risk. The EIA website will give you a number for the amount of electricity generated by Nuclear.

        Now what about the Subsidy given to all the Green Energy processes in the form of holding them harmless to all of their environmental impacts and health impacts? I will not detail them, you seem intelligent enough to find them or google them. And it is ignored. That is closer to your imaginary 15 cents per kWh than NPP Risk. Even Natural Gas is given a free ride on the exact same emissions as a Coal Plant. WHY? NPP are the most strictly enforced environmentally and health controlled process in the USA. Period. Look at the number of abandoned wind turbines. Google It. The company that got millions from the electricity?. In your dreams. Who is paying to remove them? Who is going to pay for the environmentally safe removal of your panels? Are you going to haul them to the dump? Why should you get another subsidy?

        About your accident free driving record. Move to OHIO, Put $100,000 in a trust fund and you do not need auto insurance. (Several other states have this too, May be higher now, but it was that years ago.) Then when you need the money for retirement, use it and buy regular insurance policy. Who is paying your Subsidy then for not having insurance? Or is that “Rich Privilege?”

      • I refuse to discuss your subjective opinions about risks. That’s for an actuary to decide who is working for an insurance company.

        The 15 cents/kWh is one estimate of the value of the subsidy. There is the amount to cover insurance, plus the more than $85 billion in subsidies provided since 1948. The U.S. provided a federal loan guarantee of $8.3 billion for the first two nuclear power plants built in the U.S. in 30 years.

        >> Why should you get another subsidy?

        ah, but that’s just it. I’m requesting NO subsidy. All subsidies should be removed. However, if you’re unwilling to remove subsidies for nuclear power, then other forms of energy production should not be penalized.

      • >> the owner’s liability would be limited to the net assets owned by the corporation.

        Walter, I think you’re confused about the limitation of liability. A corporation shields the owners (shareholders) of that corporation from liability. It doesn’t mean that corporations themselves have any limitation on liability.

        An implicit limit is the assets available, but that doesn’t just apply to corporations. A poor person is also sue proof, because there is no way to collect a judgment. However, this is only a practical concern, not a matter of law. For example, the OJ case shows that a defendant can receive a judgment much greater than his assets.

        In this case, it could become a claim against all future income. I estimate a nuclear operator’s income to be around 500 M per year, so that will pay a lot of judgments.

        >> In the absence of Price-Anderson, there would be no necessary fund to compensate victims of a malfunction, nor would liability necessarily be imposed in the absence of a showing of negligence. In the Fukushima case, it would be arguable that the disaster was an act of god

        Force Majeure is in contracts, and no one is implying a liability for natural disasters, but liability could very well be imposed for any kind of mistake or negligence. For example, TEPCO has admitted that their equipment and safety measures were insufficient.

      • @VE
        “8.3 billion for the first two nuclear power plants”
        More misinformation or at least confusion. My wife, a CPA, worked at a bank who “owned” the loan for Comanche Peak PS $%Billion) It is NOT, no way, no how a gift, payout or handover of $8.3Billion dollars to the NPP. Read how the DOE Loan Guarantee program works. The utility, for the small sum of 20% of the cost of the project (20% of 5 8.3 Billion dollars or (1.667 Billion) gets to BUY a loan guarantee. (Similar to the way PMI works when you can’t place 20% down payment on the purchase of a home, and the way FHA works). This is a non-refundable payment. Once that amount is given to the government, then they determine if you have the financial wherewithal to pay back that loan and complete the project. If they determine that the utility can do that then the DOE issues certification of that fact. They do not give them a dime, No money is given to them. With that certification the utility can present the certificate to the lenders proving that they do not have to worry about the company going bankrupt and defaulting on the loan. Thus they can get a lower interest rate on their loan. And that is all the get – a lower interest rate. It cost the federal government NOTHING. On the other hand, your beloved Green Energy, (think Ivanpah, etc.) gets another free ride. They are exempt from paying for the DOE Loan Guarantee. And like Solyndra when they go belly-up YOU lose the 1/2 billion that they borrowed as the Feds pay off the banks. Thus they get a 29% subsidy for every Solar farm or Green Boondoggle they imagine. (Think Musk and his boondoggles.) To date NO NPP has defaulted on these Loan Guarantees.

        By the way, Have you done a financial analysis on what you spent on your solar panels would be worth if invested in a decent Mutual plan? Mine have earned close to 10% over the last 30 years and that include the downturn.

      • I never said that the 8.3 billion was anything other than a loan guarantee. However, that’s a very valuable thing, since it guarantees financing.

        >> beloved Green Energy

        Stop putting words into my mouth. I have not supported any specific projects, and have condemned all boondoggle projects. I believe that all subsidies should be eliminated from all industries, along with double taxation of corporate profits. I believe in green energy, but not in the way you are implying. I strongly support greening the planet by maximizing our CO2 footprint.

        The bottom line is that we have established that nuclear energy is a huge boondoggle project that could never have been created in a free market, and continues to receive massive government assistance in order to continue to build nuclear power plants.

      • “The bottom line is that we have established that nuclear energy is a huge boondoggle project that could never have been created in a free market,”

        *YOU* personally might have.

        I don’t think *WE* have though.

        In fact, I know *WE* haven’t.

      • @VE The reason I used the term beloved green energy is that the majority of your arguments appear to directly from or highly influenced by the propaganda misconceptions and misinformation on anti nuke pages.

        Have you calculated the hidden subsidy for Solar PV considering cradle to grave including all environmental, health, and disposal costs yet? How much of the haze in China is toxins released in the making of Solar panels and rare earth magnets? By my calculations it is equal to the “Flood Insurance” subsidy for those that live in known areas that are prone to floods, and re-built over and over again. Enough already.

      • >> misconceptions and misinformation

        Actually, you have been spreading lots of misinformation here, which I’ve been inclined to correct. I can defend everything I’ve written here. I’ve read no anti-nuke sites, so if other people have pointed out that the nuclear receives large subsidies, it’s because it’s true, and not misinformation. As I explained above, environmentalists are against all forms of energy production. I’m the opposite: As far an energy sources, I believe in all of the above, with no subsidies for any business. I advocate a complete separation of government from both science and economy.

      • >> haze in China is toxins released in the making of Solar panels

        You are a one man disinformation machine. All experts agree that the problem is particulate matter.

        Wang Yuesi, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said hazardous heavy metals found in the air over Beijing come from ferrous metal smelting and coal burning in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area.

        Data show that Tianjin municipality and Hebei province both have a large number of cement, steel, oil refining and petrification industries that burn a total of 350 million tonnes of coal per year. About 24.5 percent of the PM2.5 in Beijing comes from those industries.

        They need to take steps to reduce the production of PM with cleaner cars and factories. They can remove most of the sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (PM) emissions from the coal-burning process.

      • solar PV has no floor below which it cannot bid, since there are no operating costs to speak of (no fuel).

        VikingExplorer, I’d really like to see the model you built for your solar PV facility. I’ve built my own models while analyzing investment in projects and the economics didn’t work without REVENUE subsidies. In other words, the payback period would never be less than 20 years without assuming that the facility could charge more for their power or receive government grants. Most models that contradicted mine omitted necessary expenses such as construction of necessary facilities unrelated to the actual PV infrastructure, operation of the entire facility, PV maintenance, and maintenance capex. It seems as if you omitted these expenses as well since you are assuming that they are no operating costs to speak of.

      • Wobble,

        It’s been 3 years since I worked on this model, as I dust it off now, it will take me some time to understand the details again.

        I don’t see why you think 20 years is a long time. I think a nuclear power plant doesn’t break even for 10-15 years. It can take a decade to discover a major oil field and bring it into production. Amazon has been going for 20 years, and has barely made any profit. This isn’t a way to make a quick buck.

        Another big assumption is where you think PV efficiency will go in the next 20 years. SunPower has announced that it will begin mass-producing silicon cells with 25 percent efficiency. There are lots of technologies in the works that will probably result in higher efficiencies.

        My model does have a big crew continuously installing new PVs, and maintaining old ones. The major costs in my model are transmission lines (~60%), land, PV panels and HVDC stations. When I updated some of the parameters from today, the profit margin went from the level of Oil & Gas companies down to the level of grocery stores. It might not be a great investment, but it seems clearly viable to me.

        A model like this has many moving parts and assumptions, it would be easy to let one’s bias affect the results. In my case, I started out trying to prove that I was right that solar power could never be viable. After a lot of work and research, I concluded that it would.

    • Your stupidity post is nothing compared to what Drax is doing in the UK. Just look at how many sites Drax has on the Internet trying to justify their absolutely nonsense conversion from coal burning to wood pellets burning to generate electricity. You must think I am kidding, replacing burning coal with burning wood pellets. I am not. Check this out, enter Search Drax.
      We like this in the USA, the wood pellets will come from here. Thank you UK.

      • I roll my eyes at what is happening there at Drax. Drax supplies ~7% of total UK power. I am not sure my UK resident relatives realise what that will mean. All of them recall the 1970’s rolling blackouts, that was a result of “industrial action” (An oxymoron if ever there was one). What will happen in the UK will be a result of political policy, and more and more migrants enter the UK every year.

  8. sell off the mirrors and the tower … run the thing 24/7 on gas and make a bunch of money …

      • … but the upfront costs are “free” … paid for by you and me and others who contribute taxwise.

        With respect to the current and future owners, and their bottom line, it is and will be much more efficient to operate on natural gas. And they will make a bunch of money.

    • It occurs to me that if this technology was at all viable then it could be applied in reverse as well, ie you could build a gas power plant with some form of solar powered pre-heaters that could reduce gas usage during the day. With the current carbophobia infecting government it should even be possible to get financial coverage to help build it. So why hasn’t anyone tried this yet?

  9. This will just be chalked up by DOE and the WH as just one mistake in an overall success story of loans and grants. They get away with a lot using program averages and look-the-other-way type due diligence. Madness in motion policy methods

    • Resourceguy

      I hope this is an incomplete thought from you: “…They get away with a lot using program averages …”.

      If EVERYTHING you do with “renewable” energy loses money or goes bankrupt, no “program average” is going to put enough lipstick on that pig to make it look better.

      • Hah, Chip, you don’t understand Government accounting. I recently sat in on a meeting where it was presented, with a straight face, that a program was on target when everything they had obligated was a cost & schedule disaster — because they included all the unobligated (not started yet) tasks as perfectly on track. My objections were ignored.

      • No, my thoughts are complete as an investor in the sector leaders and grid parity without subsidy. It’s frustrating to watch the also ran, fake players getting federal money while the leaders are held back from what they would otherwise accomplish in a more rational energy policy and program spending approach. The same sector leaders are used as cover by the administration for the overall program despite bad policy choices, agency operations, and program over ride in the case of Solyndra. It demonstrates a total lack of concern for taxpayer money waste on a daily basis in the name of perception plays on an uninformed public. This administration uses that uninformed condition as a bankable asset.

  10. It is just a matter of tweaking it. We could prevent the wildlife damage by enclosing the thing with a large glass dome. And while we are at it, we could make this dome wide and high enough to also exclude any cloud cover.

    • Please do NOT propose that idea! In this “climate” of stupidity, it might gain enough traction to get funding.

      • No No, I’m liking this idea. But you’re still thinking to small. Make the dome not just big enough for Ivanpah but for an entire town as well. A real life ‘Climate Utopia City’ were they can live perfect green lives and in act any carbon rules they want. And they can have full control of who is allowed to enter… As long as none of them come back out.

        Kind of like a green version of the TV show ‘Under the Dome’. ^¿^

    • Of course you would have to air condition the inside of the dome due to the bird roasting temperatures involved. And in order to keep a constant temperature, it would need 24 hour electricity from a constant and stable source. I suppose they could redirect any electricity produced from the tower to the a/c units but you would end up with no usable electricity for the grid. Oh well, they aren’t spending their own money and it sure would be green. .

      • “Of course you would have to air condition the inside of the dome due to the bird roasting temperatures involved.”

        Why cool the interior of the dome, the heat only serves to increase boiler efficiency. Now if you could pull a vacuum…

    • The Catholic church tried this: all astronomic bodies were perfect crystalline spheres…and if you didn’t believe it (Galileo didn’t), you got sent to the Inquisition.

      • Hey, great idea! We can use that for carbon sequestration if we bury the fresh produce underground. We could mix it with radioactive waste to ensure that no microbes could grow and release the carbon as CO2 again.

  11. If the powers that be throw money at one of the most cash rich corporations on earth, who is to blame? The bowler rather than the wicket keeper in my book.
    Stop voting for these nutters!

  12. It’s time to connect the dots here. The excuses are also flying at the Tonopah CSP solar project.

  13. Asking your lender for a gift in order to repay their loan to you is a slick way of informing them you are not going to repay the loan.
    Was their collateral? Probably not. The mirrors, tower & equipment?
    So what is the government going to do if the loan isn’t paid? Recover the equipment and auction it off?
    I can see it now. The government would spend more on that process that what the winning bid will pay.
    It’s all very swell indeed.

  14. Hello Willis,
    Thank you I enjoy your writing style and content very much! I have read the performance reports for 2014 which was the first full year in operation and those stated that Ivanpah was running on natural gas for 5 hours a day on average, instead of the 1 hour stated in their up front filings and documentation, with the first year “energy production” being approximately 25% of the projected production, as you stated due to more clouds than expected. I have not been able to find whether or not they are still getting there “carbon reduction” credits for the extra hours of natural gas burning though I am pretty sure they are. Each time I start to think this idiocy has reached its peak more BS and half-baked ideas get piled on to waste tax payer and electricity rate payer monies. I do find it a bit humorous in a morbid way that the willfully ignorant “do gooders” are doing much more harm to their cause than good. ugh!

    Cheers,

    Joe

    • thanks for that info, Joe …

      it starts to get really funny when, in the petition filed by ELLISON , SCHNEIDER & HARRIS L.L.P. ( http://www.kcet.org/news/redefine/rewire/TN201928_20140326T164429_Ivanpah_Petition_to_Amend_No_4.pdf ) , to use more gas, they write on page 3

      “The experience gained during commercial operations indicates that more natural gas (they write “more boiler steam”) would be needed …. in order …. to maximize solar electricity generation.”

      lol …

      • Hi ducdorleans, after reading the petition… the phrase… “the stupid, it burns” comes to mind. Much like the so called reasoning that goes into the Ethanol equation…. burn 8 to 10 gallons of “evil” gasoline to produce each “blessed and pure” gallon of Ethanol, which provides much less energy than 1 gallon of gasoline…. not to mention increases food prices and has lead to more starving people around the world.

        Cheers,
        Joe

  15. Not to mention it’s a navigation hazard for airplanes. So it wastes…..as in produces no electricity….4 hours of gas per day before it starts producing electricity IF there are no clouds. They should put this where the sun don’t shine.

    • With the government already suffering from a severe case Cranial Rectal Syndrome (CRS) I doubt there is enough room to “put this where the sun don’t shine.” As for Google, well… the comment just goes downhill from here, better left unsaid.

  16. So, they are trying to prevent the atmosphere from heating up by super-heating up the atmosphere. I wonder if this is contributing to California’s drought.

  17. The first picture gives the appearance that the mirrors are focused on a point away from the tower.

  18. I remember being endlessly flamed on message boards for saying how stupid this was and that claims about it providing 24-hour energy from stored energy in molten salts was hardly even a pipe dream. Just wait for the ravages of time to become a factor on this tax funded fiasco.

    • It never ceases to amaze me how vicious idealists can get whenever someone points out just how incredibly stupid their bright ideas really are.

  19. Note that local government had to step up and halt new projects of this type, not the Feds with all of their knowledge of competing solar tech and the environment.

    • There is a theory that “Lucy” came down from trees to walk upright on grassland in what is now Kenya/Ethiopia about 4.5million years ago. The fact that trees were replaced with grasses is attributed to a change in climate.

  20. Willis, thank you. This solar plant is indeed ridiculous for all the reasons you quoted. But, there is one more in California suffering from a serious drought. Every two days or so they have to go out and use water to wash the dust from the reflectors or efficiency drops significantly. So add water wasting to wildlife destruction. The drive around fossil- fueled trucks to spray water on the solar reflectors.
    I wonder if they ever even modeled cloud cover at the site. A dry desert implies lack of precipitation, it does not necessarily imply lack of enough clouds to reduce the plant’s efficiency.
    Finally, if the solar plants owners were charged the same fines that gas, oil, or coal mine facilities are charged for killing birds, you could add another billion or so of dollars on the taxpayer burden for this site.

      • Not only did the models predict endless sunny days from the increase in global temperature but, because they were adjusted to match the increasing daylight observed from March to June, they predict that by 5 years from now there will be 24 hour sunlight. >¿<

    • Every two days or so they have to go out and use water to wash the dust from the reflectors or efficiency drops significantly.

      It is a common tactic of homeless persons to importune car drivers stopped at red lights to clean their windows for a “contribution”.

      They and their squeegees could be put to gainful employment washing crispy critters from off the mirrors.

    • I’m surprised they don’t have the EPA invoking the Clean Air Act to require them to hose down several miles of desert around this solar plant for “dust mitigation”. They already do this to construction companies and have proposed to do it to farmers too.

      Sure the area is rural, but “The EPA doesn’t care where the pollution is coming from, and our lungs don’t care”. If this rural dust threatens the health of maintenance workers at this plant, AND puts humanity at greater risk by hindering their grand schemes for a post-carbon world, I’d be shocked if a massive desert spraying scheme isn’t already in the works for Ivanpah.

  21. @KaiserDerden
    “sell off the mirrors and the tower … run the thing 24/7 on gas and make a bunch of money …”
    Brilliant! Cannot be improved upon……

    • Peter, great idea and then they wouldn’t have to con taxpayers to pay off their debts.

  22. Ivanpah – derivation
    “Ivanpah in San Bernardino County is in Chemehuevi that is Southern Paiute territory and the name contains only sounds that occur in that language from ivan – dove – and pah – water
    Arapaho Dialects, Volume 12 By Alfred Louis Kroeber

  23. I find it extremely interesting that municipalities are voting against these plants. I have long thought that this whole house of cards will fall when millennials are no longer able to afford to charge their smart phones.

  24. I’ve been writing about Ivanpah for a couple years. Willis touches on most of the major points – which make that $2.2 billion debacle laughable.

    But there are few additional things – first; “since you can’t store steam, that in turn means that Google can’t start up their you-beaut solar tower until fairly late in the morning.” This is partially true. – because they aren’t storing steam they must wait to start the plant until late morning, and then must use natural gas to warmup the plant from the very cold desert night temps.

    The CAN however store steam. One of teh key features the plant was sold on was the molten salt storage of energy created during the day time and releasing that energy (heat) at night. They chose NOT to build the molten salt storage that was touted as a key feature. It was not commercially viable and was not required to collect the massive subsidies.

    Second, and this is from memory, the nameplate capacity is appx 400 megawatts. It was projected to run at 30+% capacity factor – a good trick since max sunlight only offers appx 20% capacity factor in perfect conditions as I recall. The molten salt storage was supposed to make up the difference.

    But they also failed to accurately estimate solar availability. Then there is the dust problem – which they also failed to consider – which restricts available sunlight when wind blows and kicks up dust – and which coats the mirrors requiring more washing.

    Then there is the natural gas issue. All the rocket scientists behind this boondoggle were simply too stupid to run the calcs on temperature. They KNOW the temps required to startup the plan. They KNOW the daily temp history, including nightime temps. They know the energy in a BTU of gas. It SHOULD have been a very simple calculation on the amount of heat – the BTU’s of heating – required to heat the plant to reqd startup temps. Yet they claim “surprise” at the 400% higher energy required to startup the plant.

    Simply ridiculous.

    And lest look at that natural gas use in real world perspective. Once again going from memory – so these may not be perfectly accurate – if I recall the plant is currently generating something like 160 MW, compared to its 400 MW nameplate. The AMOUNT of natural gas used however, is in the range of what a 200 MW natural gas plant would consume. They are generating less power overall than a 200 MW natural gas plant using the same amount of fuel. A nat gas plant with 90+% capacity factor.

    And last … again from memory (I’ll check these number later and update if necessary) – for the same $2.2 billion we could have built an appx 1400 MW new clean natural gas power plant. WHich again can operate 24/7/365 (down only for inspections, maint and similar) – at a 90+% capacity factor.

    It burns clean, readily available natural gas. It is not dependent on highly intermittent fuel sources. It requires NO, dirtier and less efficient peaking load backup generation.

    And if we TRULY were interested in reducing emissions and greenhouse gases – we could replace old basic coal plants with these cost effective and clean new nat gas plants – and create massive real reductions.

    Which, as Willis makes clear, shows the debacles like Ivanpah for the hugely wasteful joke – simply enriching the rich – that they are.

    • According to this article (http://breakingenergy.com/2014/10/29/at-ivanpah-solar-power-plant-energy-production-falling-well-short-of-expectations/) the name plate capacity is 1, 065,000 Mwh and so it produces about a quarter of that, and sold it’s electricity for $167.00 per Mwh wholesale which is three times or more the rate from natural gas.
      The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant molten salt plant has just come online, so it’ll take awhile to get some statistics on it. They anticipate 485,000 Mwh per year from it and it cost about 1 billion dollars.
      Two additional plants from the folks who own Ivanpah were plan but scrapped due to opposition, mainly due to the problems with Ivanpah.

      • You’re confusing nameplate capacity and annual production Grant – the nameplate capacity is stated as 392 Megawatts in your link.

    • Find the site on Google or Bing Maps. Look at the size. Just one of the units Uses the same area as Palo Verde NPS – Which has three 1100, megawatt power plants with over a 90% average capacity factor providing almost 20 times as much power in the space of one of these units! Moronic.

      I was station in San Diego in the Navy and made several Trips to Joshua Tree National Park and it sickens me to think they want to put units like this there!

    • ” All the rocket scientists behind this boondoggle were simply too stupid to run the calcs on temperature. They KNOW the temps required to startup the plan. They KNOW the daily temp history, including nightime temps. They know the energy in a BTU of gas. It SHOULD have been a very simple calculation on the amount of heat – the BTU’s of heating – required to heat the plant to reqd startup temps. Yet they claim “surprise” at the 400% higher energy required to startup the plant. ”
      Of course they knew, but if they told the truth, they would not have gotten the project built, so they lied. This is a well known tried & true technique to get government money for crappy projects. There is no finer example than light rail and streetcar projects. (Actually Ivanhoe is good in comparison to some of these.) see: http://www.debunkingportland.com/docs/Pickrell(no_text).pdf

    • In addition, the footprint of said natural gas plant is much smaller than Ivanpah and is comparable to that of the coal plant it would replace. The energy density of Ivanpah (indeed any renewable energy source) is terrible compared to fossil or nuclear on a MW per acre basis. In fact, some older coal plants in my home state are being replaced with natural gas combined cycle plants and doubling their installed capacity, thereby more than doubling their energy density (since they no longer need the room to store coal piles).

    • The 400MW capacity is a direct lie. Output is calculated on a 24/7 basis, thus a 100MW gas plant runs 100MW per hour for 24 hours. This plant does not.

      • This statement is a lie, because that’s not what capacity means. If McDonald’s is capable of serving N customers per hour, is that statement untrue if they close at night?

        Look up the words capacity and while you’re at it, look up Watts. Its joules per second. It’s certainly not calculated on a 24/7 basis. And actual power generation is dependent on what loads are actually applied to it, and is generally less than the capacity rating.

      • We’d certainly be justified to challenge McDonald’s capacity calculation if they closed when there were still long queues of customers wanting to be served

      • Viking Explorer

        Capacity per month is different than capacity per day is different than capacity per hour is different from peak capacity all of which are easily conflated becoming rich territory for political expediency. “Capacity” another word massacred at the alter of politics.

        BTW would you buy a truck that had the capacity to carry 2 tons at 60 MPH but only for a few minutes a day?

      • Mothcatcher, appears to be a random statement with no meaning.

        Power flows according to ohms law and kirchoffs law. If a solar plant generated less voltage one day, then less power would be delivered. No customers would be harmed.

        The capacity is the rated max power. If you pulled into a McD with a bus unannounced, then the store would not be at max power. Those customers would have to wait. However, this wouldn’t change the capacity rating.

      • Alx, watts has only one time period: a second. As a generator engineer, I can assure you that generators are rated in watts. For example, a Boeing 767 has 4 generators, each rated at 75 kW / 90 kW. This means that you can run the generator continuously at 75 kW. Running at 90 kW is time limited and will reduce life.

      • Think you well enough understand my point, VE, despite your protestations.
        McDonald’s rated capacity is a useful indicator because it is capacity responding to demand (24 hours a day if the demand is there). In the situation we have here the rated capacity is much less a useful parameter because output is unresponsive to demand. Indeed, the angle in future will be to try to modify the demand to better fit the capacity. So we’ll all get sleep rotas and work rotas and AC use rotas according to government edict. Let’s hope we’ve enough sense to put a stop to all this before it gets completely out of hand.

      • mothcatcher,

        Your premise seems to be that someone will force us to use only Solar PV. However, I have not been discussing anything related to that. All I said was the solar PV is a viable business that would mix with other sources.

        >> McDonald’s rated capacity

        The rated capacity is a number that is a constant. The current capacity may be less, but not more. I don’t understand why you would say “output is unresponsive to demand”. In electrical systems, current output is always exactly what is demanded. The flaw of thinking that a 400 MW generator is always producing 400 MW is one error I’ve corrected above. If 100 MW of load is applied, 100 MW of power is delivered.

        I’m guessing that what you’re really getting at is the availability factory. With Solar PV, it’s limited to about 6 hours per day. That’s why I used the analogy of a luncheonette that’s only open for lunch. Luncheonettes are viable businesses, even though 24/7 diners exist.

    • A. Scott,

      Not to throw ‘cold water’ on an otherwise good writeup but, at least in the summer, deserts don’t get that cold at night. On average, there is only about a 30F swing between high & low temps so, if you have a high around 100F, with only radiant cooling (dry air & clear sky’s & no cold font or other cold air advection to help the radiant cooling), the lows will only be around 70F.

  25. Of course, such an electricity price rise would mean nothing to him, like every recent President he’ll leave office a multi-millionaire.

    I’ve never understood how that works. Seriously, I am curious.
    It costs a fortune to campaign for the honour of being elected to serve. So how come the Presidents aren’t bankrupt at the end?
    Who wouldn’t be willing to give everything for the chance to steer your country right?

    Yet somehow they get it not just cheap but actually for a profit.
    How?

      • Not everybody can be bought with money. The glory of doing their chosen form of good appeals to many.

        Look at Churchill or Gandhi. (That’s balanced).
        Or in the USA, Abraham Lincoln who split the Union for righteous reasons.
        These people exist. Look at the vilification sceptics get for defending the scientific method; there are lots of these people.

        So how come we keep voting for whores?

      • @MCourtney
        It’s really built into the primary system. Outside of the Iowa caucus and New Hamphire, the powers-that-be have generally aggregated the primaries into a couple of “super weeks”. And the early primaries don’t necessarily reflect the national distribution of intra-party opinions, ironically causing us to have less conservative Republicans and more liberal (if that’s possible) Democrats. The changes were made, IIRC some time after Reagan’s terms in office so that someone like him almost certainly couldn’t get the Republican nomination today. I believe the unspoken justification is to get an early winner and hit the ground running even before the convention officially selects the nominee. I’m all for folks slugging it out as long as possible. Start the campaigns in the smaller states, keep interest in the out come alive, don’t shell out the big votes (California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida) until the very end. That way the lesser-known candidates have a chance to be heard and the eventual winner has to appeal to a broader range of his/her party electorate.

    • How?

      1. They don’t use their own money to campaign. That comes from campaign contributions.
      2. They leave the White House having just lived 8 years rent free. Housing, food, travel, everything picked up by the tax payer. Its a lot easier to save money on a modest salary when you have no family expenses.
      3. You’re probably tax free on the money you earned too. Donate your memoirs to some university library and they will value it accordingly. What are the memoirs of a POTUS worth? Well in excess of his salary, presto tax receipt, tax free savings.
      4. The big money though is trading on celebrity. The Clinton’s were pulling down in excess of $100K per speaking engagement. Not bad for a day’s work and an all expense paid trip to boot. But that’s chump change compared to business interests. When POTUS leaves the White House, he has the personal contact information of anyone who is anyone in business and politics world wide. More importantly, even after he’s no longer POTUS, those people will still answer his call. So, he becomes highly sought after to sit on boards, and do “consulting” simply because large powerful organizations will pay astounding dough to have access to his contacts. We’re not talking movie star celebrity here, nothing so mundane as that. We’re talking a whole different level of celebrity.

      • That makes sense.
        Influence is a form of wealth that can be traded into cash.

        And I guess some use it for altruistic purposes.
        John Major in the UK and Jimmy Carter in the Us spring to mind; a right wing and left wing example.

      • And I guess some use it for altruistic purposes.

        Beware even that. The celebrity of former politicians is the influence that gets donations to their cause. It is the precise same currency. A large corporation will donate heavily in return for access. How does that line anyone’s pockets? Well someone has to run the charity, and they should of course be compensated for their time. Not saying that’s true of the two examples you gave, I truly don’t know. But raising money for altruistic purposes can be very profitable from a personal perspective. When Bill Gates sets up a charity foundation, we can all be pretty certain he isn’t doing it for the money. When someone who would otherwise be “leaving the White House broke” sets one up, we should be a bit more, dare I say it, skeptical.

      • The President gets $400k/y as of 2008 and then there is retirement. The retirement benefits received by former Presidents include a pension, Secret Service protection, and reimbursements for staff, travel, mail, and office expenses. The Presidential pension is not a fixed amount, rather it matches the current salary of Cabinet members (or Executive Level I personnel), which is $191,300/year as of March, 2008 (http://www.ipl.org/div/farq/pensionFARQ.html )

      • MarkW

        In response to MCourtney correctly saying

        John Major in the UK and Jimmy Carter in the Us spring to mind; a right wing and left wing example.

        You replied

        Europe, the only place in the world where socialists are considered right wing.

        John Major is a Conservative, not a socialist.

        It would have been better if you had made the accurate statement;
        The ultra-right, the only people in the world who consider fascists are left wing.

        Richard

    • Mcourtney

      You ask: “…It costs a fortune to campaign for the honour of being elected to serve. So how come the Presidents aren’t bankrupt at the end?…”

      I answer: They (the candidate) never pays; under some circumstances, taxpayers actually pay.

      Don’t get me started.

    • “Who wouldn’t be willing to give everything for the chance to steer your country right?”

      You can’t be serious. That principled avenue disappeared after JFK.

    • Viking, power plants are rated at their hourly output. Simple. A 1gw coal plant produces that every hour. Similarly a 1mw wind turbine produces that when the wind blows.This plant does not.

      • Grey, your are seriously confusing capacity rating and capacity factor. I’m an electric power engineer, so believe me when I tell you that you are also confusing power with energy. A 1 GW power plant is capable of producing that much power continuously.

        Your statement makes as much sense as saying: my Porsche is capable of driving as fast as 140 miles.

        Watts is like speed, while joules (watt-hour) is like distance.

        Cars and power plants are not rated by distance or energy respectively. They are rated in power (Horsepower or Watts).

        How far you decide to travel in your Porsche is totally up to you, and in no way affects the rating.

      • As if two aren’t enough, you are confused about a 3rd thing:

        The cars rating in HP vs how hard you press the gas pedal.

        A generator produces a voltage. If you don’t connect a load, no power is delivered. A small load is like driving slowly. What you’ve done above is judge by how fast cars are driving As to what their rating is.

        That makes no sense. A Porsche could drive by very slowly, and you would say, wow, that car doesn’t have much horsepower.

      • Cars are rated in BREAK-horse power (BHP). And having driven a Porche I know they will drive quite happily at 30mph in top gear as well as 150mph (And I have driven at 150mph on a public road in the UK) in the same gear given a long enough bit of road (The “nullabor” in Australia would be great).

      • Patrick, that refers to how the power is measured. There is no unit of power called BHP. Mechanical Power in English units is HP, and Watts in SI units.

      • @ Patrick –

        Bragging about driving fast doesn’t help your case. Don’t even bother trying to think of a car’s engine in the same terms as nameplate capacity on a power plant – they’re completely different animals. A car traveling at a steady 30 mph is producing only enough power to maintain that speed – the throttle limits the amount of air going into the combustion chambers, and the fuel injection system meters fuel in order to maintain a stoichiometric air/fuel ratio. It’s effectively the same as varying engine size according to required power. The stated power on the spec sheet might be 400 hp, but at a steady 30 mph, the engine is probably producing only about 25 hp (and that includes the power going to the alternator, water pump, so on and so forth).

        And it’s BRAKE horsepower… because it’s measured by braking the engine with a dynamometer, and measuring the power dissapated in the dynamometer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Prony_brake

      • >> nameplate capacity on a power plant – they’re completely different animals

        Actually, they are both measuring Power.

        >> A car traveling at a steady 30 mph is producing only enough power to maintain that speed

        In a similar way, when a load of 100 MW is applied to the generator, a control system is active that will maintain voltage, resulting in delivery of 100 MW of power or 134,048 HP. That’s why I explained above that folks who were measuring actual performance says nothing about the rating, or the design. It might be crap, but you can’t tell from how much energy they sold.

        This affects a lot of comments in this thread.

      • I did not. I believe that was Viking. I guess you have not built performance engines, fitted a Ford V6 engine into a Mini with a jack knight 5 speed mini gearbox? Ok so my spelling is in error. Bite me!

      • “LeeHarvey

        June 16, 2015 at 10:01 am”

        Engine output is measured at the flywheel, not at a given road speed.

  26. Willis – you have only scratched the surface (of the alluvial fan that the facility is built on).
    http://www.westyost.com/project/ivanpah-solar-electric-generating-facility-stormwater-runoff-and-sediment-transport-analysis
    As you and others have written many times, it’s models all the way down.

    This link takes you to additional documents:
    http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/ivanpah/documents/others/2009-07-02_AECOM_Stormwater_Modeling_Review_TN-52284.pdf

    Alluvial fan flow is an example of chaotic flow behavior made somewhat tractable but no less unpleasant by a stochastic (statistical) approach. The uncertainty monster is large and unforgiving. Some have tried a deterministic work-around (see first reference) using a very powerful computer model with variables that can be tuned, much like climate models that are tuned by their forcings. If you care to step into the tar pit, National Academies Press “Alluvial Fan Flooding” is a good reference:
    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=5364&page=6

    FEMA’s stochastic approach is here:
    https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/13052

  27. Great piece, Willis. Here in Britain, we’re just about to build the world’s largest tidal lagoon…just as soon as the subsidies and the future price of the electricity it generates has been agreed.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-33053003
    Oh, and the cost has already doubled!

    • I’m up for that experiment. Innovation needs a chance. It is reliable energy, at least.

      Perhaps the expense can be mitigated by using it as a fish farm. Shellfish (whelks, mussels, crab lobster) could be contained and thrive. That technology would be attractive to the Japanese.

      It’s a big expense up front and, yes – it will need dredging – but let’s not just reject any chance of new technology.

      • You don’t have to build every dumb idea to realize it’s a dumb idea. The Swansea Lagoon is a particularly dumb idea.

      • Mcourtney

        Yup, shellfish (whelks, mussels, crab lobster) all mix well with power generation.

        If you want to build a mud aquarium somewhere on your coast, at least be honest enough to call it that while you’re funding/building it. Otherwise, you’re just pissing away other people’s hard earned money. They may have preferred to spend it on food, medicine, school…you get the drift.

      • Billy Liar

        You assert

        You don’t have to build every dumb idea to realize it’s a dumb idea. The Swansea Lagoon is a particularly dumb idea.

        Actually, compared to the existing UK renewables programme, it is a very sensible idea.

        I advocated it in this Annual Prestigious Lecture that I was given the honour of being asked to provide in 2006.

        Its Synopsis says

        The UK Energy White Paper was published by the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in May 2003. It proposed the objective of a contribution to reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by use of ‘renewables’ mostly in the form of windfarms (i.e. local assemblies of wind turbines) to provide 20% of UK electricity supply. This objective was endorsed by the UK’s Energy Review that was published by the DTI on 11 July 2006. However, this paper suggests the use of windfarms cannot make significant contribution to reducing the emissions and suggests the construction of tidal coffer dams instead. Windfarms for power generation provide intermittent power so they merely displace thermal power stations onto standby mode or to operate at reduced efficiency while the thermal power stations wait for the wind to change. They make no significant reduction to pollution because thermal power stations continue to use their fuel and to produce their emissions while operating in standby mode or with reduced efficiency that can increase their emissions at low output. And this need for
        continuously operating backup means that windfarms can only provide negligible useful
        electricity to electricity grid supply systems. But the large scale use of windfarms requires upgrading of an electricity grid, more complex grid management, and operation of additional thermal power stations to protect against power cuts in time of supply failure. These effects increase the cost of electricity supplied by the grid in addition to the capital, maintenance and operating costs of the windfarms themselves. And the windfarms cause significant environmental damage. Tidal coffer dams would not have these problems and could provide continuous and controllable power supply at similar cost to off-shore windfarms.

        Richard

      • Mr RichardCourtney, paying £168/MW is a very dumb idea unless of course YOU don’t have to pay it.
        It also only really produces for short periods 4 times a day.
        I live in Swansea and it is a VERY DUMB idea.

    • There is one in Bretagne(France) close to Mont St Michel. At least there is a substantial tidal effect.

      • The Rance plant works well but maintenance is very expensive.

        Capacity factor is 25% – at least tide is predictable.

        The advantage of the technology is that you cannot use it everywhere, so you don’t risk building a lot of these.

    • MCourtney, are you freaking serious? You sound, for all the world, like some leftie, who thinks spending others’ money is justifiable. Any scheme that needs subsidies, a set future price, and which doubles in cost before it’s even left the drawing board should NEVER, EVER get built. Let investors build it and reap the rewards, just like a private toll bridge – there’s your risky ‘new technology’. Then if it fails, it’s their tough. I presume you are a fan of HS2 as well? And you must love wind turbines, too! MCourtney, no; whatever it is, if it needs to be subsidised then let the free private market ‘subsidise’ it. It used to be called ‘investing’. They are aiming for a price of £168 per megawatt-hour! I seriously think you have something wrong with logical thought:
      http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/taxpayers_will_literally_pay_the_price_for_the_folly_of_the_tidal_lagoon
      http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/renewable_energy_project_condemned_as_appalling_value_for_money

      • MCourtney should also read the recent article in Bishop Hill:
        http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2015/6/9/the-proposed-swansea-bay-tidal-lagoon.html
        The energy cost will be 4xtimes present rates (already high because of greentaxes), no-one has worked out silting effects. A CCGT plant nearby will produce more power at lower cost and footprint , and the material to build this will come from a disused Cornish quarry (owned by the same developers -natch) which will be reopened and extended in a supposed marine conservation area and involve extensive reconstruction of the Cornish road system . Oh , and it will be built by a Chinese state company.
        It is yet another disaster that we , the UK taxpayer and consumer must pay for , just to make a small group of people very rich.

      • mikewaite, if you read your link you’ll see I have read that article at Bishop Hill and made the same comment there.

        The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley, you know I am a lefty.
        My point is that the first such endeavour with a long payback time needs an investor with a long term future. That’s not the private sector. That’s never the private sector. Basic economics tells you why – the private sector needs quick returns and to prevent the positive externalities from escaping to their competitors.
        The public sector wants the positive externalities to spread.

        The first nuclear plants were not built by GE or Hitachi.

        I acknowledge the need for dredging. I acknowledge the cost is high. That is why I look for means to subsidise the lagoon with other income streams.

        Just throwing away ideas as “too expensive, never going to happen, technological progress – pah!” That’s the attitude that saw eagles in flight and said “Oh their arms must hurt, let’s walk”.

      • MCourtney, as I [replied] to Richardcourtney, I live in Swansea, it is easy for you to say that paying £168/MW is OK, but this is not advancing Science or Technology and it IS going to hit the poor of the UK by yet again increasing their energy bills.
        You can build 24/7/365 gas power station for the same price, not something that only generates for a short period 4 times a day, whilst [wreaking] havoc on the local area.

        [The mods prefer not to watch anyone in the north of UK as they replaid…. lest their unconfined odors reak havoc on the bye-standers who have left the local area. .mod]

      • Mods, do you ‘know’ about the North of England?
        “What’s all this shouting? We’ll have no shouting here!”

      • MCourtney. Actually, I didn’t know you are a leftie. Short payback times are required by private investors, and that is often annoying to everyone else. However, if you actually do the maths, you’ll find that so-called ‘long-term investments’ actually NEVER pay the money back. I have done these calculations many times myself on schemes. Proponents of schemes never factor in all that is required. Like I said, if ANY scheme, that passes these three ‘tests’ shouldn’t ever get built:
        1. Does it need a public subsidy, rather than private investment?
        2. Does it need a set future (minimum) price to guarantee its worth of construction?
        3. Has the cost doubled since it was first costed?

        The Swansea Lagoon ticks all three…perfectly.

  28. Many Ivanpah style solar thermal plants are being, or have been, cancelled. In addition to their “streamer” problem their power also is too expensive. Estimation are that Ivanpah power costs 12 to 25 cents per kWh. While standard solar can be under 10 cents.

    And keep in mind they do not build these plants on “spec” – they ONLY build based on signed long term contract to purchase the energy produced – often at exorbitant fees – so the purchaser can meet the ridiculous and outright stupid “renewable energy” requirements.

    • A Scott

      With all due respect, I seriously doubt your statement “…they do not build these plants on “spec” – they ONLY build based on signed long term contract to purchase the energy produced…”.

      They appear to only build these white elephants only after taxpayers have funded them.

      • Chip
        I believe that A. Scott means “on speculation”. It is a term from real estate. A contractor may put up a building for a particular client, or he may build “on spec”, believing that after he builds it he can find either a buyer for the entire building or, more commonly, tenants to fill it.

        In this case, “on spec” would mean they simply build the plant believing they can later find customers for its output.

  29. A parallel to Greece enters my mind. Prof. Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, is busy seeking other people’s money.Proud Greece will only honor its commitments if they get a gift to pay back a part of their loan. Greece has always been a shining light of the Western civilization.

    • Greece hasn’t been a shining light of western civilization for going on two millenia. They’re just a bunch of socialist layabouts now with some interesting ruins. Who want everybody else to foot the bill.

      • noloctd, I think that was CG’s point. He may have thought the /irony at the end of his comment wasn’t needed.

  30. Excellent posting as usual, this project has always needles me as it was based false studies and politics. On item that no one seems to note; is what of the shadow zone beneath this vast mirror array? Has anyone looked at the long term effects of denying the once sun-loving micro flora and fauna their daily allotment of sunshine. Sure birds are pretty and make a good statement. But what of their soil bound counterparts? While hiking in the southern portions of Utah we were warned not to even walk on the soil off-trail for fear of disturbing an important ecosystem vital to life in the desert

    • Assuming that the micro flora and fauna like the bird ‘extra crispy’, they should be doing fine. <¿<

  31. Here are some more figures on consumption and output from Ivanpah:

    “The 392-megawatt Ivanpah plant started commercial operation at the end of December 2013, and for the first eight months of 2014, it generated just 254,263 megawatt-hours of electricity—about one-fourth of the anticipated level. During the sunnier months of May, June, July and August, electrical output was higher than earlier in the year with 189,156 megawatt hours generated, which on an annual basis translates to electricity output of about 600,000 megawatt hours–still about 40 percent below the original level expected by the owners based on meteorological data (1,065,000 megawatt hours).”

    “The natural gas is used with auxiliary boilers to prime the system in the early morning, allowing the plant to begin generating electricity as soon as possible after sunrise; to maintain performance during intermittent cloud cover; and to eke out more energy as the sun sets at the end of the day. The auxiliary boilers typically need to operate an average of 4.5 hours a day during startup—one hour more on average than originally expected.”

    “Bright Source is permitted to burn 1,575 million standard cubic feet of natural gas every year at the Ivanpah plant—enough gas for an average U.S. natural gas-fired power plant to produce about 200,000 megawatt hours of electricity, an average about 23 megawatts per day. Thus, at the current output of the plant, it is eking out just slightly more electricity being run with a combination of natural gas and solar power.”

    http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/analysis/google-asks-bailout-federally-funded-solar-plant/

    It is not unusual to have start up problems, the output may increase, but the output is just 40 % below the expected level so it cannot increase by more than 40 %. The figures above speaks for themselves.

    • It is near impossible to find out how much of that 254,263 megawatt-hours is due to Natural Gas and not solar.

      • That data should be available via the Energy Information Agency. I’ll try to look it up tomorrow at work as I’m ready to pass out and commenting via mobile at the moment.

    • You do realize that actual power generation will always be less than capacity, and that it depends on loads and how it’s connected to them, right?

      Imagine two nuclear power plants of identical design and rating. Place one right next to a big load, and the other 500 miles away. The closer one will deliver the majority of the power, according to kirchoffs current law.

      Does that say anything about the design? The design probably sucks, so make an argument that actually holds water.

      I just took a drive in my car to the store, and did not get the horsepower that the manufacturer said. Should I sue the car maker for false advertising?

      • I realize you are trying to make a technical point but instead are obfuscating the issue with McDonalds and now with automobiles.

        You don’t have to sue the car maker if every time you went to the store the car erratically or stopped delivering horsepower on the way there. In that case you realize the car is malfunctioning, and you enforce the warranty or if the warranty expired you pay a repair bill or junk the car.

        Concerning design, either the service is reliably delivered at the capacity advertised or it is not. A car that only runs depending on the weather or time of day is by definition not a good design. The point is for solar power, being unreliable is an acceptable design “feature”.

      • Oh dear! Car makers state a maximum, that is a potential MAXIMUM which does vary with fuel and wear, power output, BHP/Tourqe, at specific engine reveolution speeds. They also state specific “MPG” miles at a “CONSTANT” 56mph highway driving (UK). They NEVER state that the engine will deliver maximum output across the rev range nor do they state that economy will be different with town driving or use.

        C’mon, stop being silly! (BTW I worked for Honda and Renault in the UK).

      • >> instead are obfuscating the issue

        The restaurant analogy clearly demonstrates the invalidity of arguments related to “no back up”, or “only available for certain times a day”. It also shows how when there is plenty of demand, one simply can’t compare prices and declare that product X is not economical and is therefore stupid/evil.

        With supply and demand, products arrange themselves at various different price points. They already do in the electricity market. On a hot summer day, a power plant consisting of multiple jet engines bids into the system, looking to make a profit. In January of 2014, some generators could not supply power for less than $1,000 / MWh. That makes $167.85 / MWh look pretty cheap. So much for not being a viable business.

        The car analogy was only meant to illustrate the nature of the word “capacity”.

        >> C’mon, stop being silly

        Patrick, everything you wrote about cars is exactly correct. That’s why we use the word “rating”. It’s a specification rating. I’m not being silly, I’m making fun of all the people in this whole thread that are going on about what power they generated, how much energy they sold over 3 months, and indicating that this reflects upon the power plant rating.

      • Well, if you want to be clear with your posts (And I am guity of not being textually clear in my posts – Meh it happens), you should specify words like “rating” and the meaning you endorse. Otherwise you look like an uninformed fool.

      • Patrick, I think I’ve been clear, and you just didn’t read thoroughly or enough to understand the context. Please tell me where I’ve been unclear.

    • nameplate capacity is its 24 hour production divided by 24.

      thus a 50 mw gas plant generates 50mw for 24 hours

      ivanpah does not generate 392 mw per hour. full stop. to claim that it does, is deception, lies.

  32. Willis, I was waiting for you to tell us the numbers on the final cost of power output from this monstrosity, compared to good old coal.

    • I couldn’t find the contracted power price to PGE anywhere. If anyone knows, I’m as interested as you are.

      w.

      • Their are multiple power arrangements with PGE and SoCal Edison. Found this on the SCE purchase. Weasel words is the best we will get under the current protective environment.

        How much will this power cost SCE? Is the price of this power fixed? What will this mean in terms of cost to the consumer?
        BrightSource Energy and SCE are not contractually permitted to discuss contract prices; however, SCE buys power at competitive rates on behalf of its customers. SCE seeks competitive offers annually and the BrightSource Energy proposal was selected from its 2008 solicitation.

        https://www.sce.com/NR/rdonlyres/E3041166-1B30-4C86-8858-BBDBD089047B/0/090211_Solar_Announcement_FAQ.pdf

      • They look to be getting about $170/MWhr:

        https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9owC0JIPRD-cHEyNlZmXzEtMUU/view
        https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9owC0JIPRD-TFU3MnQyZ1RBLUE/view
        https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9owC0JIPRD-OXBBaEJGQjl1VHc/view

        as reported here:

        http://breakingenergy.com/2014/10/29/at-ivanpah-solar-power-plant-energy-production-falling-well-short-of-expectations/

        From that article:

        The Platts article broke new ground when it highlighted Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reports on second-quarter electricity sales from Ivanpah’s three units – from Units 1 and 3 to PG&E, and from Unit 2 to Southern California Edison – those can be seen here, here and here. The sales totaled 133,807 MWh and at an average price of $167.85/MWh that generated $22.46 million in revenue.

        That relatively small output, combined with the project’s $2 billion price tag, could no doubt hurt all three Ivanpah owners

        Small wonder they can’t pay their loans back.

      • “The Platts article broke new ground when it highlighted Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reports on second-quarter electricity sales from Ivanpah’s three units – from Units 1 and 3 to PG&E, and from Unit 2 to Southern California Edison – those can be seen here, here and here. The sales totaled 133,807 MWh and at an average price of $167.85/MWh that generated $22.46 million in revenue”
        From this article at breakingenergy.com
        http://breakingenergy.com/2014/10/29/at-ivanpah-solar-power-plant-energy-production-falling-well-short-of-expectations/
        Keep in mind this is what Edison and PG&E paid for it, not what it costs. That won’t be really known for years. I suspect that this thing will be running at a loss ultimately.

      • There is an article – behind a high pay wall – ill try to find it – anecdotal evidence is 12 to 25 cents per kWh

      • Quote

        The Platts article broke new ground when it highlighted Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reports on second-quarter electricity sales from Ivanpah’s three units (from Units 1 and 3 to PG&E, and from Unit 2 to Southern California Edison; they can be seen here, here and here). The sales totaled 133,807 MWh, and at an average price of $167.85/MWh, that generated $22.46 million in revenue.

        http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/ivanpah-solar-plant-falling-short-of-expected-electricity-production

        Unquote

      • Endless panglossianism from wiki:
        “It should also be noted that the cost wind and solar have dramatically reduced since 2006, for example, over the 5 years 2009-2014 solar costs fell by 75% making them comparable to coal, and are expected to continue dropping over the next 5 years by another 45% from 2014 prices.”

      • Well that is another black eye for Wikipedia concerning controversial subjects.

        Solar costs poorly compare to coal. Subsidies do not lower the cost of energy, only that the cost is payed from a different source, namely taxpayers. Solar is not even comparable to wind power in cost and reliability.

        Adding insult to injury projecting it to be 50% less than coal in 5 years. This claim may be extravagant optimism but just as likely blatant lying, ignorance or the results of a delusional psychiatric disorder.

      • That’s good cost information but just a fraction of the story. Since the contracts are for 25 to 30 years, a good understanding of the impact of the deals PG&E and SCE entered on behalf of their ratepayers, would require knowing something about how those costs escalate into the future.

        If you wanted to “hide” or “keep under the radar” how much the ratepayers are paying for this clean energy, it would work more easily paying a lower cost initially that escalates tremendously along with the associated assumptions driving a fossil free future (i.e. economical fracked gas is probably not in the equation.)

      • The aggregate price paid for Jan-Sept 2014 was $0.185/kWh after time of day adjustments. The data can be dug out of the FERC reports for production and revenues. The digging is, however, not easy as FERC is (deliberately) not user friendly.

  33. Talk about an inconvenient truth!

    All of this was totally predictable especially Ivanpah’s effectiveness at transferring money from taxpayers, residents and consumers to an anointed few.

    And it’s the same with all of the other environmentally driven wet dream projects. e.g. the Drax power station fiasco covered here a week or so ago.

  34. It is not just the birds in the air, it is also the animals on the ground. Google Ivanpah tortoise issues. The moved all the tortoises they could find and moved them to an area far enough away they would not return? However many were later found dead. I have also read that they sprayed (and will continue to) some type of chemical on the ground, covered it with aggregate ground cover, and other measures were taken to mitigate the dust on the mirrors. Thus they have created a five square mile dead zone.

  35. Maybe a bird will get burned by the Nat. Gas burner, then the EPA will close it in NY minute!

  36. I wonder how this project could make it at all. Some investigation of the viability must have been done.

    • JJM Gommers

      Well, by sheer coincidence, Google’s founders are big Obama supporters.

      This isn’t necessarily disqualifying, but it seems an awful lot of these goof-ball schemes (Solondrya anybody?) are backed by – wait for it – Obama supporters.

  37. My thanks to those who have provided additional information. As you have noted, my objections are far from an exhaustive list.

    w.

  38. Brightsource and the environmentalists claim the $2.2 billion Ivanpah will offset the energy usage of “140,000 homes.” Of course, “homes” is a very misleading “unit of energy.” The reality is that Ivanpah would would offset the total energy usage of the occupants of 22,000 California homes, at a cost of $100,000 per home. See…
    https://climatesanity.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/units-of-energy-homes/

    But the crisping of birds is a minor issue. The bird death rate works out to about 1.3 birds for each of those homes, which is way short of the average 80 chickens that are eaten by the occupants of each of those homes each year. (2.6 people per home X 25 chickens per person). See…
    https://climatesanity.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/in-defense-of-solar-thermal/

    • I got the sarcasm in your second par on my second reading! Indeed, the crisping of hundreds of rare raptors – not a problem because we all eat lots of farmed chickens! Hahahaha, do the greenies think we are that stupid? (Well, we are pretty stupid for giving them $2.2billion, and the rest.)

  39. This is nothing new:
    World’s largest solar plant applying for federal grant to pay off federal loan
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/11/08/world-largest-solar-plant-applying-for-federal-grant-to-pay-off-its-federal/

    In 2013, the Obama administration handed out $18.5 billion in renewable energy grants, with $4.4 billion going to solar projects. BrightSource came under scrutiny by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and investigators found the company received direct “guidance and support from the White House” for how it obtained its $1.6 billion in federal loans.
    The Ivanpah solar electric generating plant is owned by Google and renewable energy giant NRG, which are responsible for paying off their federal loan. If approved by the US Treasury, the two corporations will not use their own money, but taxpayer cash to pay off 30% of the cost of their plant, but taxpayers will receive none of the millions in revenues the plant will generate over the next 30 years.

    and as for bird killing…
    “…The plants’ owner at the time, BrightSource Energy, said it will likely kill only a thousand birds a year…”
    A recent study released by the California Energy Commission conducted by the Center for Biological Diversity called Ivanpah a “mega-trap” that will kill up to 28,000 birds a year.

    • If only 10 birds a year would be BURNED ALIVE by a fossil fuel power plant, there would be a worldwide and maddening screaming by all the usually anti-carbon MSM to shut down that power plant at once. But when a Solar power plant BURNS ALIVE 1000 birds per year (or even much more), that seems to be quite OK for them !

      Well, sounds rather insane, but this is just the normal day-to-day routine of Green Climatism…

    • The initial killing rate is 28000, but their “calculation” showed that gradually would go down to 1000 and after a prolonged period of time to zero.

  40. Solar thermal is best utilized as a fuel savings add-on to a high efficiency gas turbine power plant. That is essentially what has happened at Ivanpah. That’s what Florida Power and Light did at the Martin Solar Thermal plant. They use solar thermal heat collected with parabolic troughs to reduce natural gas BTU requirements during normal operations. It will never break even, unless FPL can somehow collect on a carbon credit of around $80/ton CO2. OH, and they had a few reportable leaks of thermal transfer oil early on.

    Here are the details-

    Martin Solar Plant
    Owned by FPL
    Opened in September 2010
    Indiantown, FL

    Cost = $400M
    At full capacity of 75MW, it offsets 500 BTU/kWhr of heat from gas-fired combined cycle 1150 MW plant.
    Expected life = 20 or 30 years (depends on source)
    Over life, it will save $178M in fuel costs.
    Over life, it will avoid 2.75M tons of CO2 emissions.
    Expected to generate 155,000 MWhr per year.
    At $40/MWhr, this is $6.2M per year of electricity.

    Capital cost = $5.33/Wpeak
    Carbon price = ($400M – $178M)/2.75M = $80.73/ton CO2
    Price of natural gas = $4.50/MBTU
    Gas savings = 500/1,000,000*4.5 = 0.23 cents/kWhr fuel savings
    Typical heat rate = 8000 BTU/kWhr
    Fuel cost = 3.6 cents/kWhr wholesale
    Savings of fuel = 0.23/3.6 = 6.4%

    • AS usual, A nuclear power plant has a leak with less radiation in it than some cities drinking water supply and it is on the front page of NYT, A solar plant dumps highly toxic oil and nothing can be found about it.

  41. A very telling story which is more depressing than hilarious…

    But alas: “That’s a tragedy which unfortunately will be mostly ignored by those good-hearted environmentally conscious folks suffering from chronic carbophobia.”

    BTW: “Carbophobia” is an excellent psychological description for these deluded do-gooders and our current “zeitgeist”. Future generations will call this embarrassing stage of mankind maybe the “Carbophobic Era”. Then folks will have realized finally that Carbophobia is actually Biophobia…

  42. Yet another problem with this multi-billion dollar boondoggle is the fact that the bright glare from it blinds aircraft pilots as they are flying within a certain distance of it:

    http://dailycaller.com/2014/07/23/govt-report-confirms-that-southwest-solar-plant-blinds-airline-pilots/

    Sadly, I can envision the day when the blinding glare is going to lead to a mid-air collision that will result in many deaths. In my mind, It’s just of matter of when, not if. And Google and the environmental movement will then have the loss of human lives on its hands, not just avian ones. The Airline Pilots Association has already complained about the problem… but apparently to no avail so far.

    If and when this damn thing finally gets shut down someday, it will be interesting to see what they are going to do about those nearly 350,000 mirrors that will suddenly be out of commission. I suppose retailers who sell mirrors would buy then cheap at wholesale prices, but they would have to foot the cost of framing them for residential use.

    Then of course there is also the issue of sandstorms that probably go barreling through the area every now and then as we have seen in Phoenix and Las Vegas on occasion. How much damage to all those mirrors is the storm going to cause?

    Like Willis, I am having trouble here deciding whether to laugh or to cry. Some of both I guess…….

    • They will probably have to start routing airplanes around this plant. So we can add extra jet fuel to the cost of this disaster.

      • ……which probably offsets much if not most of the fossil fuel presumably saved by the facility itself I would guess. Complete idiocy.

    • CD153, thanks for illuminating the issue of the laser pointer of doom. Memory serves, it’s a felony to flash an aircraft with a simple laser pointer used in meetings. It would be amusing to see the spin to avoid charging Ivanpah with such a crime.

      • Jquip:

        Didn’t know pointing one of those things at an aircraft was illegal. Together with the bird frying, seeing Ivanpah get off scott free as an aviation hazard is called hypocrisy and a double standard. And. as I’ve said here before, double standards suck.

  43. I wonder if Google will have the honesty and integrity to come ‘here’ and explain their position?

    • Dave_G: “I wonder if Google will have the honesty and integrity to come ‘here’ and explain their position?”

      Wow, the words “Google” and “honesty and integrity” in the same sentence.

      That’s something you don’t see every day.

  44. What? Who thinks that the Ivanpah design engineers weren’t smart enough to calculate the facility’s economic realities? The whole project was designed with one goal in mind- to bilk legions of little guys out of their money.

  45. No one wants to calculate the total cost of solar energy generation.
    1) The energy loss due to the lack of ability to precisely focus the Sun’s image on the tower. Lots of energy is simply lost. Damn diffraction makes the reflected light spread out.
    2) the water and energy needed to manufacture the mirrors and drivers.
    3) the energy needed to manufacture the turbine. Does it use rare earths in its magnets?
    4) the energy needed to install the outside electrical connection. Power lines are EXPENSIVE.
    5) the loss of desert habitat. Poor tortoises. Who will speak for them?
    6) The loss of energy due to clouds. And the Sun does not shine at night. How odd.
    BOTTOM LINE: our ability to capture solar energy in a useful form was solved by nature several billion years ago. It is known a chlorophyll. It is cool. How about just harvesting plankton? Or using weeds?
    The solution has been obvious for 60 years. Orbit a Powersat, and do the generation in space. Then all you need is a rectenna farm on the surface.

    • Very close mathman2. You said “our ability to capture solar energy in a useful form was solved by nature several billion years ago. It is known a chlorophyll.” That’s what produced fossil fuels. Which are good for another several hundred years, at very low $ cost and very low environmental cost. Which gives us plenty of time to work out fusion.

    • An other source of thermal loss, not noted, is that the unit at the top of the tower is open to receive radiation from the mirrors and must re-radiate from its heated surfaces – very inefficient. Choice of surface finish may help, but difficult at its operating temperature.

  46. They have all those computer steerable mirrors on frames. Suppose they put PV panels on the frames instead. How much power would they get from 5 sq miles of PV panels? Isn’t it about 2000 MW in bright sunlight? Cut it in half for power spacing. Cut it in half again for incompetence. It is still more than the nameplate rating of solar steam.

  47. I posted a link to this article in the ‘comments’ of the following ‘Economist’ writeup:

    http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21653618-falling-cost-renewable-energy-may-allow-africa-bypass

    One hopes somebody looks at the Ivanpah numbers before committing to installing more “brightly polished mirrors flashing light across the dusty khaki scrubland of South Africa’s inhospitable Northern Cape province as they rotate slowly to follow the sun, producing electricity for 80,000 homes”

  48. If all the power transmission infrastructure is there and the environment has already been impacted, they should just remove all the mirrors and replace them with a nuclear generating station. It would result in less carbon emissions and give the birds something to poop on.

    • I wish birds weren’t so bird brained. They could collectively work together and cover all the panels with poop rendering them less lethal. And make the lives of these econaughts .. Poopy.

  49. I can’t even… lol. Anything that takes up land will be Very expensive. As Lex Luthor once said. LAND LAND LAND. An Exposed Solar reactor like this steam plant is bound to be expensive! I don’t know about these people but I don’t want my “reactors” to be exposed in the open.. and fry birds.. I like mine in a contained area. Unlike Solar Power you can always build your nuclear reactors in a Confined and Small Space. Even build it Vertically! As for solar panels.. yeah good luck with that project. :)

  50. When I was in college our engineering class on “Power and Energy” took a field trip to visit the “Solar One” facility near Dagget, in this same Mohave desert area of California as this Ivanpah facility. That was in 1984 or 1985, and Solar One was the same type of concentration type solar power plant with a boiler at the focal point of the mirrors as this Ivanpah plant. It was a good trip, we got to go into the control room and the display showed the plant was generating close to 10 MW that afternoon, near its capacity.

    I saw that same type of bright spot shown in your first picture above where the mirrors are focused off the boiler when I was driving past the Solar One site a few years later. I didn’t see them do that “off the boiler focusing” when we visited the plant. The Solar One plant was only a 10 MW plant, this Ivanpah plant is much bigger, nearly 400 MW according to Wikipedia, but it seems like there must have been the same bird killing seen with Solar one back in the 1980s as they are seeing with Ivanpah. Unless at the higher solar concentration level it is a much bigger problem. I even remember telling the friend I was driving with when I saw that bright spot at Solar One “Can you imagine a bird flying through that?” Maybe that really wasn’t a problem with Solar One power levels? Or it was and they didn’t think it was worth doing anything about when they built Ivanpah.

  51. great article. It’s be nice to see the agency names for the loan and the grant to repay the loan. EPA? DOE? USDA? BLM? Fish and Wildlife? Without having researched this particular facility I’d wager that all of those agencies have expended some resources on this project along the way. NOW there would be a nice follow up article: How much money is expended collaterally by the regulatory agencies in the process of pushing these white elephants through?

  52. Very interesting. All these solar panels had to use fossil fuels that create that scary carbon, where are the carbophobiacs on that?
    Google should be able to pay out of pocket considering how much they make on ad revenue, it is just plain unethical for taxpayers to foot the bill for googles projects.

    • Excessive taxes are unethical. The majority voted for Obama twice. Google is not being unethical to request some of their tax money back.

  53. check out jlurtz.wordpress.com for a low temperature non-carnot thermodynamic cycle. No bird fries. Low temperature can be stored at 150F underground using water. What is it that you won’t even look at a new approach??

    You all have been brainwashed by the system!!!! At least try to expand your brains with information that you can evaluate for yourself !! Accept or reject, I don’t care, but try to learn !!

  54. 6 GigaWatts of utility-scale solar generation at peak today in the State of California.

    There is about 6 more GigaWatts of home and small business rooftop generation that is not shown on the chart (since it is non-dispatchable to the grid).

    current projections are for a 27% decrease in annual PV module costs over the next 3 years.

    current targets are that solar panels will cost $0.45 per Watt of generation capacity by 2019.

    compare:

  55. S.W.O.T analysis

    Strengths
    – Cooks Birds
    – Works best on sunny days

    Weaknesses
    – generates expensive electricity in between peak demand periods = useless

    Opportunities
    – Move to deep south to fry chickens ‘Colonel Google’s Southern Fried Chicken’

    Threats
    – The looney left will move from Chronic Coalaphobia as the money dries up, returning to that old chestnut saving birds and chain themselves to the tower as a protest against industrial scale chicken frying.

  56. Do you know Themis? Probably not. Few people ever heard or remember this French solar experiment, even in France.

    Themis was a molten salt solar plant in the department of Pyrénées-Orientales. Started in 1983, stopped after only 3 years of experimenting (playing with?).

    Seriously, it was stopped for a reason. Or many reasons.

    One wonders how many lessons of the past are forgotten…?

    • Thanks to the NIH phenomenon, these “mistakes” will keep getting made over and over (and with Other People’s Money, of course).

  57. A good article Willis. I can’t laugh though; a wry smile accompanied by just wanting to cry at the incredible, unmitigated sheer stupidity of it all.

    This Swansea lagoon thingy; is that another name for the Severn barrier or a separate piece of lunacy?

  58. Soo I say drill baby drill! There is probably gas available below to run the turbines.

  59. “Burning birds alive in the name of making energy prices skyrocket? Have we sunk this low? Really?”

    YES we have, and it is sickening, I cannot even find a small snicker of laughter in my whole body…..

    As an amateur ornithologist (with a “life list” of over 2000 birds observed in the wild on 6 continents) I find this whole debacle repulsive. In my native upstate New York it has taken almost 4 decades to restore the populations of utterly majestic birds like the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon to something like their previous population levels. And now the “green loons” want to install more bird shredders to undo all that progress, TOTALLY INSANE and OBSCENE….

    And all this from a hypothesis (the radiative Greenhouse Effect) that most poorly informed folks have swallowed “hook line and sinker”. And many have defended this hypothesis to no end and called anyone that pointed out that it was just a “hypothesis” with no observational “backup data” the dreaded “D” word, and worse.

    Oh and please note Willis that you are one of the folks that have “Defended” the “radiative Greenhouse Effect” for many years…. Once it is conclusively shown that there is no effect on the average temperature of the Earth from “Greenhouse Gases” we will remember that you “Defended” the “effect”.

    Cheers, KevinK

    • KevinK June 15, 2015 at 6:51 pm

      Oh and please note Willis that you are one of the folks that have “Defended” the “radiative Greenhouse Effect” for many years…. Once it is conclusively shown that there is no effect on the average temperature of the Earth from “Greenhouse Gases” we will remember that you “Defended” the “effect”.

      Indeed I have defended the poorly named “greenhouse effect”. See e.g.

      The Steel Greenhouse

      People Living in Glass Planets

      Best regards,

      w.

  60. ABC Australia’s flagship current affairs prog last nite had “The End of Coal?” – the usual renewables are on the rise etc and, right on cue, today we have:

    16 June: ABC: Voters are backing solar power – will we get the policies to match?
    A new Lowy poll shows solar power’s appeal is broad among Australians, and it’s clear there is much to be done to reduce emissions. The challenge now is for our governments to act, writes John Connor (CEO, Climate Institute).
    Last week I stood in a field of more than a million photovoltaic solar modules and felt like I was touching the future. Erected within 18 months at the Nyngan Solar Farm, this utility scale solar power plant can power more than 50,000 homes. Many more of these can and should be built…
    Wind power’s appeal is broad too. Last year polling for The Climate Institute showed 64 per cent of Australians had wind in their top three energy sources. Solar was in the top three of 82 per cent (15 per cent had coal). Indeed, more than three quarters of Australians wanted governments to do more for renewable energy “like wind farms”. With their enigmatic mix of a sleek industrial aesthetic and a primal connection to a natural resource that is also free, wind farms are a crossover technology that inspires many…
    Yesterday, the International Energy Agency essentially backed the vision of Australians. Avoiding two degrees warming would see a world with more renewable energy than coal fired energy by 2030…
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-16/connor-voters-are-backing-solar-power/6548438

    re the same poll:

    Australians fear 10 more years of terror, finds I-view poll
    The Australian-10 hours ago
    Solar energy was rated by 43 per cent as Australia’s likely primary power source in 10 years, followed by coal with just 17 per cent

    MSM not so interested in the following report though:

    15 June: Reuters: Big Oil saving Putin top investor show again
    Some of the world’s most powerful oil executives will attend Russia’s top investment show next week, once again helping the organizers shrug off a meager turnout from other leading Western industrialists and bankers…
    However, for the second year running, oil executives are showing up regardless, with the heads of BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total flying into the home town of President Vladimir Putin.
    BP’s review of world energy supplies, published this month, estimated that Russian oil and gas reserves had jumped above 100 billion barrels for the first time, climbing to some 103 billion from 93 billion in the last review in 2013. This put it sixth in the global reserves league table.
    Such an abundance makes it economically vital for major energy firms to maintain healthy ties with Moscow…
    Western energy bosses have a lot at stake in Russia, with assets ranging from Shell’s giant gas plant on the far eastern island of Sakhalin to BP’s 20 percent stake in Rosneft, responsible for a third of its global production…
    But onshore developments are still allowed and BP is looking to expand its portfolio in Russia by buying a stake in an east Siberian oil field from Rosneft for as much as $800 million.
    Shell’s van Beurden said this month the company would be keen to boost capacity of the $20 billion Sakhalin plant by a third while Total is seeking ways to unlock investments into the $30 billion Yamal gas plant…
    Executives from giant oil trading houses Glencore, Vitol, Gunvor and Trafigura will also travel to Russia as Rosneft is looking for ways to boost its funding options via oil sales deals.
    Last year, Putin challenged the Western sanctions by striking a long awaited gas supply deal just before the forum between Kremlin’s energy champion Gazprom and China, valued at $400 billion.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/15/us-russia-forum-oil-idUSKBN0OU0RW20150615

    • Highly suspect ABC article. Anything written by the ABC should be ignored. Abbott, the Australiam PM, has been slated by the ABC, and other media outlets, for suggesting wind turbines are “ugly and noisy”. Of course he is correct, but the left leaning Australian media constantly promote “green alternatives” and try to discredit Abbott. Well, we’ll see. 2016 is the next federal election and I predict the Abbott and the LNP will be returned to power.

    • “this utility scale solar power plant can power more than 50,000 homes.”

      So they have found 50,000 homes where people do nothing from 5 PM to 10 AM everyday. And nothing all day when it rains. Or is just cloudy. Or has a cloud cover inconsistent with model predictions.

  61. How much of the power that it generates (%wise) is used to move all the 300,000 + mirrors to keep the sun focused on the tower(s)? I have looked into this before but have never found an answer.

    • Gross nameplate rating is 398MW. Net grid rating 370MW. So 28MW comsumed powering the thing. Biggest power loss is the fans air cooling the steam condensation post turbine.

  62. LOL!! So for 4 out of >8 hours/day, this Google-solar plant needs to burn natural gas to work efficiently… Moreover, other natural gas or coal-fired plants need to burn fossil fuels without generating ANY electricity to immediately kick in should those rare events called “clouds” and/or “night” occur at the Google-solar plant…

    Solar energy is a feasible source of EMERGENCY power generation for rich people, remote off-grid areas and people wishing to live off the grid (providing that it’s not too far north and/or is not in area that gets too much snow in the winter)..

    As always, just let the frigging MARKET decide the winners and losers: NO subsidies, NO low-interest loans, NO special favors, NO kickbacks, NO flaming birds, NO bailouts and NO kickbacks…

    If the private sector doesn’t want to fund an entrepreneurial idea or the idea goes bankrupt after initial capitalization, it usually means it’s not viable.

    “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”~Albert Einstein

    • Not at all. Solar water heating works very very well here in Australia. Solar power works for things like road signs and lights etc, we have many of these systems here in Australia. Solar power for base load power is, of course, a fallacy.

      • “Solar power for base load power is, of course, a fallacy.”

        Yes I think you have hit the nail on the head. Solar can be useful for a number of applications. Even though like my solar calculator, I imagine they require batteries or can charge batteries to make them usable.

      • I had a solar calculator once, in the 80’s. Sure it worked in sunlight, but it was mostly used in a building with, coal powered lights!

  63. Google. I think their motto is “Do no evil.” Well Steve Jobs found, after taking their president into the board of Apple, that he was there to steal the iPhone from Apple and kill them with their Android (nice name for a heartless creature) project. Jobs wanted to nuke Google, and I think today the two companies are at war. Google is a monster, and I hope to see the end of it. So much so that I will use a Microsoft product – Bing search engine – far more often than Google. I’ll never intentionally use a Google product if I can find a competitor. They are “evil”.

    • Demonizing Google is irrational. This is all caused by politicians that the majority of you voted for.

    • “steal the iPhone from Apple”

      and they stole … the rectangular design?
      The concept of touch screen?
      The icons?

      Get real. Apple couldn’t prove any real IP was “stolen” by Google. Nobody could.

      OTOH, Bing copied search result from various search engines, not just from Google. And that was actually their defense and excuse: “we don’t just copy Google results, with copy every other search engine results, so leave us alone”. And before any irrational Google-hater(*) says anything: Google search results are only for human use, not for robots use. They are blocked at the robots.txt level, unlike content from other sites that Google copies and reuse. So “Google does it” is just plain wrong.

      (*) and before anyone says anything: I hate Google for “contributing” to this solar crap, I really do; but leave the fake IP stuff to pathetic lawyers.

  64. I disagree. Those birds are free range and fall from the sky cooked. Human settlements could be set up under the mirrors and like biblical manna cooked birds would fall from the sky. We could ship the poor from our inner cities to such power generation stations. The deserts naturally produce peyote. Welfare problems solved and Mexican drug cartel problems solved. What’s not to like?

    Eugene WR Gallun

  65. Has any discussed this with McKibben? He mentioned how much he favors solar. I cannot fathom as to how he could be this ignorant to all of its failures. The biggest one being massive tax subsidies. Sure solar panels are hot, but only because they are backed by too much subsidy.

    Again why we need more engineers running for office. It’s going to take people who solve real problems to right our country.

    • The data above shows natural gas use if you dig a bit – monthly, quarterly of annually

  66. http://www.platts.com/

    Search “Ivanpah” … firewalled …. plenty of stories there

    First search result: May 1 – 2015 story … “Ivanpah attains 14.4% first-year capacity factor”

    … so much for 31% capacity factor

  67. Jan 2015 – “New data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that the three ISEGS units pumped out 47,176 megawatt-hours in November, the plant’s third best month in 11 months of operation, trailing just June (64,335 MWh) and October (56,013 MWh). For the year, the plant was at 401,203 MWh of generation.

    One thing that might have helped boost Ivanpah’s fall performance: increased use of natural gas”

    http://breakingenergy.com/2015/01/28/ivanpah-solar-plant-picking-up-steam/

  68. City: Las Vegas
    Sunny Days 210
    Partly Sunny Days 82

    Sun Hours/day
    SUMMER 7.13
    WINTER 5.84
    AVG 6.41

    Various reports note natural gas is required 4.5 hours per day

    Chart Ivanpah production:

  69. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    I suspect that issues are even worse than the post points out. I don’t know if Ivanpah is a straight steam system or has a potassium topping cycle like Solar 1 did, but if it does that potassium has to be kept at temperature at nigh and that takes a LOT of heating. There’s also the mirror drive mechanisms and the problem of keeping dust off the mirrors.
    The largest issues is that all the issues that Ivanpah is dealing with were encountered at Solar 1 back in the 1980’s and that plant was deemed a failure because of them.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Solar_Project#Solar_One

  70. Can’t help thinking of Chairman Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” where everyone was supposed to donate iron and assist in smelting it to be used presumably for industry or export.

    The worrying thing is that the people carried out this “Great Leap Forward” with some enthusiasm causing a shortage of agricultural equipment and other essentials such as essential home ware etc. Not only was the resultant product useless but the harvest failed partly because people were too busy “leaping forward” when they should have been tending their crops, but they had given up their means , (agricultural and industrial tools) to actually farm.

    Central administration of agriculture plus the above etc. caused 50 million plus deaths by starvation between 1961 and 65.

    Are we doing the same thing to ourselves??

    Cheers

    Roger

    http://www.rogerfromnewzealand.wordpress.com

  71. Harrabin, this article is so contradictory, beginning with the headline. after all, the CAGW-infested MSM never stops giving China exaggerated credit for “renewables”:

    16 June: BBC: Roger Harrabin: China ‘deserves more credit’ for renewable energy effort
    China should be given more credit for its investment in clean electricity, the head of the International Energy Agency says.
    Maria van der Hoeven says most people think that China is frantically building coal-fired power stations.
    The reality, she says, is that China is spending as much as the US and Europe put together on clean power.
    She says its coal-fired power stations are state of the art – and should be copied in other developing countries…
    The country is also building 50 new nuclear power stations and creating economies of scale in nuclear too, the IEA says, at a time when the industry is moribund in Europe…
    ***Last year the nation reported that its emissions had fallen by 1% as coal use slumped…
    Ms van der Hoeven said China was still investing heavily in coal-fired power plants, but that the power stations were highly efficient and enabled old inefficient plants to be retired…
    But despite its admiration for China’s achievement, the IEA is still critical of what it says is the nation’s lack of transparency on data.
    And it says that because of China’s vast size and its growing wealth, the country’s emissions are expected by 2030 to be two and a half times higher than the next bigger emitter, the US.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-33143176

    ***Harrabin, go check the revised China figures in the BP report.

    10 June: Carbon Counter: BP: China’s coal consumption did not fall last year
    I wrote earlier in the week that we should be skeptical about China’s coal statistics. As Glen Peters has said, they are like a bottle of wine and improve with age.
    So when we saw the claim that coal consumption, and CO2 emissions, fell last year the wise thing to do would be to wait for more data.
    And here is the latest. BP has just released its Statistical Review of World Energy. Instead of falling by 3.5% as some have claimed, BP estimates that it actually increased by 0.1%.
    Similarly, BP estimates that China’s energy related CO2 emissions did not fall, but increased by 0.9%.
    BP also estimates that global energy related CO2 emissions increased by 0.5%, which contradicts the claim by the International Energy Agency that they fell…
    https://carboncounter.wordpress.com/2015/06/10/bp-chinas-coal-consumption-did-not-fall-last-year/

    Harrabin – there is your admission at the end that China’s “emissions are expected by 2030 to be two and a half times higher than the next bigger emitter, the US”.
    as India is expecting its emissions to double or even triple by 2030, why is the MSM still pretending there is any plan for the world to reduce CO2 emissions?

  72. In a past life, I developed, designed, built and operated “renewable” electric power generating plants. I’ve had nothing to do with Ivanpah and personally know no one who has. The following are my educated guesses of what is going on at Ivanpah, based solely on personal experience in the industry and news releases about the plant and its performance struggles, delayed tax credits, delayed bank loan repayments, etc.

    Last I heard, Ivanpah was only producing about 50-60% of design output on average. That unhappy result was achieved only AFTER the plant owners talked the California PUC into allowing them to use WAY more natural gas than their original operating permits provided.

    The usual financial structure for a financially viable (with subsidies) renewable energy plant is as follows:

    1) Investors put up $2
    2) Commercial bank puts up $8
    3) The day the plant reaches “continuous commercial operation”, the investors receive either cash or tax credits for $3 and the “construction loan” converts to a “non-recourse, term loan”, meaning the investors are off the hook for the bank loan and all the bank can do in the event of default is repossess the plant.
    4) Over the next five years, investors (not the financing bank) receive tax depreciation benefits worth an additional $4 (assuming a 40% tax bracket for those “high rollers”).
    5) So, the investors receive $7 out for every $2 invested during the first 5 years of plant operation. After that, they don’t care WHAT happens to that plant because all the plant will ever typically actually produce (assuming it is viable) is enough revenue to cover operating expenses and pay off the bank loan.
    6) States such as California “sweeten the pot” with additional tax credits, property tax exclusions, etc.

    No commercial banker in his right mind would finance Ivanpah on the customary non-recourse basis and no sane investor would put up even his 20% if HE were going to be responsible for his share of that loan because it simply did not pencil out that the plant would produce enough revenue to service such a loan. What to do?

    MAKE TAXPAYERS RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT LOAN via a federal loan guarantee!

    To their credit, the feds did insist that the 30% investment tax credit (or cash) due from the federal till at the commercial operating date go toward paying down that federally guaranteed bank loan instead of going into the investors’ pockets as is done in the usual “renewable” scenario. Supposedly, the plant would then “pencil out” as being able to service the remaining loan over the long term with its sweetheart power sales agreement (forced on the receiving electric utilities by state renewable mandates) at over triple the current U.S. average “at the fence rate” for our national mix of coal, gas and nuclear plants.

    It appears to me there are two monster “flies in the ointment” at Ivanpah:

    1) In my experience, “continuous commercial operation” as defined by the IRS and which is the milestone necessary to secure that 30% tax credit (or cash in lieu of from the U.S. Treasury) has never been so loose as to accept a plant limping along at 50-60% of design capacity. I suspect Ivanpah has met with difficulties in that arena.

    2) I am unsure of whether, under current rules, the clock for depreciation starts with “initial operation” or “continuous commercial operation”. If the latter is the case, even the investors’ expected depreciation tax benefits could be in question unless the IRS has accepted current plant performance as “continuous commercial operation”.

    3) Since the government required that the 30% investment tax credit cash go to pay down the bank loan, is likely the plant just barely “penciled out” to pay off the remaining loan over the years running at or near its design capacity. At 50-60% capacity, I’d guess the loan will go into default rather quickly, if it isn’t there already, and taxpayers will wind up holding the bag.

    If anyone knows of anything different than my above stated “guesses”, I’d be pleased to learn.

  73. What would be better than a system with all the flat mirrors aimed at a single tower is a solar thermal plant with distributed collection. Use many large, parabolic mirrors that each have their own collector and small turbine and generator, or gang several to one turbine. Each dish tracks the sun individually and with a far smaller amount of working fluid to heat up each morning they can get to working faster. The fluid could be stored in a super insulated container at night so it doesn’t cool off so much.

    Such a system would be scalable, easily expandable to meet both the ability to pay for it and the power need. It wouldn’t all have to be gathered in a single place. Units could be installed anywhere there’s enough sunlight. It would also be failure resistant. How many mirrors can have their tracking fail at Ivanpah before the entire thing has to be shut down?

    I’d expect a distributed system to be much less likely to fry birds due to the collectors being much closer to the mirrors. If birds did tend to fly between the dishes and the collectors, install fake owls perched atop each dish. Make them with solar powered, random flapping wings and turning heads. Completely independent of the rest of the system, with their own small PV cells. The sun tracking should be powered the same way so it uses none of the thermally generated electricity. (How much of the power generated does Ivanpah siphon off to operate its own systems?)

    A few years ago I went to Las Vegas and went past a solar thermal experiment installation with two collectors as I’ve described. One with a single large mirror and the other with 7 smaller mirrors in a hexagon arrangement. There was a sign saying how much power they’d generated since the start of the testing. Now for the kicker, on a BRIGHT and HOT and CLOUDLESS Las Vegas day, both of those collectors were *pointed at the ground*. If you’re attempting to demonstrate how much electricity can be generated with small solar thermal collectors, wouldn’t you want them aimed at the Sun 100% of the time it’s possible for them to produce electricity?

    Something else that has been done with small solar thermal dish experiments is mounting a PV cell to the collector and using the working fluid to keep the concentrated sunlight from instantly destroying the cell. Seems like a good way for a two-fer. Generate steam with the heat and convert light to electricity. There would need to be an emergency stop fail safe in case the working fluid stops flowing. Have it trip a release that allows a spring to flip the dish up enough so it’s no longer Solar Death Raying the collector. Should also have that spring action operate a plunger pump to push a shot of (fluid with large heat absorbing capacity) through the collector to quickly cool it down.

    Anyone want to build a casino hotel in North Vegas and have the parking lot all under cover with a field of small solar thermal/PV dishes (built from all the obsolete C-Band TVRO dishes one can obtain) on top of the parking lot shade structure? Since North Vegas is short of money, I’d expect the city would love the jobs.

  74. VikingExplorer June 15, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    The facts are that it is not economical when compared to fossil fuel and…..

    Well, actually, that’s not a fact. Solar power can be a viable energy business. It doesn’t have to be more economical than every other source. Should restaurants not exist, because McDonalds does, and it’s cheaper?

    Thanks, Viking, but actually that is a fact. Every year the EIA produces a report on the levelized cost of power generation. Here are selected figures from their report. Note that this does NOT include the cost of the installation of the transmission lines to the often remote location of the renewable sources, nor does it include the cost of necessary (and necessarily inefficient) intermittent backup for the intermittent sources such as wind and solar:

    Natural Gas-fired Advanced Combined Cycle: 7.3¢/Kwh
    Natural Gas-fired Conventional Combined Cycle: 7.5¢/Kwh
    Hydroelectric: 8.4¢/Kwh
    Conventional Coal: 9.5¢/Kwh
    Biomass: 10.1¢/Kwh
    Solar PV: 12.5¢/Kwh
    Wind – Offshore: 19.7¢/Kwh
    Solar Thermal: 24.0¢/Kwh

    So no, Viking, solar thermal is not a viable energy business. Solar thermal is the highest cost of all of the sources analyzed by the EIA. Why do you think that they are demanding subsidies?

    Several people have found analyses above which put the sales price of the Ivanpah electricity at 16.5¢ per Kwh … and of course that’s just what PGE pays for it. By the time they add their wheeling costs and maintenance costs and sinking fund costs and pensions for their employees costs, they’ll be selling it to the customer for something on the order of 20¢ per Kwh. That is not a “viable energy business” anywhere but in the People’s Democratic Republic of California, where such lunacy is not only permitted, it is mandated by law.

    w.

    • Oh, yes, Viking, regarding your comment that “Should restaurants not exist, because McDonalds does, and it’s cheaper?”, consider this:

      If all restaurants sold exactly the same food (as do all electric generators), and McDonalds could provide it cheaply 24/7, and the other restaurants could only provide it when the sun was shining, and then at a high price … well, yes, in an unsubsidized market with a level playing field such restaurants would go out of business very rapidly.

      w.

      • Wrong. Like any other business, location and supply and demand matter. Solar pv, like nuclear, can afford to out bid fuel based sources. Your setting up a false dichotomy between solar pv and fossil fuels. The link I provided show that it’s very competitive without a subsidy.

        There is demand for more power. There is no moral, scientific or economic reason not to invest in solar pv.

      • McD’s IS NOT cheaper. Not by a long shot. To use it in your analogy is totally misleading. Any take out food is vastly more expensive. Believe me, I had a family member who was a store manager at a McD’s “restaurant” in the UK. McD’s make an obscene amount of money on their “food”, and that is even factoring in raw materials, energy and labour before the final cost price to the consumer.

      • Recharging your Tesla with Ivanpah power at 20 cents would cost you usd 17 plus extras. that is 10.3 cents per mile. Petrol is cheaper.

      • You’re not being objective if you don’t recognize that it’s like a restaurant with no labor costs versus a restaurant with expensive and highly unpredictable labor costs. Which business would you rather be in?

      • Patrick, you can spout environmentalism all you want, but I’m no environmentalist. Any bird stupid enough to fly into sun needs to die.

        You’re crazy to claim that McDonald’s isn’t cheaper than regular restaurants. You sound like a left wing socialist with your description of McD. I was a swing mgr at one when I was a teenager. A beautiful model of efficiency leading to profit. Only a socialist could call profit obscene.

        However, you missed the whole point. Some restaurants are open all night, and some are only open for lunch. Is it logical to refuse to open up a luncheonette because all night restaurants exist?

      • Well, Viking, you are very wrong. Take out food is vastly more expensive than any other form of food made by someone else. This is a recognised fact.

        I never knew birds were smart enough to recognise man-made structures so as not to fly in to stuff humans made. Windows, cars, trains, aircraft and solar plants.

      • I have no issue with profit. The example I draw on is obscene in the extreme, if you can call McD’s “food” and cheap. I don’t! BTW, when my brother was a store manager a “Big Mac” cost McD’s 35pence, all in, labour, materials, power etc etc. They sold it for GBP1.75 at the counter. A large coke, all in, was 2 pence, sold for 50 pence at the counter. You will not find those profit margins at a typical restaurant.

      • I think you have clarified the fallacy in VIkings claim. Different products have different consumer markets and price points. You could go to McDonalds and buy a hamburger for $5 or go to a higher end restaurant and pay $15 or more for the environment, the service and quality of meat prepared by a skilled chef. They are not the same thing.

        A Kwh is the same thing. You don’t get anything extra paying 24.0¢/Kwh instead of 7.3¢/Kwh. Contrary to Vikings claims solar cannot outbid fossil fuels unless there is government intervention. Forcing investment in Solar by giving investors guaranteed profits and little to no risk is the worst form of capitalism, better known as crony capitalism.

        If fossil fuels and our ability to extract them from the earth did begin to dry up or could not keep up with demand, then other forms of energy become attractive and do not require government forcing, or in the case of coal crippling, on the market. Whether solar is competitive at that time is unknown. A lot could happen in energy technology by then and the countries that are economically successful are the ones that find the path to the cheapest forms of energy not the more expensive.

      • >> This is a recognised fact.

        It is NOT a recognized fact that McDonald’s is more expensive than other restaurants. In the US, McDonald’s is one of the cheapest restaurants. The point is that other restaurants are still viable, even if less expensive restaurants are available somewhere.

        >> Different products have different consumer markets and price points. … Kwh is the same thing

        You have clarified nothing, since there is no fallacy. My point is that business viability is more complicated than a simple comparison of generation costs.

        Take gasoline for example. In the US, we have 87 octane. All 87 is considered the same product, no matter which gas station you buy it from. However, gas prices vary all over the place, based on location, supply and demand. It’s same for a generator. If gasoline would run low in a certain area of the country, prices at those stations that have gas will naturally go up according to supply and demand.

        It’s the same with electricity. Here is a brief intro. Here is a more detailed and fascinating explanation of the electricity market. If you watch that up to about the 17th minute, you’ll see that the spot price at one point was $43/MWh in Minnesota while it was $300/MWh in NJ.

        >> Contrary to Vikings claims solar cannot outbid fossil fuels unless there is government intervention

        Alx, this is a really ignorant statement. Do you realize that solar PV has no operating costs !! If you don’t believe me, you can look at the Variable O&M column.

        This statement of yours is completely and utterly FALSE. Once built, solar PV can outbid any other power source. Natural gas is the easiest to outbid, since they have fuel costs that they cannot control. In January of 2014, some NG plants could not supply power for less than $1,000 / MWh.

        Solar PV is the most similar to Nuclear power in terms of business model. Both have large up front investments, and very low operating costs. Nuclear variable operating costs are about 20 Mills/kWh (where Mill = 1/10 of one cent), so about 2 cents/kWh. No government intervention is required.

      • “VikingExplorer

        June 16, 2015 at 7:25 am”

        How many times do you need to be told you are wrong?

  75. Great article Willis, as usual. I too had a bit of a chuckle (Gas powered solar plant HA HA HA. Err, no it’s not that funny actually). A lot of people do not understand the fact that each mirror will have two motors on it to track the sun (When it shines LOL). So, number of mirrors X 2 = the number of motors, plus all the electical systems, cables, power to drive them. It’s lunacy!

  76. Friends:

    Actually, there is a good reason for a government to subsidise a demonstration plant but only in a specific way and for a specific purpose. The solar power plant in this case demonstrates both why such subsidies are warranted and why they should not be abused (as they are in the case of this solar power plant).

    Novelty risk inhibits demonstration of technologies for large and long-term investments such as power stations. I explain novelty risk and its importance as follows.

    A power station needs to operate for at least 30 years. In its first 15 years of operation it is paying off its capital cost and after that it makes good profits. Investors in a new power station need to borrow the money for the capital.

    The first full-scale power station that uses a novel technology provides a risk that unforeseen problems may close the power station before it has lasted 15 years so the investors fail to get their money back. (In the above article some such problems for the solar power plant are called effects of “the Law of Unintended Consequences”.) This is the novelty risk.

    A loan for the capital investment is given a high interest rate to compensate for the novelty risk. Hence, a demonstration plant for a novel power generation plant may not have a possibility of being economically competitive whatever the potential benefits of the novel technology. And this can prevent such a demonstration plant being built although the technology may have large potential benefit to a national economy.

    In this case, a government may reasonably underwrite the novelty risk of a single demonstration plant. If the plant is successful then the government pays nothing. But if the plant proves the technology is not viable – as is the case in the above solar plant example – then the government pays to meet the losses obtained from the demonstration and closes the plant.

    Please note that underwriting the novelty risk of a single demonstration plant is NOT the government picking a winner. On the contrary, it is government investment to allow potential winners to exist while exposing potential technologies that cannot be winners. This is the exact opposite of renewables subsidies in e.g. the UK where vast amounts of money are expended as subsidies to prop-up technologies such as windpower that – by any rational evaluation – are failures.

    Richard

    • “there is a good reason for a government to subsidise a demonstration plant”

      Interesting, but there are many subtle and not-so-subtle public policy issues with government-backed “demonstrations”.

      – If the unit works but with more costly maintenance than expected, who foots the bill? Who gets to say “too much is now really way too much, experiment is over now”?

      – What if further analysis shows that observed failure modes were actually predictable by classical engineering methods? What is the responsibility of the “entrepreneurs” (not so much, actually) who submitted the flawed design?

      The commercial value of IP depends on the knowledge that technology actually works:
      – Who gets the “intellectual property”?

      With this scheme, the state funds private R&D. This type of organisation creates deep ties between parts of the private sectors and the state, and this can be unhealthy if the state gets to choose who gets the IP benefit of public funded research, with friendly corporation who will back the government and encourage more spending, etc.

      Very new designs can have serious issues that requires technical changes; they can fail to reach some design goals but succeed elsewhere; they can fail to meet the original idea of working in all conditions but work in some restricted conditions, with a limited workload, etc. For example, parts of Superphenix design failed (notably the barrel loading thing), had many incidents (some pretty serious) but worked well at the end:

      – Who gets to decide when a partial failure is a reason to stop the experiment?
      – Who defines “failure”?

      • simple-touriste

        Thankyou for your thoughtful post which is a stark contrast to the kneejerk reaction from another person.

        As you say, demonstrations are often abused by governments. The example I cited was windfarms in the UK. Such abuses often take the form of claims that a technology needs to be subsidised to encourage its development; indeed, that is an excuse often used for subsidising windfarms. This is NOT a proper demonstration.

        As I said,

        In this case, a government may reasonably underwrite the novelty risk of a single demonstration plant. If the plant is successful then the government pays nothing. But if the plant proves the technology is not viable – as is the case in the above solar plant example – then the government pays to meet the losses obtained from the demonstration and closes the plant.

        And the answer to all your questions is clear.
        If and when the plant owner asks the government for money then the technology has been demonstrated to be a failure.
        And, of course, if the government is not asked for money then the novelty has been shown to have no demonstrable risk.

        Richard

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Your sophistry is not acceptable. You quoted me out of context and you did NOT quote the part of my comment you claim to disagree.

        I repeat that I specifically stated

        Please note that underwriting the novelty risk of a single demonstration plant is NOT the government picking a winner. On the contrary, it is government investment to allow potential winners to exist while exposing potential technologies that cannot be winners.

        The obvious truth is that you read the first two paragraphs of my comment and made a knee-jerk reply without reading the rest.

        Your subsequent verbosity does not change that.

        And – as I said – my point is important for two reasons.

        Firstly, there has been no large-scale novel engineering for over half a century. Recent significant advances have been in distributed computing and in laser applications. In both these cases the novelty risk is shared between many small incremental units. Furthermore, the lifetimes and pay-back periods of these units is very short compared to that of large infrastructure units (e.g. power stations or the 19th century railroads you cited).

        Secondly, underwriting novelty risk of new technology demonstrates when technologies cannot work. It inhibits the justification used for subsidising losers such as windfarms, solar plants, etc.

        Not content with failing to quote and address what I did write, you now say to me

        Not only that but you also said that the Ivanpah plant was a demonstration of why such subsidies are warranted.

        Say what!?
        I said no such thing and you do not quote what you are misunderstanding.

        Perhaps you are refering to my having written this

        The solar power plant in this case demonstrates both why such subsidies are warranted and why they should not be abused (as they are in the case of this solar power plant).

        If so, then I am at a loss to understand how you manage to equate that with your claim that I “said that the Ivanpah plant was a demonstration of why such subsidies are warranted” especially when my statement is taken in context: I said the subsidy of the Ivanpah plant is being “abused”.

        My comment explained both “why such subsidies are warranted” and “why they should not be abused”. You are implying I said the abuse is warranted. I did not.

        And you conclude your verbiage with this nonsense

        So I’m sorry, Richard, but I did quote your ludicrous claim that the government should be in the business of making sure that insanely wealthy investors should be guaranteed a risk-free big money return on their investment, that they should be a special class of investors insured against “novelty risk” using taxpayer dollars …

        Well if I had suggested that then you would have a point, but I did not.

        What I did say – and bolded for emphasis – is clear; viz.

        In this case, a government may reasonably underwrite the novelty risk of a single demonstration plant. If the plant is successful then the government pays nothing. But if the plant proves the technology is not viable – as is the case in the above solar plant example – then the government pays to meet the losses obtained from the demonstration and closes the plant.

        In conclusion, I repeat,
        At the end of your above article you wrote

        If you disagree with what I or anyone says, please have the courtesy to quote the exact words that you object to. That way, we can all understand exactly what you find objectionable.

        It would have helped if you had adopted that admonition.

        Richard

      • richardscourtney June 17, 2015 at 12:39 am

        Willis Eschenbach

        Your sophistry is not acceptable.

        Well, that’s a relief. It means I don’t have to go down your rabbithole.

        Richard, I’m sorry you don’t like what I quoted, but it was what I disagreed with. And while it’s clear that you SAID that

        Please note that underwriting the novelty risk of a single demonstration plant is NOT the government picking a winner. On the contrary, it is government investment to allow potential winners to exist while exposing potential technologies that cannot be winners.

        … I fear that doesn’t make it so, regardless of whether or not I quoted that particular part of your disavowal.

        However, I’m absolutely unwilling to get into one of your patented nit-picks with you, so I’m very glad my response has been deemed “not acceptable”. It lets me leave you to discuss this with others whose responses are acceptable.

        Catch you on the rebound,

        w.

    • richardscourtney June 16, 2015 at 1:10 am

      Friends:

      Actually, there is a good reason for a government to subsidise a demonstration plant but only in a specific way and for a specific purpose. The solar power plant in this case demonstrates both why such subsidies are warranted and why they should not be abused (as they are in the case of this solar power plant).

      Novelty risk inhibits demonstration of technologies for large and long-term investments such as power stations. I explain novelty risk and its importance as follows.

      Richard, somehow, we managed to move from wood to coal as our main energy source without any government subsidized demonstration plants. Nobody seemed to notice the demonstration of the coal-fired technologies required the government to eliminate the “novelty risk”.

      And somehow, we managed to move from coal to oil as our main energy source without any government subsidized demonstration plants. I don’t recall the government subsidizing demonstration oil-burning plants.

      And somehow, we’re managing to move from oil and coal to natural gas as our main energy source without any government subsidized demonstration plants. I guess they never noticed that they needed money out of my pocket in order to get natural gas going.

      So I call BS on your claim that we need the government to pick and promote useless, ludicrous technologies, of which this project is a prime example. Here’s a simple rule, Richard:

      If a new technology can’t survive without a government project to eliminate “novelty risk”, then it is NOT READY FOR THE MARKET.

      Just like … oh … I don’t know … say the Ivanpah solar power plant.

      w.

      • “If a new technology can’t survive without a government project to eliminate “novelty risk”, then it is NOT READY FOR THE MARKET.”

        Shhhh…..don’t tell that to Elon Musk and Space-X or Branson with Virgin Galactic

      • Willis Eschenbach

        You say

        So I call BS on your claim that we need the government to pick and promote useless, ludicrous technologies, of which this project is a prime example. Here’s a simple rule, Richard:

        If a new technology can’t survive without a government project to eliminate “novelty risk”, then it is NOT READY FOR THE MARKET.

        I call BS on your claim that I said we need the government to pick and promote useless, ludicrous technologies. On the contrary, I specifically refuted it.

        At the end of your above article you wrote

        If you disagree with what I or anyone says, please have the courtesy to quote the exact words that you object to. That way, we can all understand exactly what you find objectionable.

        It would have helped if you had adopted that admonition.

        I said, and you did not quote but attempt to refute,

        Please note that underwriting the novelty risk of a single demonstration plant is NOT the government picking a winner. On the contrary, it is government investment to allow potential winners to exist while exposing potential technologies that cannot be winners. This is the exact opposite of renewables subsidies in e.g. the UK where vast amounts of money are expended as subsidies to prop-up technologies such as windpower that – by any rational evaluation – are failures.

        Nothing you have said refutes that. You have merely ignored it by asserting

        If a new technology can’t survive without a government project to eliminate “novelty risk”, then it is NOT READY FOR THE MARKET.

        Willis, if it needs a demonstration plant then – by definition – it is not ready for the market.

        At issue is to demonstrate its technical and economic feasibility so it is enabled to enter the market or is shown to be non viable.

        All governments underwrite novelty risks of novel technologies either overtly or covertly (e.g. by funding military developments).

        Richard

      • richardscourtney June 16, 2015 at 10:30 am Edit

        Willis Eschenbach

        You say

        So I call BS on your claim that we need the government to pick and promote useless, ludicrous technologies, of which this project is a prime example. Here’s a simple rule, Richard:

        If a new technology can’t survive without a government project to eliminate “novelty risk”, then it is NOT READY FOR THE MARKET.

        I call BS on your claim that I said we need the government to pick and promote useless, ludicrous technologies. On the contrary, I specifically refuted it.

        Sorry if I misunderstood you, Richard. What you said (and what I quoted) is that it is fine for the government to fund a “demonstration plant” in order to avoid “novelty risk”. Not only that but you also said that the Ivanpah plant was a demonstration of why such subsidies are warranted. Here is what I quoted:

        Friends:

        Actually, there is a good reason for a government to subsidise a demonstration plant but only in a specific way and for a specific purpose. The solar power plant in this case demonstrates both why such subsidies are warranted and why they should not be abused (as they are in the case of this solar power plant).

        Novelty risk inhibits demonstration of technologies for large and long-term investments such as power stations. I explain novelty risk and its importance as follows.

        I fail to see how this is NOT the government picking and promoting useless, ludicrous technologies.

        At the end of your above article you wrote

        If you disagree with what I or anyone says, please have the courtesy to quote the exact words that you object to. That way, we can all understand exactly what you find objectionable.

        It would have helped if you had adopted that admonition.

        I followed my admonition to the letter, Richard. I quoted exactly your defense of the government subsidies of this plant. I noted that you said you think the government should be in the business of shielding some chosen technology (but not all technologies) from what you call “novelty risk”.

        How on earth is this NOT the government picking winners and promoting ludicrous technologies?

        Richard, if I as some poor jerk want to go into the energy business with my new energy source, the government is not going to protect me against “novelty risk” any more than they protect Apple against “novelty risk” when they release the Apple Watch. NOR SHOULD THEY! It’s not the government’s business to pick out one group, oh, I don’t know, say Obama’s wealthy pals who run Google, and insure them against “novelty risk”.

        So I’m sorry, Richard, but I did quote your ludicrous claim that the government should be in the business of making sure that insanely wealthy investors should be guaranteed a risk-free big money return on their investment, that they should be a special class of investors insured against “novelty risk” using taxpayer dollars …

        I just think it’s wrong.

        w.

      • It is none of the government’s business if it succeeds or fails. “Novelty risk” is a head fake.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        My rejection of your recent post addressed to me is in the wrong place. Sorry.

        It is here.

        Richard

      • Gamecock

        Whatever any anonymous internet pop-up may think, it is the business of a government to promote the success of its country’s national economy.

        Richard

      • “It is the business of a government to promote the success of its country’s national economy.”

        Not in a federalist, democratic constitutional republic. And by what stretch is giving money to cronies to play with solar going to promote the success of our economy?

  77. …One big miscalculation was that the power plant requires far more steam to run smoothly and efficiently than originally thought, according to a document filed with the California Energy Commission….

    This doesn’t make sense to me. Engineers don’t ‘miscalculate’.

    They would have KNOWN how much steam was needed, and they would have KNOWN how much steam was going to be evolved from the heating. And how rapidly. That’s why you pay engineers to design these things.

    Is this piece suggesting that it was understood that the plant wouldn’t work as specified, but that people went ahead and built it anyway?

      • No. The bridge had nothing to do with it. It was the owner of the puppy that left it in his car when he ran away after driving on to, what was clearly, something unsafe and likely to eventually fail.

      • Agreed that the owner was also responsible. Yea, why the heck did he stop driving, but once stopped, then why did he leave the dog? :(

        However, my point is that as an engineer, I must reluctantly admit that it is theoretically possible for engineers to “miscalculate”, as they did for the TNB. :)

      • Well maybe the bridge spoke to him? I have seen cattle ships in Waterford harbour, Ireland, rocking side to side at the docks. Would I get on a ship like that? Hell no! Sheesh! Your argument is engineers/engineering fail/fails. Yes they/it do/does.

        Engineers actually work in reality. Climate “scientists”…don’t work at all. Sure they get paid, but work?

      • Engineering does try to account for human stupidity and often a goal of design is to make it “idiot proof”. That’s why you cannot put a car into drive without your foot on the brake. A person trying to cross a bridge that was fluttering like a hair ribbon in a strong wind could not be engineered for. A bridge that would not flutter could be engineered.

        The issue with the Tacoma narrows bridge was engineers did not understand how wind interacted with a suspension bridges. That gap in knowledge has been filled much greater understanding and application of aeroelasticity.

        What knowledge was missing in mis-calculating how to heat a specific amount of water in a contained vessel in order to be wrong by a factor of 4?

      • This is not about “Climate scientists” in any way, shape or form. I’m reacting to what Dodgy Geezer said.

      • >> mis-calculating how to heat a specific amount of water in a contained vessel in order to be wrong by a factor of 4

        Alx, either you’re confused or putting words in someone’s mouth. Willis mentioned that they were using 4 times more NG than they expected. I personally see nothing wrong with this. In my solar farm thought experiment, I also realized that it would be good to have a different source of power to stabilize the transitions between sun and no-sun.

        You could be right about your claim, but do you have a reference? Regardless, without really analyzing this system, we can’t really say if someone made a big mistake or a small one. My gut says that this thing is pretty complex. It’s not a design I personally like, and like the market watch link says, this is probably the last of this type.

    • Its called fluffing.

      It’s like asking a used car dealer how a car you are interested in runs. The answer is of course that it runs great, it’s probably best running car on the lot with great gas mileage. Fails to mention it runs rough in rainy weather and the great mileage occurs going down steep hills at highway speeds with a tail wind.

      So yes of course they know, they fudged the numbers or used best possible case in best possible conditions to suggest all cases in all conditions in order to make the sale. Subsidized solar is basically free money for investors.

    • “Alx

      June 16, 2015 at 5:36 am

      That’s why you cannot put a car into drive without your foot on the brake.”

      Oh yes you can! Talking of automagic gearboxes…yes you can. One can by-pass these “safety” systems easily. Having extensive knowledge of the ZF 4HP22 automagic gearbox fitted to Range Rovers in the 1990’s, I put one of these, behind a Rover V8, in a LandRover 90. And found out that there was wiring and warning lights on the dash for such a transmisssion. About a year later, an auto LandRover was on sale in California.

  78. Richard I’d really like to believe what you are saying.
    But ask yourself this “Does the Government have a good record of picking winners?”

    • Bitter&Twisted

      It seems you failed to read what I wrote because you ask

      Richard I’d really like to believe what you are saying.
      But ask yourself this “Does the Government have a good record of picking winners?”

      No. It does not, but so what? I wrote

      Please note that underwriting the novelty risk of a single demonstration plant is NOT the government picking a winner. On the contrary, it is government investment to allow potential winners to exist while exposing potential technologies that cannot be winners. This is the exact opposite of renewables subsidies in e.g. the UK where vast amounts of money are expended as subsidies to prop-up technologies such as windpower that – by any rational evaluation – are failures.

      Please read what I wrote and comment on that.

      Richard

  79. Please stop calling these technologies “renewables”. This is all part of the fictional “science” that somehow energy comes for free. The reality is that just like other energy sources “unrelieables” are consumed. Wind is halted so it is no longer available – solar is consumed so it replaces plants – likewise hydro replaces it’s natural use.

    But it all gets worse when we consider the total energy budget of how much energy goes into making the equipment. In many cases if not most, the sum total energy consumed putting a bird-mincer in place is greater than the total energy produced in its lifetime. (As indicated by the need for subsidies – higher subsidies indicate higher energy used in installation, production, etc.)

    In effect many co called “renewable” devices are little better than batteries for fossil fuel. The vast bulk of energy is used producing the thing – and then they gather energy, but less than was used in production. So, in effect, a bird-mincer is little better than an enormous battery storing fossil fuel energy in China and shipping it to where some gullible government pays for the fossil fuel energy under the guise of being “renewable”.

    So, let’s stop calling them “renewable”, because they are nothing of the sort. Instead I suggest a far better term that very succinctly describes them is “unreliables”.

    • Scottish Sceptic:

      Actually, all energy “comes for free”: it was all created at the Big Bang and now cannot be created or destroyed.

      But it is expensive to collect energy and to concentrate it so it can do useful work.

      Fortunately, nature has done much of the collection and concentration for us.

      The energy concentrated in ancient stars is available in radioactive materials, notably uranium. Energy from formation of the solar system (including collected radioactivity) is available as geothermal energy. Solar energy collected by photosynthesis over geological ages is available as fossil fuels. Solar energy collected by evapouration of water over large areas is available as hydropower.

      Diffuse energy sources were used for millennia because higher energy densities were not available. These diffuse sources included wind power, biomass and power of the muscles of slaves and animals.

      These diffuse sources were abandoned when the greater energy intensity in fossil fuels became available to do work by use of the steam engine. But, of course, hydropower was not abandoned because it has high energy intensity.

      There is no possibility that an industrialised civilisation can operate if it abandons the sources of high energy density collected by nature and returns to using the energy that humans collect themselves.

      Richard

      • Good point, all energy is free. The cost of making it usable energy varies by the source.

        Renewable is kind of a meaningless term like the term “beautiful”. It’s meaning greatly flexible by time period, culture, and individual. Even by application; we do not use the same criteria for evaluating a fashion model as we do a power tool but both can be described as beautiful.

        Renewable intuitively and by definition means “capable of being renewed”, but now it means anything related to a green energy agenda. Apparently sailboats have always used renewable energy and sailors like Columbus just never knew, they thought it was wind.

        Like brand mangers know, using “new” in a product description increases sales, that is why they are always coming up with a “new” shampoo, “new” razor blade, etc. “Renewable” sounds better than “NeverEnding Energy”, or “Endless Energy”; you don’t want to ever use “End” in selling a product, unless it is religion. And like people know you are full of it if you called it, “Free Energy”, they also know it would end if they stopped paying for it.

      • IMO energy is not free, it is “there”. We just need to work out how to collecte it. And that costs!

      • Patrick:

        I understand you to say that energy is not “free” but it has no cost.

        That makes no sense.

        Richard

      • I dont know how you came to that conclusion. Energy, in whatever for is right there, Tesla demonstrated that, we just need to collect and distribute it. That is where the cost is. Given your position on “energy” industries (Coal) I am surprised you made that comment.

      • Patrick

        Given your position on brains (you have one) I am surprised you made that comment.

        Richard

  80. Based on its actual performance its correct rating is 45 MW not 392. It seems that it is bankrupt.

  81. Do they need natural gas to ‘warm the plant through’ after each cold night?

    Could they just use 1% of mirrors pointed correctly to warm the plant, melt the salts and get the temperature up before power starts to be generated?

    One would have to be careful of not falling into the Spanish trap of using fossil fuel generated electricity and passing it off as solar to collect the subsidies…..

    PS: I assume these plants have diesel backup in case the grid connection fails, which allow for an orderly shutdown of the plant and no melt down.

    Do we know how much diesel they use?

    • Renewable Fuel Standards mandating that electricity distributors buy excess generation way above market price make the finances work. That is YIELDCO. Aka bugger your neighbor. Aka rent seeking. Without that piece none of this make financial sense.

  82. Almost as good as the Spanish “solar panel” farce, where the panels also generated power at night because electricity from such panels can’t be distinguished from pretend solar energy from diesel fueled generators which some astute operators used to earn a quick buck given the lavish subsidies.

  83. A simple question
    How do they manage to keep all those mirrors constantly clean & shiny ?
    Must be pretty dusty out they
    One gust of wind could kill the reflective effect of the mirrors I would have thought

  84. My sister lives in a New England state, She can get $24,000 solar panel installation for $8,000 after subsidies. Even after getting the panels at 1/3 the actual cost it is still debatable if it is worth it. She is looking at a better return by upgrading her old furnace to a more efficient model at about half the cost.

    • They are getting so desperate I just heard one of these solar panel ads yesterday on the radio extolling how proud you’ll be to have solar panels running your air conditioner. ~Something~ tells me that even the most efficient typical home solar panel roof installation (~500 sq ft?) is probably not going to generate enough power to supply the surge to start up the compressor of a common one room window air conditioner during much more than a ~4 hour period at mid day – on a clear day – with inverters that can take the surge. (And anyway don’t most people turn on their air conditioners in the evening and at night for after they come home from work and later go to bed?)

  85. A factor of four. Estimates of costs off by a factor of four. I am not forgetting that benefits are probably off by the same factor, but that makes less of a splash since benefits – if estimated accurately – are arguable and negligible anyway.

    Doubling your power bill and then doubling it again. And then paying taxes to make that happen. Sounds like a hidden cost factor on top of a minimum proven factor of four for false benefits promised. Only possible with the cooperative efforts of cronies, government and politicized science, journalism and education. We would already know all of this from Spain if it weren’t for “the cooperative efforts of cronies, government and politicized science, journalism and education.”

  86. “…Ivanpah tower has turned out to be a death trap for birds, killing hundreds and hundreds every year”

    I completely disagree with that assessment. I think it could be killing 10’s of thousands of birds every year because for every bird that flies in close enough to the tower where the intensity is hot enough to singe them enough to then cause them to catch fire and fall within “counting distance” – there have to be dozens more that encountered less intensity at a further distance away from the tower that did not singe them enough to fall anywhere near there but nonetheless ultimately kill them from injury – maybe miles away.

    Is there any effort to determine the affect on the birds exposed to the region of lower intensity light – a region MUCH larger than the immediate death zone nearer to the tower?

    The array of mirrors looks like a lake from a distance from the air. Aside from the occasional desert mirage seen only from a very low incidence angle, there is only ONE element in nature capable of reflecting the sky over a large area – WATER. Look at any aerial view of the facility and that is what it looks like. What could be more attractive to a tired and hot desert bird flying along at ~500 feet than to see what it thinks is a huge shimmering lake 5 miles away?

    How much can a bird be singed “a little” and continue to survive, especially in the desert? If it’s normal range is to fly say 30 miles to get to food or water within its territory – what happens if singed flight feathers reduce that range to 5 miles? It will likely die of exhaustion and/or thirst unable to fly any further and … IT WILL NOT BE COUNTED BY GOOGLE.

    Then there is their eye sight. How much can a desert bird be partially blinded, permanently or temporarily it doesn’t matter, before it affects their ability to navigate around obstacles, negotiate a safe landing, avoid predators, find real water/food, etc. ?

    I’d like to be wrong with my assessment and I think there is a good way to determine it one way or the other. If I am correct the average count of birds killed per day will be decreasing – because there are fewer and fewer of them left within a 100 miles of the place! (Oh look … the problem is going away by itself!)

    Living in the desert is a tougher life for birds or any animal so their population is MUCH lower there than in less arid places. We could be looking at avian genocide here – and government helped!

    • Great point – walking (or in this case, flying) wounded who eventually succumb to their injuries or at best have a shortened life span due to being permanently impaired.

  87. “If the final end of Ivanpah is the end of any further Ivanpahs ever, I suppose that I’d say that Ivanpah was worth whatever it cost” reminds me of the demotivator “Mistake” poster:

    It could be that the purpose in your like is to serve as a warning to others

  88. There are many problems with so called “renewable energy” and this is just one of the more obvious ones. While working on a related project I researched many of the issues with solar and wind and came to realize that one of the biggest problems is integration into the power distribution grid. Because, as yet, there is no efficient energy storage system for electricity produced by solar and wind there is no way to coordinate power production with demand. The grid is a demand driven system and the generation facilities must respond quickly to fluctuations in that demand. This is relatively easy to do with hydro, fossil fuel and nuclear systems but is very difficult for wind or solar unless the generator facilities are significantly over built which adds to the cost. Without a viable energy storage system it can be shown that the grid becomes dangerously unstable when solar and wind contribution gets much above about 15 percent of the total generating capacity. This is the ugly little secret that the greeners don’t want anyone to know about.

  89. Not to worry, some well-placed party donations will keep the project going and management bonuses flowing. See Solyndra bonuses

  90. Also not mentioned in any of Ivanpah’s literature is the fact that they are providing you with “output” power. Their subsidies are based upon power generated. Therefor they generate the electricity, measure it, deliver it to the grid and then tap into the grid and get the power that they need to operate the plant. Look at the plant. Every one of those mirrors has a complex control system with servos and motors and controllers all powered on all of the time all using electricity. The pumps in the tower have motors, controllers etc. all using power. A conservative estimate is about 10% of rated power. Since they are only making about 180 (on average) after you subtract another 40 megawatts you are left with 140 Megawatts of energy delivered to the grid. It is like you buying diesel fuel for your fuel tank on the farm and the delivery truck uses fuel from the tank to drive the tanker to your farm – but you pay for the amount of fuel that he pumped into his tanker before he left the fuel depot.
    All electric generation stations do this, Nuclear, coal, gas, hydro, wind, whatever. At least with Nuclear the percentage of “house” power is much less than with wind.

    • Where is the house power of a passive, fixed tilt solar farm? You might have two employees housed there in a small building and a couple vehicles parked outside.

      • Suggest you look up the definition of Heliostat Any source will do Here is one from the State of CA describing Ivanpah. From http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/ivanpah/index.html

        “Electricity would be produced by each plant’s Solar Receiver Boiler and the steam turbine generator. The heliostat mirrors would be arranged around each solar receiver boiler. Each mirror tracks the sun throughout the day and reflects the solar energy to the receiver boiler. The heliostats would be 7.2-feet high by 10.5-feet wide (2.20-meters by 3.20-meters) yielding a reflecting surface of 75.6 square feet (7.04 square meters). They would be arranged in arcs around the solar boiler towers asymmetrically.”

        To assume that each heliostat only uses 1 watt (absurdly over conservative) means it is using 173,500 watts. It is probably more on the order of 10 watts each. Wikipedia claims it deploys 173,500 heliostats. I did not count them, you can. And there is still the matter of all of the pumps needed to pump the water that makes the steam and the salt that is heated that heats the water, and, etc. etc. etc.

      • And which PV Solar farms are you speaking of. Rancho Seco Solar PV has sun tracking panels. I have seen them move. Many others do. Further my estimation of 10 watts was rather low. They draw 1 amp at 125 volts or 125 watts. Multiply that by 173,500 = 21,687,500 watts or 22 megawatts.
        Worse yet, control system at most power stations are energized 24/7/365 which means these controllers are using 40 megawatts even when they are not making electricity. Or do you know of a mini-solar panel on each that is powering each of these control systems.

    • We called it “power-for-power” in my corporation. Power houses have energy requirements, and solar plants obviously can’t get their electricity from their own generation.

  91. Actually here in the UK., solar tidal flow and tidal barrage are all more expensive than offshore wind, which is only three times wind onshore, which is only three times what coal costs..

  92. Old-timer train drivers knew they had to start the fires at 06:00, to be ready to roll by 07:30, but the modern ‘scientist’ does not. I really do think we are going backwards….

  93. The engineering companies who’ve worked on it love this cash cow (cash cow for them … not for anyone else). In addition to underestimating the negative impact of the Southwestern Monsoon’s cloud cover, I have to wonder if this thing is not making its own weather. There must be a heck of a thermal above it (ergo cumulus development).

    • Talk about making your own weather, when you take a trip look in the sky above and down wind of a large mall in a city out in the countryside away from the city. You will see a cloud caused by the evaporative coolers used for the mall HVAC unit. Summer and winter. Some of these can be seen on Google/Bing Maps with the satellite view. What do they do to AGW?

  94. No wonder Google held large fund raising events for the Bird Scorcher-in-Chief. It was for this and the near zero tax on foreign earnings game they were running.

  95. $2.2 billion is an insane price for a power plant, whose average annual output is 45.6 MW, of which 13% is generated by burning natural gas, therefore only 39.7 MW is generated by solar power.

    It would be 50 times cheaper to sell &. uninstall 347,000 mirrors, 75.6 square feet each, and use natural gas all the time, including nights.

    That way habitat of the desert tortoise would be saved along with $1.6 billion public money and no mass killing of birds would occur ever. Looks like fair trade.

  96. It pays to have friends in the White House and Congress, doesn’t it? Myself, I have to pay for everything I have and if I earn more, I keep less.

    We certainly have the best government money can buy.

  97. Willis Eschenbach,

    a needed compilation.

    energy for free – ever seen a documentary of everyday maintanenance on north sea wind parks.
    ____

    war name ‘VikingExplorer’, stepping in Trotzki’s shoes:

    yes, you dwell on troubles. As wall street dwells on ‘volatibilty’.

    Sly. You’ve got youre share.

    Asking for more?

    Hans

  98. Lateral thinking. Breed many flying ducks in the water recovery ponds. Form a joint venture with KFC, then you are cooking with gas 4 hours a day. Get the Law on side with special discounts for Beaks. Get pilots aboard with the promise of some free old boilers.
    ………..,
    Jokes aside, think about some energy flow paths at Ivanpah. Before it was built, those square miles of land were part of the natural cycles of radiating energy upwards and cooling the earth. After building, there is much ground in shadow, radiating and cooling the ground less than before. Much of the radiated heat is now diverted away from escaping to space so directly, making instead some detours through boilers, steam turbines, electrical devces.
    In essence, Ivanpah has altered the natural energy flow processes, trapping heat energy near the ground and delaying its escape to space.
    Which are precisely the main reasons why so many people are scared stupid by greenhose gases.

    GHG work has already been criticised for taking too little advice from statisticians. Maybe more diagnostic logicians are needed as well.

  99. Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    Excellent piece by Willis Eschenbach.

    The subsidy farce detailed in this post runs true with all forms of inefficient, intermittent and expensive renewable (unreliable) energy.

    NB,

    Like the old sailors say, “The wind is free … but everything else costs money”.

  100. “despite costing $2.2 billion to build, Google is a major shareholder, so at least they could afford to foot the bills for their high-priced bird-burner …”

    Where does all the Google money go…

    Thiel: Google has $50B, doesn’t innovate

  101. No bird lovers smashing up those mirrors into bits and pieces? No angry mob of tax payer joining them?

    Today’s zombie public, permanently hooked by their Google controlled smart spy phones live in a different dimension even if they travel the roads or meet in restaurants.

    We are so screwed….

  102. There is a simple solution to the bird problem; cut off the attracting light by using the plant only at nights.

  103. It makes you wonder how long it will take Australia to admit these failures of CSP solar projects while utility scale PV advances despite such waste in the fire hose policy approach.

Comments are closed.