Fire breaks out at world's largest solar power plant – Ivanpah


From the L.A. Times:

A generating tower at the world’s largest solar energy plant was shut down Thursday after a mirror misalignment caused sunlight to burn through electrical wiring and start a small fire, according to officials.

The blaze at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert broke out around 9:30 a.m., according to the San Bernardino County Fire Department. In a Facebook post, officials said that flames could be seen near the ninth floor of the Unit 3 tower, but that they had apparently died out by the time firefighters arrived.

Some misaligned mirrors instead focused sunlight on a different spot, which caused the electrical cables to catch fire, San Bernardino County Fire Capt. Mike McClintock told the Associated Press.

From Computerworld:

The fire at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Systemin California forced firefighters to climb 300 feet up the tower to a water boiler that’s superheated by tens of thousands of mirror to create steam to run a turbine.

According to an AP report, San Bernardino County fire Capt. Mike McClintock said the small fire occurred about two-thirds of the way up the boiler tower. It was caused after some of the plant’s mirrors became misaligned and focused the sun’s rays on electrical cables, which caught fire.

h/t to Stand Stendera

The plant had been plagued by production problems, and state utility regulators had threatened to shut it down if it didn’t get back on track. They gave it a temporary reprieve.

It has been on track according to recent reports, but this latest setback may derail that effort.

250 thoughts on “Fire breaks out at world's largest solar power plant – Ivanpah

  1. I’m sure when they were children, their mothers told them to be careful where they aimed those death rays. NOW, I’ll bet they wish they’d paid more attention to mom.

    • Does this mean we are going to have political fights over Solar Death Ray Control (like Gun Control only, ya know, Solar Death Rays), now? I wonder where the NRA will be on this issue. 🙂

      • The NRA’s official policy on gun control is to hit what you’re aiming at. Had these people done that, there would have been no fire.

    • I’m sure when they were children, their mothers told them to be careful where they aimed those death rays. NOW, I’ll bet they wish they’d paid more attention to mom.
      You’ll shoot your eye out. — A Christmas Story

    • If I were a fireman, I would climb their tower just as soon as I knew that the last of the 700,000 mirrors was lying on the ground face down, and that the incoming electric cables to the controlling computer bank, were disconnected from the breaker box.
      Otherwise I would let it burn itself out.
      PS And I would close down all of California air space, from any flying machines, including Go Pro Quad copters.

    • When that thing is fully ” fired up ” as we say in the trade, does anybody know just how much near black body thermal radiation that thing is emitting to space.
      That has to be the brightest thermionic emitter on the planet.
      Somebody designed this thing, right ? or did it just fall off the back of a turnip truck.
      Turnips have to be there somewhere in the design team.

      • “does anybody know just how much near black body thermal radiation that thing is emitting to space.”
        Are you suggesting that making objects very very hot is a way to reduce AGW?
        Makes sense – well, as much as any other geoengineering proposition.

      • Well I don’t know how much you know about fancy “lighting”, but one of the commonest yuppie lighting gizmos is a thing called an MR-16 lamp.
        It is a high Temperature quartz envelope 50 mm diameter, by about 35 mm long, available to run on either 120 V AC or 12 V DC. Well it’s a quartz halogen light bulb, and they hang them on string wires that are supposed to be sexy, but you can move them around by sliding them along the bare wires.
        Well these things are available with up to 50 watt power rating, in either spot or wide area beam patterns.
        The string wires, and the terminals on the back of the MR-16 bulb are quite incapable of conducting any of that 50 watt “heat” away from the bulb, and only a few percent of it comes out the front in the form of visible illumination (aka light).
        So the ONLY way that an MR-16 light bulb is prevented from melting down, and dripping molten quartz all over the place, is that it is coated with a IR black coating that makes it a very efficient IR radiator at some very high quartz temperature.
        The entire 50 watt power is dissipated as black body thermal radiation in a Lambertian pattern right off the 50 mm diameter face of the bulb.
        So what happens when the solid state LED people set out to make a drop in plug and play LED replacement for a 50 watt quartz halogen MR-16 bulb.
        Well for starters, their 50 watt equivalent LED source is actually only going to take about 8 or 9 watt of DC electricity to put out the same amount of illumination as the 50 W quartz halogen, so you only need to get rid of 9 watt instead of 50.
        Well you don’t even need to do that, because the LED might actually be more than 40 % efficient in converting electricity to “light” or visible EM radiation, so now you only have five watt of heat to get rid of and you want to get rid of essentially all of it, because the LED does not want to run at a Temperature of 600 deg. C or anything like it. Even 80 to 100 deg C junction temperature for the LED is highly undesirable.
        So the problem is, that you cannot properly cool an LED MR-16 replacement lamp that is a 50 watt equivalent.
        Well Soraa has done a respectable job of meeting that criterion.
        The whole problem would disappear if they ditched the MR-16 concept, and designed a replacement 50 mm lamp fixture that properly provides for conducting the 5 watt of heat out of the base to the external package.
        The idea of a plug in LED replacement for an incandescent lamp is quite absurd. The LED isn’t going to need to be replaced, so whay make it plug in in the first place.
        Anyhow, the whole point of this shaggy dog story is that a macro scale SOLAR furnace, that converts the energy receiver into a nice black body radiator, that is a sizeable fraction of the brightness of the sun, is just stupid to begin with.
        That tower needs to be coated with an efficient dichroic mirror coating, that lets solar spectrum (0.25-4.0) micron EM radiation in and does not let longer wave thermal radiation out.
        If the boiler were to run at 600 kelvin, it would be generating a 2.5 to 40 micron IR spectrum, so you likely would put the crossover wavelength at around 2.5 microns, which would lose a bit of solar IR but keep the generated heat inside the target.
        I think the whole thing is not only a piece of optical crap, but also a piece of thermal crap, and evaporated bird aromas thrown in for good measure.

  2. A Green “Climate” industry which can whitewash and rationalize dead birds making smoke streamers through the sky will have no trouble with this minor fire issue.

  3. I’ve drove past this plant many a time on the 15. It’s very impressive to see yet I have to shake my head every time. This technology is best described in one word: fail.

    • Are any greenhouse gases released?
      No more than would be released by burning any other greenhouse.

    • Lots of them all the time. It’s got three huge honking gas-fired pre-heaters, one at the foot of each tower. It burns so much gas that it’s on the state list of major emitters. So much for solar being supposedly an emissions-free technology.

      • Geesh you’d think solar would be grateful to fossil fuels for making it’s existence possible.

      • No need for a mechanical engineer. It was a blinding glimpse of the obvious to (almost) anyone.

      • Mechanical engineer?, check your energy well for a mechanical engineer We have no mechanical engineer. In fact, we don’t need a mechanical engineer. I don’t have to show you any stinking mechanical engineer.
        Everybody knows the mirrors are controlled by software! We have our best programmer on it right now. We know he is working on it because we found empty RedBull cans and fresh potato chip bags in the trash when we came in this morning.

  4. Ivanpah suffering an engineering failure on top of failure to meet cost projections. Typical green project. I do suppose the government (we poor fools) are picking up the cost of repair.

  5. Hmmm .. misaligned mirrors .. is that PR talk for hacked computers? .. nah, can’t be .. I’m sure they have everything under control .. under control .. under control …

  6. Hey, it’s new technology and a pilot plant. That they were able to get production up to 67,300 megawatt-hours electricity in February, up from about 30,300 a year earlier is great! That’s a whole bunch of oil we didn’t need to import from our buddies in the mideast.
    It also suggests that the technology works. Because this plant was new technology, costs are going to be high. Whether they now know how to duplicate the plant and make it cost effective is an interesting question. It’s all pretty basic technology though.

    • 67MWH is pretty much nothing. I doubt the Saudi’s, or the Texan’s, or the North Dakotan’s, or the Alaskan’s, or the Canadian’s, or the Venezuelan’s noticed the difference in terms of oil production.
      This kind of technology has worked for years. It’s never been cost effective. With current technology, it’s not likely, if ever, to be cost effective…when compared to other sources of energy, e.g. nuclear or fossil fuel.

      • That was 67,300 megawatt-hours, not 67MWH. It’s about 116 thousand barrels of oil, if I did the math right. Per month.

      • My bad, you are correct, 67,000MWH…still almost nothing. 116K barrels of oil per month is nothing, when compared to the 35K barrels of oil per day that is processed in the smallest oil refinery I have been in. In most of the refineries I’ve been in, that would even be one days worth of production.

      • oops, last sentence should read, ‘…wouldn’t even be one days production.’
        the beer and late night are starting to affect my typing. 🙂

      • Not to mention they use NG to power electrical generation in California instead of oil. No need to import oil for electrical generation when we have plenty of NG here.

      • 67,000 MWH’s is a pittance. There are about 720 hrs in month, so it had an average power of 93MW. And of course you would have to subtract the natural gas balancing and the enormous construction costs to get net. An output of 93MW is less than 5% of the output of a 2 tower nuclear plant or 10% of a medium coal or nat gas plant. That amt of power is meaningless to the overall grid.
        So Ivanpah put out 93MW on 4,000 acres while the nuclear plant to close to my house put outs 2400MW on 1,000 acres, and most of that is buffer zone. The power output per acre for the nuclear is 100x times the solar. And of course Ivanpah is way more expensive. But somehow we are saving something with this JUNK!

    • Yeah Greg, and what’s a few fried birds and a couple of fires, gee we must be horrible to worry about environmental damage when it comes to new technology. /sarc.

      • And as I said below.. those bird kills will probably only happen for the first year or two. !
        Dropping down to near zero after that..

      • … As they run out of birds to burn? I’ll have to remember that excuse the next time an oil spill happens.
        “We fully expect the number of dead birds washing up on shore to drastically reduce now that they’re all dead.”

      • They counted 220 bird kills from the oil spill in California last year and the Santa Barbara County District Attorney has filed 46 criminal charges against them. How many criminal charges should be filed for 2200 bird kills at a thermal solar plant?

    • @Greg:
      You say: “That’s a whole bunch of oil we didn’t need to import from our buddies in the mideast.”
      I don’t know if your comment at 7:18 pm is sarcastic or sincere. For the umpteenth time however, allow me to repeat what I have to keep having to remind people here at WUWT: We in the U.S. DO NOT use crude oil to generate electricity except for a meager 1% of it. Solar and wind energy, no matter how much you try to scale it up, it is not going to make any meaningful difference in our demand for crude oil, domestic or imported. We use crude oil for transportation fuels, petrochemicals and artificial materials like plastics and polyester.
      See here:

      • CD, you are correct to point that out. A heck of a lot of your imports are coming from Canada because US-based ‘agents’ have managed to stall every pipeline that leads out of central-western Canada. is here in Waterloo right now trying to get the entire industry ‘disinvested’. As a result, oil from Alberta has to be trained out of the country south, mostly dumped on the central northern US market. This keeps the price of gas down in the Dakotas, but costs Canada 50% of value.
        In other words, the rent-a-gangs (as the BC Premier called them) showing up to block all the pipelines are being funded by the likes of the Sierra Club through local NGO’s who of course love the income. One local NGO head admitted on CBC radio they received $17,000 a week of US funding for multiple years to campaign against any western pipeline to the coast.
        A new favourite tactic is to hire First nations residents to create loud noises about the ‘environment’ and how ‘dangerous’ everything is. Check the news reports. Selling ‘noble savage’ environmental concepts plays well in the urban press.
        As for the solar fiasco and ‘saving oil’, how much oil did it take to create this tower of financial power? How much oil will be needed to generate the income necessary to raise the taxes to pay back the loans? If we are going to run a renewables economy, they can start by charging a fair rate of return on the investment, and use the electricity to make solar panels. Let’s see if the energy put into the panel production is less than those panels produce.
        If so, what is the break-even cost of a panel?
        How much will the electricity from that PV panel have to sell for to pay for the cost of the electricity that went into making it, when that electricity comes from Ivanpah?
        Subsidies don’t work. They are lazy.

      • ….and, if anyone is interested, the EIA has updated their website that I linked to above. Solar’s annual contribution to our electricity generation total is now at 0.6% as of April 1st of this year. If I recall correctly, that is up from 0.4% in 2015.
        Sure, one can claim that solar generation has risen 50% in a year’s time. It is still a laughably meager total, especially when one considers that the solar PV panel was invented 62 years ago in 1954. Any technology that takes in excess of 62 years to scale up the meaningful commercial levels probably never will.

      • Crispin in Waterloo has described the situation in Canada perfectly. The sleaziest tactic of all is bribing FN tribes. It is eco-imperialism.

        • Slywolfe, asking Crispin in Waterloo:

          Are PV panels a major cost in a grid-connected PV system?

          Yes. But they are only a part. Land. Installation. Infrastructure to DO the installation. (Roads, power, water, concrete, housing, transportation to a site in the desert a loooooooong way away from civilization. (If it takes 1-1/2 to drive to the construction site, you lose 3 hours per day per worker just getting to work! More for every ton of materials that have to get there. And be removed when finished. ) Long-distance connecting lines to the high-volt grid. The routine maintenace and servicing for hundreds of thusands of solar panels.
          And then replacing the panels at their 7-9 year life. If not, their output drops to less than half of first-installed rating.
          Now, if the solar panel is on roof-top. some of these go away. Grid power is to the house, land is bought – only the expensive roof top mounts are needed. Daily and monthly maintenance is needed – particularly of the batteries. 7-9 year replacement of all panels and supports are still needed. But you only get a little power from a rooftop array. Part of the day power for only a part of the single house’s daily load.

      • “And then replacing the panels at their 7-9 year life. If not, their output drops to less than half of first-installed rating. ”
        RACookPE1978, that’s not even close to the truth. Most panels carry a 20 year warranty for output. They can drop 20% in 20 years, not 50% in 9 years.

      • Paul and the rest:
        The POV crystalline panels drop about 20% in 20 years assuming the epoxy coating is not damaged. It has been like that for a long time. So good quality panels are far better than the flexible kind. So a 22% efficiency system drops to 18% over 20 years.
        A friend put them on his rooftop recently and is getting paid CDN$0.345 per kWh by the power company. That is 10 times the cost from Darlington nuclear power or Pickering.
        It is obviously someone’s fantasy to have ‘solar power’ on their development agenda. One is not allowed to go off-grid, BTW, if you sign the contract. Ontario has a $7 bn subsidy plan to force home heating to be moved from cheap co-produced natural gas (which is otherwise burned to get rid of it) to electric heating, such as geothermal. I investigated geothermal. It appears not to be worth it though they do (mostly) work. There is nothing really attractive about it. When the electricity is off in winder storm you freeze to death. A propane or gas connection is still needed.
        Perhaps we need a natural gas generator to power the geothermal compressors when the power goes down. There is no end of complexity we can add if it is ‘free’.

      • If my back of the napkin calculations are correct. 67,300MWH in a month equates to roughly 93.5MW. The plant is supposed to be capable of 392MW. 93.5 MW isn’t even the capacity of one of the three units, according to Wikipedia (ya, ya, I know, Wikipedia isn’t a scholarly source). This is supposed to be efficient and cost effective?

    • “That’s a whole bunch of oil we didn’t need to import from our buddies in the mideast.”
      Wonder how much oil it took the make those thousands of mirrors?

    • It’s a rounding error. It’s less than 5% of California’s annual coal consumption, which is the smallest of all the fuel sources California uses including renewables. It’s an undetectible fraction compared with the emissions-free electricity lost when San Onofre closed and California emissions went up. Secondly, California doesn’t get its oil from the Middle East. It gets most of it from Texas refineries which in turn are largely supplied from the US, Canada and Venezuela.

    • It also suggests that rare migratory birds were not incinerated mid-flight during the outage
      and the natural gas from fracking that is used to produce 1/4 of the output was not spent.
      The only way to duplicate he plant is to have another Senate Majority leader and his son ensure the Chinese get Stimulous funds from taxpayers through a money laundering scheme. The likelihood of that happening again is nill unless they are friends of Klinton Inc..

    • That’s 67TW’s at the generator. After you subtract the energy needed to run the plant, the net output was negative.

    • Less than 1% of electricity is generated from oil in the US. Very little (if any) oil was saved.

  7. Fire is good. Our first way to generate heat from trapped carbon. It’s worked for 10,000 years and is still working. I had a barbecued burger tonight. Wish I had a small solar furnace in my backyard and I wouldn’t even need those naughty carbon atoms.

  8. Greg, well no. They burn gas and somewhere a real power station has to cover their output. Some “pilot” plant

  9. Cost 2.2 billion, income 25 million……………………………………………When will it close?

    • When the the Climate Lysenkoism ends.
      In the USSR, Lysenkoism ended when Stalinin’s hand picked successor fell from power,

    • Silly rabbit. Climate Math is different from ordinary math. 1 +1=3. That’s how they roll.

      • If only climate math was that dependable. In climate math 1+1= whatever number you need it to today. And tomorrow if you need it to add up to a different number you can just adjust it.

      • Just remember those mirrors are flat, and they make a beam that is about the area of the mirror, which I think is about six meters square, with a beam divergence angle of about 0.5 degrees, the same as the angular size of the sun. So that’s about 36 kW of solar power for one mirror out of whack.
        And that beam can easily propagate to 30,000 feet and fry an aluminum passenger bird too. there’s no reason a few thousand of them might get a M$ glitch that focusses all of them at 30 k feet altitude.
        So far as I know, there is no practical way to monitor EVERY mirror to detect when it is not hitting the tower, and flip it into the face down sleep mode.
        You could in principle, have a small element of each mirror, probably with a deflecting prism, or just a mirror, that puts a small offset spot for each and every mirror, on to a sensor. You would transmit a laser directed at each mirror sequentially, and its reflection would be received back, only when the solar reflection was centered on the boiler.
        Tricky to set up, but any mirror that did not report in correctly would be put to sleep in the mirror down mode.
        But hey, why worry about the lethality of this death ray. The whole damn idea is stupid to begin with, and a total waste of valuable real estate.

  10. Someone ought to get hold of a whole heap of nuts and bolts, ball bearings etc…
    , and drop them on the mirrors from a great height !!

    • I’m going to guess there’s enough sand, rocks, and tumbleweeds that nuts and bolts aren’t even necessary…The desert can be a windy place.

      • Yeah, a really good sandstorm should take care of those mirrors. Here’s hoping. !!!
        I did have an idea how they could save all those birds from getting cooked….
        ….. put rows of wind turbines around the solar farm.

  11. I guess the thought of placing thermal sensors or bolometer safety network on the tower at various point vertically would have been too expensive?

    • Would you like to be the fire person going up the tower to put the fire out? I sure wouldn’t; unless of course it was totally dark with the sun safely below the horizon.

  12. This Ivanpah thing is like one of those ancient Roman or Greek temples to one of their gods.
    From Wikipedia on ancent Greek temples:
    “Each ancient Greek temple was dedicated to a specific god within the pantheon and was used in part as a storehouse for votive offerings.”
    These temples were of course hoped to bring some favor or benefit to humans from an unseen deity. It required nothing but faith to believe that the gods could both be merciful and vengeful in their dealings with humans.
    Ivanpah is dedicated the Climate changeist’s deity Gaia. If we can show Gaia that we are trying to find “renewable” power, no matter how expensive, then maybe she won’t subject us to thermageddon for our CO2 emission sins.
    If private entities want to continue their Climate Change worship and belief in carbon sin, then that is their concern, their money.
    But the US and state governments, and their conscription of taxpayers and utility ratepayers to support a religion, they need to get out of the Climate Change religion business.

    • Ah, but the Roman sacrifices actually DID benefit the general public: if you sat through the big wig’s prayer, you got to eat the bull at the end!
      Now all we get is the BS from start to finish. At least the Romans gave out actual beef.

  13. In those applications using high power lasers there is an OSHA requirement for “beam blocks”. These must be controlled by a keyed (like a padlock) switch so only authorized users can enable the light flux.
    So we have a 1 milliwatt laser instrument that needs (by OSHA decree) a keyed switch so only “trained personnel” can “turn on the light” ?? But these dummies in the desert can just willy nilly point the rays from the SUN wherever they might end up… What could possibly go wrong (asked from an ant’s perspective)….
    Maybe all those heliostats need an individual beam block ? Oh wait, that would require another trillion dollars of taxpayer money to make this gigantic magnifying glass safe to operate in a desert…
    Cheers, KevinK

  14. I was refreshing myself on Wikipedia concerning Ivanpah. Total power is supposed to be 392MW and it covers about 4,000 acres. Now, my local coal fired plant has 3 operation units. The smallest is 600MW. The other two are 1000MW each. The plant covers about 100acres. Ivanpah doesn’t even have the capacity to replace even the smallest unit at my local plant and, it covers 40 times the land area.

    • Yeah but coal doesn’t work at night does it ? Oh sorry the mirrors won’t work at night ,go the CAGW producing power plant .

    • One open pit coal mine alone in Wyoming hase disturbed 43,000 arces,, before it is finished it will be over 70,000′; your local coal power plant is the small tail end of a giant coal extraction and transport system. Electricity requires a system. Solar is the 21st century, PV cost as dropped from 70 dollars per kW in the 1970’s to about 47 cents currently. Think about exponential change, we are sitting at the bottom of the S Curve of adoption. Sites like WUet are linear in thinking, like incumbent basic thinkers always are,

      • The mine is filled in and reclaimed when the coal is gone.
        Solar is 3rd century, trying to be updated and failing.
        If you think that they are ever going to get solar much below 47cents, despite the trillions in subsidies, then you are delusional.
        Like all trolls, you are leaving out the major costs, the batteries and or back up fossil fuel plants that have to be kept running in the background in case a cloud passes over your magical tower.

      • Ah, North Antelope Rochelle…thought so. The acreages you tout are for the leases, not the actual mine itself. The total amount under lease is questionable. Regardless, the actual surface mine, while very large for a coal mine, pales in comparison to the size of some of the gold, silver, copper and other surface mines. As usual, just CAWG disinformation.

      • Well a kW of solar PV electric would be 5 square meters (50 square feet) of single crystal 20% efficient Sunpower systems panels, and I don’t think you can buy that much panel for 47 cents, and that’s just for the panels, not for the 100 year storm proof installation hardware, and the required real estate. And that is with the panels properly pointing at the sun.
        So I’ll pass on your solution thank you.

  15. I have not been able to find any data about how much electricity it takes to operate the mirrors. It would require two servo motors on each mirror, in order to position them continually during the day, to track the sun across the sky. Has anyone seen anything about the power consumption of those motors? They would all have to be serviced regularly, also, to avoid misalignment problems.

    • Wouldn’t a single servo do the job if the mirrors’ axes were parallel to the earth’s?

      • I assume, in reference to … “ servo motors on each mirror, in order to position them continually during the day, to track the sun across the sky.
        lee – May 21, 2016 at 9:27 pm …… was asking:

        Would that work for the seasons?

        HA, maybe the resident climate scientists, engineers and/or programmers miscalculated the “spring to summer” SEASONAL shift of the Sun’s position as it approaches its Summer solstice, ….. and if so, …… there was no “mirror misalignments” as reported, to wit:
        Quoting article:

        A generating tower at the world’s largest solar energy plant was shut down Thursday after a mirror misalignment caused sunlight to burn through electrical wiring and start a small fire, according to officials.
        Some misaligned mirrors instead focused sunlight on a different spot, which caused the electrical cables to catch fire,

        Robotic “driving” software ….. does not, … either randomly or infrequently, initiate a programmed “misalignment” of a repeated real-time process.

      • NO NO NO !!!
        Each and every one of those mirrors has to have its OWN PERSONAL guidance program.
        No two of the mirrors follow the same steerage algorithm. You need a separate micro-controller for each mirror. They are totally independent optical systems.

  16. Let me guess:
    1) Solar, including thermal solar, is a mature technology and is replacing coal right NOW and will provide baseload soon.
    2) But because the plant isn’t working, it will have been a prototype and not a mature technology (yet) and it’s allowed to fail and we are learning a lot and solar technology will be make progress thanks to its failure.

  17. Wouldn’t it be ironic if an exploded bird in it’s final death dive landed on a combustible component?
    If not, then outright hilarious.

  18. I was going to make a learned and constructive comment, but instead I’ll just say:
    Ha ha! You just got burned green solar warriors!

  19. They use natural gas to preheat the water – seems to me that’s cheating… “the plant burned enough natural gas in 2014 – its first year of operation – to emit more than 46,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
    That’s nearly twice the pollution threshold for power plants or factories in California to be required to participate in the state’s cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions.”

    • “They use natural gas to preheat the water – seems to me that’s cheating…”
      Kosher “renewables” (those renewables that are the least useful, the more costly, the more subsidized), like wind turbine, solar, very small hydro (but even that isn’t always kosher) are heavily promoted the NYT, the graun, etc. They are both:
      – a money making scheme for some industries in bed with the government;
      an energy laundering scheme, as the “backup” (that actually produce most power) is “dirty”, “evil” fossil but gets a pass.
      In this case, it’s even better than the usual solar PV+wind+backups: the “solar” plant is allowed to burn nat gas and still produces kosher energy!

  20. If you look back, this plant proved that solar was cheap, effective and competitive with fossil fuel. This claim was pushed globally on every media, blogs and facebook. However, when confronted with the facts, simple costs, admitted maintenance and gas usage, those claims were easily shot down. The plants operation and actual performance shows that it does not work, as in provide cheap reliable 24/7 power with zero back up.

  21. Ivanpah may be large by solar standards but in reality, 392 MW is hardly anything at all. The capacity factor will probably be less than 30% so you will need three Ivanpah’s to get that 392MW.
    Total US energy usage is more like 4TW so you will need about 30,000 Ivanpahs. At six square miles per installation that is about 180,000 square miles and over 100,000 years of construction time if you build one at a time.
    After thirty years at the most you will probably need to replace them. If my mental arithmetic is correct, that means that you will need to build about 3 per day for ever. What could go wrong?

    • If you build them next to each other you could play a giant version of snakes on the us landscape. Obviously you get extra points for hitting a town.

      • By my calculation that will generate a snake roughly 50,000 miles long moving at 1,800 Miles a year

  22. … forced firefighters to climb 300 feet up the tower to a water boiler that’s superheated by tens of thousands of mirror to create steam to run a turbine.
    Wow! Kudos to the firefighters in dealing with a dangerous situation. I guess you can’t just turn off tens of thousands of mirrors when things go wrong.

    • You don’t think any of those fire fighters climbed up that tower, while even one mirror was not looking face down at the dirt ??
      And I would want the main breaker to the control electronics in the off position and the wires removed so no idiot could turn it back on while I was up the tower.

  23. I have driven by that thing on I-15 many times in years past. I always kind of wondered if it malfunctioned could it focus a beam onto a spot of the interstate and cause problems. The idea of being the ant under the magnifying glass on a sunny day is not appealing.

    • There is a tower in England that cooks the opposite side of the street.
      Designed by “An award winning architect”
      It literally melted the side mirror off a parked car.

  24. Meanwhile, China’s Shenhua Group committed to building 1,000 MWe of solar thermal power with US-based Solar Reserve. That’s roughly 3 times the output of Ivanpah plant. The Shenhua plant will have energy storage, which Ivanpah does not have.
    Solar is also a growing power source in India, as First Solar already shipped 1,000 MW of thin-film PV capacity to India.
    It is very interesting to read the comments above, and the gloating tone from WUWT commenters on the Ivanpah minor incident. No one was injured, and no radiation was released. Most interesting is to see the complete absence of any such coverage, and commentary, on the numerous and far more dangerous incidents in the US and worldwide nuclear power reactors. There were 89 reactor incidents in a six-year period (2010-2015 inclusive) in the US, a rate of one incident every 3.5 weeks. That statistic should make everyone sleep well at night.
    Kudos, though, to Anthony for including a link and a brief mention of the Ivanpah plant reaching the design output, after diagnosing and correcting a mechanical defect.
    Now is the time to be designing, building, and testing various forms of renewable power. Coal plants cannot compete economically, now that they are required to shoulder their environmental burden and stop polluting the air. Nuclear plants also cannot compete economically and are aging fast, and shutting down with regularity. Coal and nuclear together provided a bit more than 50 percent of US electricity in 2015, which must be replaced by other forms of generation within 10 to 15 years. Only natural gas, wind, and solar have the resources and proven technology to do that.
    For details on the US grid transition, see my post “US Power Grid Transitioning: Wind Energy Climbing Fast.”

    • “and no radiation was released.” Tell that to the flying Smokers who used to be birds, what do you think sunlight is? The surface of the Sun is over 11,000 degrees F, and concentrated sunlight can produce a similar temperature right here on Earth. Ouch…

      • *A light bulb burns out ahead of schedule in a nuclear power plants men’s room*
        WHOA, make that 90 incidents.

    • This is from the linked article:
      I would draw you attention to the “MOU”. It actually means nothing except (probably) getting some funds from US federal government……
      “SANTA MONICA, Calif., May 3, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — SolarReserve, LLC, a leading global developer of utility-scale solar power projects with proprietary advanced solar thermal energy storage technology, and Shenhua Group Corporation, Ltd., a key state-owned enterprise in the People’s Republic of China, announced the companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to build 1,000 megawatts of solar thermal projects in China. SolarReserve’s solar storage technology solves the intermittency issues experienced with other renewable energy sources, enabling the delivery of 100% renewable baseload and dispatchable power with operational capabilities comparable to traditional fossil-fired and nuclear electricity generation methods…”

      • ‘SolarReserve’s solar storage technology solves the intermittency issues experienced with other renewable energy sources, enabling the delivery of 100% renewable baseload and dispatchable power with operational capabilities comparable to traditional fossil-fired and nuclear electricity generation methods…”’
        Journalistic license. Even SolarReserve’s site doesn’t make such an outlandish claim.
        ‘Molten salt storage creates a buffer between the when the sun is shining and when electricity is generated, smoothing out the intermittency that limits other renewable technologies. –
        “Smoothing out” is not eliminating.
        Molten salt storage is about 70% efficient. So, if you are going to provide baseload electricity from a solar plant, you need 4 to 5 X the capacity, to provide ONE DAY’S electricity. Day two depends on the weather.

    • “Only natural gas, wind, and solar have the resources and proven technology to do that. ”
      Well, you got one out of three correct. Wind and solar have yet to prove they can generate electricity reliably and cost effectively.
      Incident, as defined by IAEA: Any unintended event, including operating errors, equipment failures, initiating events, accident precursors, near misses or other mishaps, or unauthorized act, malicious or non-malicious, the consequences or potential consequences of which are not negligible from the point of view of protection or safety.
      The USNRC does not define an incident per se. They define Emergency Classifications. There are 4 levels.
      Notification of Unusual Event—Events that indicate potential degradation in the level of safety of the plant are in progress or have occurred. No release of radioactive material requiring offsite response or monitoring is expected unless further degradation occurs.
      Alert—Events that involve an actual or potential substantial degradation in the level of plant safety are in progress or have occurred. Any releases of radioactive material are expected to be limited to a small fraction of the limits set forth by the EPA.
      Site Area Emergency—Events that may result in actual or likely major failures of plant functions needed to protect the public are in progress or have occurred. Any releases of radioactive material are not expected to exceed the limits set forth by the EPA except near the site boundary.
      General Emergency—Events that involve actual or imminent substantial core damage or melting of reactor fuel with the potential for loss of containment integrity are in progress or have occurred. Radioactive releases can be expected to exceed the limits set forth by the EPA for more than the immediate site area.
      For general usage, a Notification of Unusual event (or just Unusual Event) and an Alert could be classified as a minor and major incident, respectively.
      A Site Area Emergency and General Emergency could be classified as a minor and major accident, respectively.
      When it comes to coal plants being able to complete economically, well, if the government wasn’t actively trying to shut them down, on an economic basis, coal plants would win, hands down. Natural Gas and Nuclear would be 2 and 3. Wind and solar wouldn’t even place, if judged on the ability to compete economically.
      When it comes to polluting the air, do you even know what is coming out of the chimneys of a modern coal fired plant? It’s primarily nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor. There are trace amounts of sulfur oxides and nitrous oxides and completely negligible amounts of fly ash and mercury. Modern SCR’s and FGD’s are 90%+ efficient at removing the SOx and NOx. ESP’s are darn close to 100% efficient at removing particulate. Mercury is a thoroughly overhyped component of the flue gases that has been used to try and scare people.
      Mr. Sowell, I imagine you will find a much more receptive audience in the echo chambers of one of the CAGW faithful websites. Or, with the socialist members of our government.

      • @SMC, The 89 nuclear incidents I referenced above are only the most serious ones, not including minor infractions of the safety regulations. These 89 incidents were all either SIT or AIT events, as defined by NRC below.
        “When an event or condition increases the chance of
        reactor core damage by a factor of 10, however, the NRC is
        likely to send out a special inspection team (SIT). When the
        risk rises by a factor of 100, the agency dispatches an augmented
        inspection team (AIT).”
        You could take up your problem with the NRC directly, if you believe they are doing it wrong. I’m sure they will be happy to listen to your arguments.

      • Mr. Sowell
        You’re joking, right? Why don’t you go read the “NRC Incident Investigation Program”, because by your comment, you haven’t read it or, you don’t understand it.

      • There was another incident at a nuclear plant when an operator spewed his morning coffee on the control equipment while reading Rodger’s comment. It was also noted there was a meltdown but fortunately it was just another operator reading the same comment and not the core.

      • Increases the chance of core damage by a factor of 10.
        So it went from one in a million to one in 100K?

    • @Roger Sowell:
      CSPs and wind turbines killing birds, and the greenies all but ignore it. But WHOA, when a oil spill starts affecting and killing birds, then its eternal damnation for the party responsible.
      Hey Roger, can I have one of those licenses you guys awared yourselves to invoke double standards? I think it would be really cool to be able to do that and not have to justify or explain myself…just like you greenies do.
      The other point here involves the trouble solar (and wind) energy pushers like you have with their failure to understand the physics, math and engineering technology that preclude solar and wind energy from scaling up to a level needed provide a meaningful amount of support to the grid:
      What is needed to go 100% solar? The piece above says that it….
      “……requires 29,333,333,333 (29.33 billion) solar panels and 4.4 million battery modules contained in a number 40 shipping container (40 feet X 6 feet 8 feet,) covering a surface area of 130.8 km2 or a square with sides of 11.4 km with zero space between modules. This data is presented in a straightforward fashion for nonscientists in the publication “Going Solar.”
      2. Manufacturing considerations. Twenty nine and 1/3 billion is a very large number of panels to manufacture. As pointed out in “Going Solar” it would take 929 years to produce this number of panels if they could be built at the rate of 1 per second. For comprehension, today’s commercially available PV panels are standardized at 1.46 square meters and weigh about 40 pounds. Fabrication is a multistep process involving silicon crystal fabrication, cell construction, interconnection, back plane and frame. Each panel needs to be inspected, tested, and certified to meet specification……”
      Even a fraction of the totals above is still laughable (say 25 or 50%).
      As for our ageing nuclear plants Roger, try checking out 4th generation nuclear power technology before you foolishly wave off nuclear power. One example is the molten salt reactor:
      Roger, where did you get the idea that we humans are incapable of improving on existing nuclear technology or replacing existing nuclear technologies with better tech and resolving the issues with them?

      • @ CD in Wisconsin, my nuclear facts stem from undergraduate courses in nuclear chemistry and nuclear reactor design, plus 40 years or more of following closely the developments in nuclear power plants. In addition, my engineering career included a stint evaluating all types of nuclear power for providing chemical plants and oil refineries with electricity, steam, and process heat at required temperatures. I also had a personal tour of the Perry Nuclear Generating plant on the south shore of Lake Erie in Ohio, one week before the initial load of fuel rods was delivered to the plant.
        I only observe the facts before me. If anyone wants to produce valid facts on low-cost and safe nuclear plants, welcome and go to it. Thus far, as I have documented on my blog, there are zero contenders for safe, efficient, and economical nuclear power. They all require massive government subsidies, as Article 13 of my series The Truth About Nuclear Power shows. The plants in the US are shutting down due to inability to cover their cash operating costs. Fort Calhoun in Nebraska is losing $30 per kWh for every kWh it creates. Plants across the mid-West and East coast are screaming for more government subsidy in order to stay open and “protect jobs.” Those are indisputable facts.
        In that same environment, a new nuclear plant has zero hope of producing power and making any money, not ever paying for the capital costs. All this is documented extensively on my blog. Or, you can find anything to refute any of this. Be my guest.
        As to double standards, why don’t the nuclear power cheerleaders admit they are almost fully subsidized? Why don’t they admit the environmental damage created by the entire nuclear process, from mining the ore to refining the uranium to polluting the planet with plutonium and other toxic radioactive substances? Or, is that simply not worth mentioning to a nuclear cheerleader?
        Wind power is barely subsidized, at the rate of approximately $1 per month for the average US residential user. Those subsidies ratchet down and disappear in 5 years. Can nuclear ever make the same claim?
        Can coal-fired power plants deny the amount of toxic air pollution they have spewed forth for decades? I think not. They cannot afford to install the stack gas scrubbers to meet the emissions standards, so the plant owners elect to shut them down.
        As to understanding the physics, and math of renewable energy, I believe I can hold my own with anyone. A degree and 40 years experience worldwide as a consulting chemical engineer will do that.

      • Mr. Sowell,
        You want to talk about subsidies? Fine, lets use the data at from the chart: Table ES2. Quantified energy-specific subsidies and support by type, FY 2010 and FY 2013 (million 2013 dollars).
        According to this information, Wind and Solar received $11 billion dollars and change in subsidies from the government. Nuclear $1.6 billion and change. Nuclear power produces about 20% of our electricity, reliably while wind and solar produce less than 2%, unreliably.
        Nuclear power plants are shutting down because they are reaching the end of their designed life. Regulations, litigation and NIMBY are preventing the refurbishment, upgrades or building of existing or new plants. The last nuke plant built was in the 1970’s, in the US.
        As for the coal plant scrubbers, I assume you are talking about CO2 scrubbers. To date, there is no economically viable technology capable of scrubbing flue gas from a typically sized coal plant. So of course the utilities can’t buy one, they, for all practical purposes, don’t exist.
        Also, Plutonium is not a naturally occurring element on Earth, as you seem to imply.
        While you may be able to hold up your end in a technical engineering discussion, debatable from what I’ve seen, you really stink at CAGW agenda promotion stuff. Also, take your self promotion someplace else. I’ve been to your blog, you have little of substance there and less to offer.

      • CD,
        Good summary of the amount of solar to replace current electricity generation, thanks.
        And that barely saves very much oil since there is no liquid fuel produced by solar to run our transportation system since we use very little oil to generate electricity. Think of all the fossil fuel wasted to produce ship and install all those solar needs. Solar is not sustainable without massive amounts of fossil fuels including the natural gas to fire the boilers when the sun sets or the panels are covered with snow.
        Sure we could require everyone to use an electric car but a use-able battery range has been elusive despite all the tax payer subsidies already thrown at an objective that may not be achievable based on physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics, not to mention the additional tax payer subsidies required to replace the enormous infrastructure that allows us to drive almost anywhere in the US.

      • @Roger Sowell, if you know so much about the nuclear industry why are you so frightened of nuclear power?
        I’m assuming you don’t go in commercial airplanes; they’re orders of magnitude more dangerous. They actually kill people on a regular basis and there are hundreds per day high risk incidents. Then there are the unstudied effects of higher levels of exposure to ionising radiation to which anyone who slips the surly bonds of earth are exposed.
        Better to stay at home wearing your tinfoil hat and underpants.

      • @Roger Sowell
        First of all Roger, I congratulate you on your education and years of experience in your field. I have no doubt that it is all quite impressive.
        I you would then sir, please provide your peer reviewed paper or Internet piece which refutes the conclusions drawn by post that I provided in my previous comment. There seem to be quite a few people at this website who don’t appear to have problems with its general conclusions (if not the exact numbers it provides). I would hazard a guess and say many of them perhaps have credentials equal to yours. In particular, please show your math and explain the physics enabling wind and solar energy to scale up as viable alternatives to our fossil fuel and nuclear plants. Thank you.
        Second, if I may say so, you are doing the same thing that many anti-nukes seem to do these days; You condemn nuclear power based on our experience with PRESENT DAY nuclear technlogy
        (2nd and 3rd generation) and never seem to give any attention or credence to the potential for 4th generation technology.
        The molten salt reactor (as I told you previously) is one of those potential technologies. If you are up-to-date on nuclear power development, I assume you’ve heard of it:
        I assume you know who Alvin Weinberg was (may he R.I.P.). Back in the late 1960s, he and his fellow scientists conducted a four-yerar MSR experiment at Oak Ridge.
        Their general conclusions were than the technology was viable. Thus Weinberg asked for more funding to continue the research and development of it. MSRs are regarded as being safer and cheaper than today’s reactor technology, and they can use plutonium as their input at startup. We can thus hopefully draw down our plutonium stockpiles with MSRs IF it the technology were to pan out as hoped.
        Roger, if you could please, explain to me what you know about MSRs than Weinberg and company did not. Thanks again.

      • “why don’t the nuclear power cheerleaders admit they are almost fully subsidized?”
        Because they aren’t, they are severely harmed by the regulations.
        “Why don’t they admit the environmental damage created by the entire nuclear process, from mining the ore to refining the uranium to polluting the planet with plutonium and other toxic radioactive substances?”
        Because it’s a lie.

      • CD in Wisc, your thorium wet dream is nonsense.
        The U.S. was interested in breeding thorium in the 50s and 60s because we thought uranium was scarce. We lost interest in thorium when we found uranium isn’t scarce.
        The viability of MSR has nothing to do with thorium. Double ought zero.

      • @Gamecock:
        Okay Gamecock, I’m tired of arguing with you about thorium. If you want to run MSRs on uranium instead of thorium, then we’ll run them on uranium. As a matter of fact, the MSRE at Oak Ridge back in the 1960s actually did run on uranium rather than thorium, IIRC.
        My main reason for supporting MSR research and development is as a safer and cheaper alternative to today’s gen of nuclear reactors. THAT is why I believe they deserve continued research and development (as is being done now in China). The fuel they run on is secondary to me.
        Do you at least agree that the basic design of MSRs makes them safer and that they provide a means to draw down our stockpiles of plutonium? Do you at least agree that they deserve continued research and development?

      • ‘Do you at least agree that the basic design of MSRs makes them safer and that they provide a means to draw down our stockpiles of plutonium? Do you at least agree that they deserve continued research and development?’
        Not necessarily. MSRs require real time separations, rather than the batch separations of traditional reactors. This is a complication. The liquid mass in the MSR is critical. Moderating it could be tricky. Should an emergency arise, dumping the liquid won’t make it non-critical. Dumping into a pit with moderators might work, but when it hardens with cooling, you’ve got a big problem. Others have said that the salts of MSRs are necessarily corrosive.
        I don’t know. It might work; it might not. But it is not easy peasy. And, I know that people who know a lot more than me got it to work for a while 50 years ago, then abandoned it. I believe they had good reasons. I’ve heard all sorts of conspiracy theories, but I don’t believe them. Weinberg was a flake; he was fired for cause.
        Regardless, I think it silly for laymen to push a particular technology.
        And . . . I don’t care about “our stockpiles of plutonium.”

      • Whatever became of PBR’s or Pebble Bed Rectors? It seemed when I heard of them about 10 years ago, they were supposed to be modular, scalable and safer than the current reactors at that time.

      • @Gamecock: I never made this clear, and I probably should have. My support for 4th generation nuclear power is not limited to MSRs. I also support the continued research into the IFR (GE’s PRISM), the PBR and Bill Gate’s Traveling Wave Reactor. I have simply been using MSRs as one example. I apologize if that was never clear.
        RE your lack of concern for our stockpiles of plutonium. Anti-nuke activists use the plutonium “waste” issue as a selling point to get rid of nuclear power altogether. If we are to have nuclear powered future in this country, it needs to be addressed for that reason if for no other one. I believe the activists won’t let the issue die until they succeed at killing nuclear or the plutonium issue is somehow successfully dealt with. And I would imagine that there are considerable number of policitians in Washington who support the anti-nukes.
        As for lay people being “silly” for supporting any nuclear technology, I somehow find it difficult to believe that we could continue to have a nuclear powered future in this country without the support of the majority (a lot) of what are called “lay people” — the American people. Bill Gates is a lay person. Is he silly for pouring a ton of his money into his Travelling Wave Reactor company?
        I am hoping that you want nuclear power to advance in this country like I do, but I can’t tell for sure. If you do, should we be sitting on our butts and settle for the nuclear status quo….and possibly let it die out? I hope your answer to that question is ‘no” as it is with me.
        I don’t want the the anti-nuke activists to win here Gamecock. If nuclear is to advance, we should all support and promote the potential for 4th gen nuclear and show the anti-nukes and renewables peoples that they are wrong. That is all I’m really trying to say. There is room to apathy.

      • @Simple-Touriste and Gamecock…
        Gamecock is confusing his terminology. Specifically, he is confusing a moderator with a poison. A moderator is material that slows fast neutrons and makes them thermal neutrons. Thermal neutrons are what makes a reactor controllable. Examples of moderators are water and graphite. A poison is material that absorbs neutrons and thus stops the fission process. Examples of poisons are Boron and Hafnium.
        This is a very simplified explanation. If somebody wants to get in to the fine frog hair splitting technical details, go ahead but, it’s beyond the scope of this discussion.

    • Roger Sowell: If I was to tell you that Ivanpah (Brightsource) has included Thermal Storage in its (useless) power station I bet you would still be pushing the fact that the Chinese are the only ones doing it. You see, as soon as you are outed on this economy of the truth anything further you have to say is worthless.
      See Joe Public’s comment above, which includes Brightsource’s own website showing thermal storage as part of the design. The fact that Ivanpah is a complete waste of space (literally) is neither here nor there: I’m just impressed that fire-fighters are willing to go up the boiler tower in direct line to all those mirrors – which have been shown not to be reliable in their aim.

    • One has to buy-in to the idea of ‘Carbon Footprint’ to accept that a well designed, well run nuclear power plant has much an environmental burden. Since I do not accept that premise, your argument for solar power has no merit. It isn’t that you can’t build more ‘renewable energy’ plants, but you will never be able to supply more than a fraction of the power needed to drive the economic engine.
      I do accept that coal burning has a large environmental impact. Taking CO2 out of the argument since I do not accept it is harmful to the environment in the amounts released, burning coal releases a lot of dangerous heavy metals – not immediately dangerous but over time can pollute an area enough to be of concern. This is and has been addressed over time to reduce the release of (actual) dangerous substances. It is only the argument that CO2 must be ‘captured’ that is killing a coal plants ability to compete. Obviously mining coal has a much more obvious environmental impact to the area where it is mined, especially if its an open pit mine, but have you seen the Texas landscape being ruined by dozens of wind turbines being put on every hilltop? Its awful, and needs to stop.
      Natural gas for the next 30 or so years will provide for us just fine. Big centralized solar power plants is simply not practical.

      • had the pleasure of driving by one of those Texas wind farms the other day–all but 3 of the turbines were standing still as could be–not an unusual occurrence. I think that wind now provides 15% of the Texas grid generating ability. Don’t know the actual numbers, but I’m sure the percent it actually adds is a lot less.

      • jvc, worse, they weren’t standing still. Had you stopped to watch them for a few minutes you would have seen them turning slowly.
        They use grid power to keep them turning so that they don’t develop flat spots on the bearings.

    • @Sowell – Before bragging about the output from Ivanpah. Please calculate the power needed to move 173,500 Heliostats, (two motors each, one for azimuth and one for elevation) garage door size mirrors. Keep these Garage doors properly aimed during wind and other weather conditions and move them second by second. You also need to add the power consumed by all of the auxiliary loads needed to “Make Power,” that is pumps, HVAC equipment, controllers, heat exchangers cooling the steam back into water to be made back into steam, Computers, and on, and on.
      My back of the envelope shows that for the way Ivanpah makes power that this is about 25% of their Rated Name Plate power, [about 100 MW], 24/7/365 is needed to ensure there is not another [fire] because the heliostats are not in the correct position. Yes, they need to be moved even when NOT making power. The auxiliary systems need to be “at the Ready” also. Which is about 75% of the power that it produces. However, this power is not accounted for in their “Output Power.” Output power is measured at the output of the generator. All powerplants measure it there. It is measured with a separate meter. Power used for all of the stuff I listed comes from a separate source, is measured with a separate meter and is NOT subtracted from the number that they provide you as their declared “Output power.”
      Now, subtract the amount of power actually generated by burning NG. Looks to me like a “Net” loss.

      • Ann never mind the fact that the places where large solar arrays like this can work are very limited and generally not located near to the places where the electricity will be used. There is a reason why that monstrosity is out in the Mojave. Lets see how good it would be in Central Indiana! On second thought, let’s not. I like the birds and bats around here and the windfarms are already taking their toll.

      • The computers are left on at night, plus lights and environmental controls for the workers who are at the plant 24/7. Also the mirrors have to be returned to their morning position sometime during the night.

    • “Nuclear plants also cannot compete economically”
      due to the crazy “regulations” and uncertainties of permit renewals, all indirectly caused by the absurd fear of such trivial levels of radiations that can’t do any harm (and can even do good).
      The nuclear fission industry has an excellent track record. (Not perfect, but better than pretty much any other industry.) Yes, this is even including “Chernobyl”.

    • “No one was injured, and no radiation was released.”
      This is how you measure the gravity of events? Persons injured, and then “radiation” released?
      By that (silly) metric, most incidents in nuclear plants are unimportant. Yet they often get massive media coverage. How do you explain that?

      • Blind anti-nuke hysteria? Seriously, if no one was hurt or radiation was released, then all you have is a repair problem, the same as any other power plant. So what are the majority of these ‘incidents’? And if any of theme had happened in a non nuclear power plant, would anyone have done more then ordered a repair and made a note in this month’s reports?
        Now me personally, I’m glad that the people operating our nuclear power plants are so careful. I fully expect them to take more precautions then someone working at a coal or gas power plant. But the simple truth is that nuclear’s safety track record is way better then any other form of power generation. A basic GOOGLE search for ‘Nuclear power plant fire’ compared to fires in any other generators (even renewables. Hell, even hydro) will show you just how safe nuclear really is.
        The real problem is too many people get their knowledge of nuclear energy from The Simpsons. >¿<

        • “The real problem is too many people get their knowledge of nuclear energy from The Simpsons. >¿<"
          In The Simpsons, the cooling towers of the nuclear plant cause acide rain. I have always believed that Burns' plant is an allegory for all the polluting power plants, and the small town of Springfield couldn't justify having many different power plants.

    • Let us know when one of those “incidents” cuts back production by a third as happened with Ivanpah.
      It would be great if you and like minded could choose to depend and pay through the nose for your energy needs via solar plants and the rest of us be left alone. Unfortunately we do not live in so perfect a world.

      • It would be great if you and like minded could choose to depend and pay through the nose for your energy needs via solar plants and the rest of us be left alone. Unfortunately we do not live in so perfect a world.
        Except it can be done.
        All utilities could be required to provide a “green” or “renewables” tariff with no cross-subsidy from other tariffs (unlike what happens now).
        Their customers can be connected via smart meters. They receive power when, (and only when) said power is available, up to the figure available. When there is insufficient power they are disconnected.
        Everyone is happy!
        I somehow can’t envisage many takers.

    • Roger, you have to be grasping at straws to continue to promote this project as a viable energy option.
      Yes we are all happy that nobody was hurt. But why was not the possibility of a steerage fault designed into the system in the first place.
      Certainly many of us, have pointed to defects in the concept, but I can’t say that I have previously thought about the thing setting fire to itself.
      And as for failures, and accidents for other systems of energy production; each of those schemes has to deal with its own vulnerabilities.
      But the vulnerability of other systems, is a problem of those systems; it is NOT a strength of solar boiler systems.
      Solar energy whether PV or thermal does have its place in any comprehensive energy supply plan. Neither one has any value whatsoever for transportation which is a huge energy consumption market.
      This desert boondoggle is not the way to utilize renewable energy ; it is a totally harebrained scheme at best.
      At least solar PV does not take a side trip down to the waste heat garbage dump of the energy spectrum.
      But Ivanpah starts off right in the sewer treatment plant of the energy spectrum.

    • Notwithstanding the fact that you claim to be a Chemical Engineer and a Lawyer your distortion of the facts is truly amazing. Barring your claim that wind and solar have the technology to fill a perceived gap created by this administration, there are no recourses other than ill gotten CRAPITALISM gifts dolled out by the Eco-Radicals in the EPA and US Energy Departments. Coal has a 100-150 years supply and Natural Gas at least 300 years supply and that doesn’t count the methane calthrates we haven’t begun to harvest.
      Oil is the waste stream of daughter reactions of fission uranium and thorium in the earth’s core and an infinite supply for millenniums.
      Nuclear would be competitive if it were not for the disproportionate subsidies (wasted) on renewables. Oh and the Nuclear Scientists, i.e., Fonda, Lemon and Sheen and Hollywood Libtards.
      Modular Thorium Reactors are available, affordable and can be implemented in the US if we can eliminate the NRC and its stranglehold on the industry.
      IMHO you are years behind on the knowledge tree and suggest the following primers as starters:
      The 10th Annual International Climate Conference accessed at Mark Mills presentation “Energy Reality”. Google Mark’s white paper about the Cloud needing Coal reliable facts.
      By the way Coal Burning in the United States is not pollution. Volcanoes on the other hand.
      You are not ready to opine on this Big Boy website.

      • Has anybody done a study to see if heating the atmosphere to almost 1,000ºF in several places around California and Nevada could actually be changing the weather? I think it would be hard for clouds to survive around these things. Could be the reason for the drought.

    • It’s very simple. The total radiant emittance of a thermal energy source goes as T^4.
      So the very hottest dry deserts in the hottest time of the day (mid afternoons?) is where global cooling is operating at its finest.
      Cold places don’t do any useful global cooling.

  25. Despite the inane Greenie cheerleading from Roger Sowell above, the fact remains that without huge subsidies, and without the punishing of coal because of “carbon”, the use of renewables aka “clean energy” would be extremely minimal. Electric and hybrid cars either wouldn’t exist, or would be merely expensive toys for the wealthy. Same with biofuels.
    Perhaps with a President Trump we can back to a sane energy policy based, including nuclear.

    • I doubt a President Trump will be given a chance to prove his leadership skills (whether good or bad) by Congress. I imagine Mr. Trump’s greatest achievement, if he is elected, will be to unite Congress in an effort to impeach him. But, at least he will have brought bipartisanship by uniting Congress on a common goal. 🙂

      • Donnie is a master of divide and conquer strategy. He will instigate frequent in fights and enjoy the ride. I can see him getting a second term.Z

  26. A question and a suggestion. Question: What happens to a mirror when a smoker’s death dive strikes the mirror? Suggestion: Locate an Ivanpah-like power plant near all major airports. Doing so will reduce the number of birds that flame out airplane engines thus reducing the number of airplane crashes; and the proximity to temperature monitoring stations will increase measured surface temperatures giving the “keepers of the faith” more proof of man-made global warming.
    I know, I know. You ask: Won’t sunlight reflected from the mirrors blind pilots on final approach? Yes, but the fix to that is simple. Give each pilot a Darth Vader-like are arc-welder visor.

    • You clearly are not paying attention.
      There are NO mirrors anywhere near the tower or boiler, and the birds are evaporated not singed. There is no bird that can fly fast enough to do its final swan dive onto one of the closest mirrors if it gets close enough to the boiler to get fried.
      At most even the largest bird could not be simultaneously in the beam of more than about ten mirrors, and be over even the closest mirror.

  27. There is no reason that this technology, using sunlight to heat a liquid into gas that drives a turbine, can’t work. Obviously one needs to better think through the likely problems – misaligned mirrors, when you have hundreds of them, seems like an obvious case. The tower can be encased in a white ceramic protecting any pipes or wires within it. Good engineering can fix so many things.
    That said, making this technology cost effective and able to scale, is likely beyond our abilities. Its an interesting but very expensive toy, and we discover, harmful to wildlife. This plant, in my opinion, will be quietly shut down after a few years of discovering how expensive it really is to operate. I have to wonder if this facility will survive a decent earthquake…or will the mirrors be so out of alignment they cannot easily be corrected?
    Building better nuclear power plants is not beyond our abilities – more efficient, safer ones that can burn a lot more of their fuel, even burn what today we call nuclear waste. We can recycle waste to extract more fuel. We can reduce the radioactive life of any resulting nuclear waste. This is the clear path towards burning less fossil fuels.
    Meanwhile, because of a new technology called ‘Fracking’ we have all the natural gas we need for producing electricity for the foreseeable future – plenty of time to build our nuclear plants.
    I have to believe that in the next 30 years electric cars will have evolved enough to be reasonable alternatives to combustion engine cars – not completely replacing them but enough of them used to reduce the need for crude oil. I think the ‘oil problem’, that is the need for lots of fuel for combustion engines, will solve itself over that time.
    So I am not sure what this solar plant, other than being an interesting toy, is supposed to be doing. It simply seems impractical to me.

    • Scientist have been searching for a better battery for about 5 or more decades, isn’t it time to look elsewhere for alternative source for transportation fuels?. Doubling down on failures and subsidizing and implementing electric cars without the elusive battery is just dumb. Also how much are you willing to pay for the infrastructure that allows you to drive a care anywhere in the USA where there are roads.

      • As someone who uses a lot of rechargeable power tools, I can assure you that the batteries we have today are significant better then the ones from just 10 years ago. Hell, even the basic lead-acid battery that sits in your car is far superior to the one that sat in your grandfathers. And most of the real innovation for the last few decades has been focusing on the switch from single discharge power cells like the old Everready and Duracell to rechargeable batteries.
        What has really amazed me is some people don’t think batteries will ever store as much energy as gasoline. Both store energy in chemical bonds. It’s just a matter of releasing that energy in a usable form. We’ve only been producing electricity for a couple of centuries. We’ve been burning things for millennia.
        You really want to understand how far our batteries have advanced? Try recharging a tank of unleaded after you’ve run out. All you can do is refuel it, just like I had to replace the D’s in my RC car when I was a kid. But today my nephews just plug theirs in for an hour and off they go again. And I doubt that’s as far as the technology will ever get.

    • You clearly don’t understand the concept of this machine.
      EACH & EVERY one of those tens of thousands of mirrors has its own computerized full time tracking system.
      If ANY one mirror that was perfectly aligned to dead center of the boiler, suddenly lost power to its control motor, it would take no more than sixty seconds for the moving sun image to scan completely off the boiler.
      The sun moves one degree of angle in four minutes. A stationary mirror reflection will move one degree in two minutes. The sun’s angular diameter is 30 arc minutes, so it takes one minute to move the reflection by the full diameter of the sun off a stationary mirror.
      If the boiler is 200 feet high, say measured from the mean height of a mirror, then the effective focal length of the nearest mirror must be at least 200 feet. This will give a minimum size solar image of about 21 inches diameter. But the mirror size is about six meters square, so the spot has to be at least that big; about 28 feet diameter. Toss in the 21 inches for the sun angle and you have a minimum spot of about 30 feet diameter.
      So it is not a question of proper alignment of a system and it drifting. You have to actively steer each mirror accurately for the whole of the sun up day time.
      So those mirror mounting bearings are going to wear out eventually.

  28. What happens when there is a power failure or outage and the sun moves to a position so that the support tower receives the full impact of the Sun’s energy? Are they going to bae able to move 173,500 heliostats by hand before complete destruction?

    • usurbrain wrote:
      “Are they going to bae able to move 173,500 heliostats by hand before complete destruction?”
      No. Plan A is to have all males drink 2 liters of water and report on deck for fire duty. Plan B is to shoot out the sun.

    • Takes at most a few minutes for the sun to scan off from a stationary mirror array. That is not a serious failure mode, as a tracked mirror that is off target but still tracking.

  29. “…So I am not sure what this solar plant, other than being an interesting toy, is supposed to be doing….”
    It is so called “subsidy mine”.

  30. If each tower is surrounded by 45000 mirrors, I wonder just how many mirrors were miss-aligned to cause such a poorly placed hot spot.
    Also, why was the cable not protected from this kind of incident, did the designers not perform a safety case on all aspects of the system?

    • I understand that motors could sometime malfunction, but to have such hot spot requires a “conspiracy” of motors, IOW, motors aren’t to blame, the control is!

  31. This if true, sounds as a viable alternative.
    Produce it in the tropics, store it, ship it on demand.
    Electricity from seawater: New method efficiently produces hydrogen peroxide for fuel cells
    (—Scientists have used sunlight to turn seawater (H2O) into hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which can then be used in fuel cells to generate electricity. It is the first photocatalytic method of H2O2 production that achieves a high enough efficiency so that the H2O2 can be used in a fuel cell.
    The biggest advantage of using liquid H2O2 instead of gaseous hydrogen (H2), as most fuel cells today use, is that the liquid form is much easier to store at high densities. Typically, H2 gas must be either highly compressed, or in certain cases, cooled to its liquid state at cryogenic temperatures. In contrast, liquid H2O2 can be stored and transported at high densities much more easily and safely.

    • This does not make much sense. Instead of hydrogen, they produce oxygen (in a form of a peroxide, very dangerous at high concentrations). Are you a chemist?

    • vuk, I cannot see how this can possibly work. Current fuel cells combine a reducing agent (H2) with an oxidising agent (O2). Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidising agent. What do they react it with? You cannot replace a reductant with an oxidant in any chemical reaction and expect similar results. All the hydrogen peroxide could replace would be the oxygen currently taken from the air and still need something like hydrogen to complete the reaction.

      • Doesn’t Hydrogen peroxide react with copper to produce O2 and H2O. Its a dangerous reaction in a sealed container mind you

    • No, I’m not a chemist, never done anything to do with the hydrogen peroxide.
      Here in London there is a fleet of hydrogen fuelled buses. I thought this might be an advance, but judging by the above comments, apparently NOT.

      • Vuk,
        The article is misleading, you cannot turn Hydrogen into a liquid by compressing. It must be cooled and compressed to turn it into a liquid. Most hydrogen for transportation is stored at very high pressures with a thick shell.
        It only in useful in a university professor’s mind and is expensive but hey London is rich.

  32. Re: the earlier comment: “That’s a whole bunch of oil we didn’t need to import from our buddies in the mideast.” Let’s find out what “our buddies in the middle east think about this project.
    If they are promoting it – then we can assume that they do not perceive it as a threat to their interests.
    This entire global warming alarmism and anti-coal, anti-fracking, anti-energy-independence debacle is working out brilliantly for the middle east.
    They more we waste money on stupid crap that doesn’t work – the happier they will be.
    They are happy, as long as we don’t dig up and burn our cheap coal, frack for cheap gas and oil or build our own pipelines and refineries.
    They are happy with any dance that we do. Provided that it involves stepping on our own toes.
    Luckily for them, our societies contain a vast number of anti-capitalist useful idiots who are ready to serve their interests, by protesting against progress and profit.
    Primarily thanks to decades of preliminary ground work by the KGB.
    So what do they say on the middle east propaganda channel – for or against. You guessed it!!!!

  33. As an engineer I have never seen Ivanapah but travel by a large solar installation on I-8 between Tucson and Yuma. Naturally I was curious, so I paused to inspect. Everything is there except one obvious thing missing.
    There are no high tension lines from the solar “power” plant to anywhere! That instantly tells me that the massive “Solar Plant” doesn’t produce enough power to need them. And that it doesn’t generate enough power to notice. But the Plant is a “triumph” of the know-nothing fools on the Arizona Public Utility Commission who brag how they forced the Utilities to build it.

  34. “Most panels carry a 20 year warranty for output.”
    Warranties do not produce electricity! I suggest reading the fine print. Let say Paul gets duped into buying $50k in solar panels for the roof on his house but after a few years years he finds out they only produce $500 per year in electricity. Paul then read the warranty. He must pay to remove them and return them in the original packaging (which he does not have). The manufacturer, if still in business, will test them in the lab showing that they are not the problem. Paul figures out he can still brag about having gone solar if they do not work.
    RA Cook is wrong! The solar panels do not work from the get go and never get replaced. If Paul wants to tell me how far from the truth I am, he will need to provide comprehensive data. He can not. We in the power industry love to brag about performance. The lack of bragging is very telling.
    Speaking of fires. This is not an unusual way for rooftop PV systems to stop working which is why I call them smoke emitting diodes.

    • Solar panels on suburban homes is increasing in my area. I don’t get it. I just replaced a gas furnace in my current home that was the original when the home was built 35 years ago. That’s quite a return on investment. The new more efficient one cost about $4000 including installation.
      Why in the world do people want to put $30,000 monstrosities on the homes, it is an extreme expense, limited return (depends on government subsidies and forced give-backs), and aesthetically are miserable eyesores. Solar panels on the roof of a beautiful classic Victorian home looks ridiculous, not to mention when they start cutting down beautiful, ancient trees to increase access to sunlight. Way to ruin a neighborhood and increase the tax burden and energy expenses of your neighbors.

      • Couple of things about your post Alx. First, since you have a furnace instead of a heat pump; you live in a northern climate where solar is not as effective. Second, existing homes often do not roofs that are good for solar. Third, shade trees reduce heat load on houses in summer reducing the need for AC.

  35. Reading through the comments it is nice to see that the anti-solar crowd can be just as stupid as the anti-nuke crowd. Since fire is an inherent hazard of producing power, all power plants will have a fire at one time or the other. It is not a criteria for being against any source of electricity.
    The criteria for judging power plant is the amount of electricity produced relative to design expectation. I am still waiting to read about the successful solar thermal plant. Massive failure makes for interesting reading. I would not fault the designers because it is a difficult task. Solar thermal is a bad engineering idea conceived by well meaning folks.
    Safety is a different issue. In the US all power plants are safe. It is a legal requirement. Safety is measured by lost time accidents and fatalities. The power industry has a very good safety record.
    Killing a bird is not a safety issue, it is an environmental issue. I am proud to say that no one has ever been hurt by nuclear radiation from reactors designed to the criteria that I was trained to use as a nuclear safety design engineer. Have not killed any birds either.
    For those who think a safer reactor can be designed, how can you beat perfect? Safety is not some model for worst case hypothetical accidents.
    Fires are a significant safety issue for power plants. I will relate some personal experience. I was the engineering duty officer on a nuclear ship in port when lightning hit nearby knocking out shorepower. The duty electrician was checking the circuits following procedures for such an event when a damaged breaker caused a fireball that injured him. This was a lost time accident but a fatality was prevented by the use of personal protective equipment.
    A second example was at my first commercial nuke plant. A fire was reported in the emergency service water pumphouse. Following procedures, the shift supervisor declared an unusual event and notified the NRC. Turned out to be an arcing welding cable.
    Roger Sowell would correctly label these as an ‘incidence’ at a nuclear power plant. What Roger does not say is that incidences occur all the time in all kinds of industries. They get investigated by plant staff and regulators such as the NRC, OSHA, or the chemical safety board.
    Roger claims expertise on nuclear power based on touring Perry Nuclear Power Plant. On my resume after being radiation safety on my last navy ship, is Senior Reactor Operator certification on the Perry simulator. That is the difference between doing and talking.
    The bottom line is that nuclear safely produces 20% of US power.

    • “Solar thermal is a bad engineering idea conceived by well meaning folks.”
      If solar thermal is obviously a bad engineering idea, than I don;t see any well meaning folks, I see folks blinded by ideology, which is always bad news.

    • It’s not that we are anti-solar, it’s that we are anti-wasting our money on other people’s stupid ideas.

      • Yes, and as an investor in best-of-breed utility scale solar PV with world beater cost reduction it’s frustrating to watch the also rans and wheeler dealers with unusual government assistance and promotion. It’s one thing to make policy mistakes at DOE and elsewhere in other federal agencies with a low rent version of due diligence or a spirit of diversified tech development on a grand industrial scale, it’s another to ignore the winners or at best use them in industry averages while protecting the losers and the policies that produced them. Where is GAO when you need them, or is their absence on the scene by design. A level playing field bid process in renewables would take lowest bids in combination with least impact on grid and transmission cost impact. We are still living with the uncompetitve relics of policy, much like the industrial scale energy flaws of the Carter Era at Beulah and Rifle. Economic illiteracy is no excuse for organized policy cheats.

  36. I don’t really know why a lot of people here on WUWT are against solar and wind energy. While it is true that the cost effectiveness of a large solar or wind farm is not competitive commercially with NG, nuclear, and coal power plants, it is still an alternative source. For an advanced country such as the USA, it might not be economically sound to invest in renewables. However, in some areas of developing countries, they are finding small scale renewables as, sometimes, the only alternative.
    Although fossil fuels has been a game changer in the 18th to the 21st century, technology will soon relegate it to the role of the wood and charcoal in the future. Admittedly, charcoal, was the king for hundreds of years, so oil might be king for a few hundreds more. But in the end, climate changes, even for sources of energy.

    • We are against them because they are not cost competitive alternatives to fossil and nuclear power systems.
      In fact when you add in all the factors that go into construction, maintenance and replacement, most don’t produce net power.
      There’s also the fact that for every MW of “alternative” power, you need 1 MW of fossil/nuclear power running in the background ready to take over when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.

    • “There’s also the fact that for every MW of “alternative” power, you need 1 MW of fossil/nuclear power running in the background ready to take over when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.”
      MarkW gets the carefully crafted lie of the day award.
      It is not a fact. It is a big fat lie.

      • Sorry dude, just because you don’t want to believe it does not make it a lie.
        When solar/wind stops producing one of two things happens, either load gets shed or new power comes online.
        Since blackouts are not pleasant things, the utility replaces the power with fossil/nuclear power. Since those sources can’t ramp up as fast as solar/wind can ramp down, they have to be kept running with the power they generate being dumped, until it is needed.

      • Just in case RKP decides to try his previously refuted lie.
        No, fossil/nuclear plants do not need to have a 1:1 backup ratio.
        It is very, very rare such a plant to drop out unexpectedly. Maintenance is scheduled at a time when there is sufficient slack in the system to handle the reduced power output.

      • Giant hair dryers.
        … no, really. The energy is run through large high-resistance coils and the waste heat produced is blown away with huge fans. I’ve personally seen them placed in everything from individual units to groups of over 2 dozen. Blew me away (pun intended) the first time I saw it in operation. I was shocked to learn it was apparently cheaper to just waste the energy then to try to store or recover it.

        • Do you a reference on these “hair dryers”?
          Do they allow a gentle stop of the reactor (no SCRAM) and turbine (no free turbine) and condenser (no turbine bypass) if the grid connexion is lost?

    • Not against solar or wind at all. It’s just that small scale has it’s uses, but the stuff doesn’t economically scale up to grid needs. Have a solar powered pump on one of the wells on the ranch. Works out just fine for my needs with that well, and running grid power to it would have cost me about 3x what the panel and pump did. Will probably add a little more solar as time goes by, and I can afford it, but I sure don’t want to pay the cost of grid sized installations.

    • Pulsar @ 2.22am
      Solar and wind can work for off-grid usage. Wind power has been used for centuries.
      However, once the use of coal, gas, and nuclear were developed for grid use they became dominant. Why? Because they work 24/7/365 and with a small extra reserve maintenance and other outages can be planned or dealt with.
      Advanced society requires power 24/7 not just when the wind is blowing or the sun shining, so wind and solar don’t work without some means of storage or backup. If the storage or backup costs the same again (or more) especially grid costs and losses then why not just use coal, gas or nuclear and save the horrendous costs of having a part-time system of providing power?

  37. From BrightSource ‘Limitless'(!) ‘The Top Five Things Some Media Can’t Seem to Remember About Ivanpah’ #4 ‘We Don’t Control the Weather’. Isn’t that what the whole plant is about, making sure the weather never changes?

  38. If I was a Firefighter, I would be worrying whether a miss-aligned mirror was going to fry me while I was putting out the fire!

  39. This has become an overpriced natural gas-fired power plant with a solar bird-flaring system on the side.

  40. “I don’t really know why a lot of people here on WUWT are against solar and wind energy.”
    So pulsar why are you for it? Your reasons seem very feeble.
    Do we need alternatives? No.
    Does wind and solar have less environmental impact? No.
    The reason is that wind and solar does not work as claimed.
    I am am in favor of wind and solar when it works as claimed. We just traveled in our motor home from Las Vegas to Wallula Gap in Washington State. Saw no utility scale wind or solar along the way.
    I am still waiting for any solar protect to demonstrate it is not a scam. Scam artist to not issue press release. If you dig you can find actual performance. Big failure!
    There are some places where wind works. For example:
    I have been sailing Wallula Gap for twenty years long before the wind farms were built in the dry land wheat fields. While I am not against the wind farms, they are not needed and the environmental impact is huge compared to the nuke plant up river and the coal plant down river.
    My point is that the issue is more complex and project specific.
    The reason, pulsar, lot of people at WUWT are against wind and solar is ignorance. This is the same reason people are for wind and solar. Yes, both sides of debate can be wrong.

    • There are clearly many cases where solar makes sense
      Here’s an example from Australia, where electricity prices are high, sun shines often, peak demand in day when aircon runs, demand locally increasing
      Here the power company reduces local (peak) demand by providing solar plus storage for its customers… saving expansion costs and reducing what it needs to generate.

      • If electric prices are high in a major costal city like Melbourne then it means someone has screwed up in a major way. If electric prices are high in a major coal producing nation like Australia then it means that screw up was probably Green politics.

  41. “It is very, very rare such a plant to drop out unexpectedly.”
    I am thinking that MarkW does not have years of experience working in the control room of large nukes like have. While it is not as frequent as many years ago when I worked in the control room, it is an expected occurrence and not rare.
    “one of two things happens”
    Neither of those things happened. It is no more complicated cruise control. While the most economical steam plants run base loaded, other steam plants with spare capacity run in load following. Steam control valves maintain constant frequency. If load increases or a power plant drops off the grid, frequency will drop a small amount. Steam valves in the load following plants will open increasing power production running the grid to 60 hz.

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