"World’s First 24/7 Solar Power Plant Powers 75,000 Homes" for 3 hours per day.

Guest post by David Middleton

Crescent Dunes

SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes Project in Tonopah, Nevada is quietly providing clean, green solar energy to 75,000 homes in the Silver State even when the sun isn’t shining.

Crescent Dunes is the first utility-scale facility in the world to use molten salt for power energy storage capabilities, a technology also known as concentrated solar.

With a concentrated solar plant such as Crescent Dunes—including other plants like it around the world—more than 10,000 movable mirrors, or heliostats, reflect solar energy to a central, 640-foot tower that heats up salt to 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit.

This salt is used for two purposes, as SolarReserve points out on its website. First, it retains very high levels of heat, making it like a thermal battery that can be used night and day, whether or not the sun is out. Second, when electricity is needed on the grid, the molten salt gets dispatched through a heat exchanger to create super-heated steam to power a traditional steam turbine.

This process is similar to a conventional fossil fuel or nuclear power plant except with zero carbon emissions or hazardous waste and without any fuel costs, the California-based solar company says.

“The whole project cost slightly under $1 billion and SolarReserve holds a 25-year contract to supply power to NV Energy for $135 per megawatt hour,” OilPrice.com observed. “The tower produces 110 megawatts of energy for 12 hours a day according to the company, which works out to roughly 1 million megawatts per year. This in turn implies a gross [return on assets] of ~13.5 percent—not bad as investments go.”




I have to assume that this is a typo:

The tower produces 110 megawatts of energy for 12 hours a day according to the company, which works out to roughly 1 million megawatts per year.

Surely they mean 1 million megawatt-hours per year… But, then again, I doubt the EcoWatch “journalist” knows or even cares about the difference between megawatts and megawatt-hours.  And there’s a bit of a math problem

110 MW * 12 hr/day * 365 days/yr = 481,800 MWh/yr

481,800 is not roughly 1 million.

This power plant cost $975,000,000 to build ($8.9 million per MW, ten times the cost of a natural gas fired power plant).  Taxpayers are on the hook for 76% of this cost through Federal loan guarantees.  The 25-yr wholesale price guarantee of $135/MWh, about 30% higher than the average US retail price (all sectors).  This is the “good news.”

While the plant has barely started operating, there is some production history.

Crescent Dunes2


While the production will almost certainly improve this summer, “SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes Project in Tonopah, Nevada [isn’t even] quietly providing clean, green solar energy to 75,000 homes in the Silver State even when the sun [is] shining”…

The average U.S. residential utility customer uses about 900 kWh per month.

75,000 homes * 900 KWh/month =  67,500,000 kWh/month =  67,500 MWh/month

In its best month so far, Crescent Dunes generated 9,095 MWh… About 3 hours of electricity per day for 75,000 homes.  This is the Venezuela version of 24/7 /SARC.


Some of the comments have suggested that the generation data for this plant are not representative of its potential.  While the data for February and March are from its first two fully operational months and this is not some sort of “pilot project,” the plant is still in its “infancy”… So I thought I might take a look at a more mature concentrated solar power plant: Ivanpah…

Any bets on how well 400 MW of concentrated solar thermal power stack up against 530 MW of natural gas combined cycle?
Ivanpah has rarely exceeded a 20% capacity factor. The Higgins plant easily tops 80% in response to demand. Any questions?
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June 21, 2016 6:19 am

yeah, math is sooo difficult ( and boring)
A high school teacher was arrested today at Toronto Pearson Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a compass, a slide-rule and a calculator.
At a press conference, Premier Kathleen Wynne said she believes the man is a member of the notorious extremist Al-Gebra movement. She did not identify the man, who has been charged by the RCMP with carrying weapons of maths instruction.
‘Al-Gebra is a problem for us’, the Premier said. ‘They derive solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in search of absolute values. They use secret code names like “X” and “Y” and refer to themselves as “unknowns”; but we have determined that they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country. As the Greek philosopher Isosceles used to say, “There are three sides to every triangle.”’
When asked to comment on the arrest, Prime Minister Trudeau said, “If God had wanted us to have better weapons of maths instruction, He would have given us more fingers and toes.”
Fellow Liberal colleagues told reporters they could not recall a more intelligent or profound statement by any Prime Minister.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Ric Werme
June 21, 2016 10:10 am

It’s not funny anymore now that it really happened

Reply to  Ric Werme
June 21, 2016 1:10 pm

Some guy said, really happened.

chris moffatt
Reply to  janus100
June 21, 2016 6:35 am

Too difficult. That’s why, as I understand it, Wayne State U. is dropping any math requirement for graduation (and considering adding a “diversity” requirement in its place).

Eugene WR Gallun
Reply to  janus100
June 21, 2016 6:52 am

janus100 — Too funny. — Eugene WR Gallun

FJ Shepherd
Reply to  janus100
June 21, 2016 7:03 am

Yes, Prime Minister Trudeau does have trouble with math. I hear that in order for him to count to 21, he has to strip naked.

Reply to  FJ Shepherd
June 21, 2016 7:09 am

He claims he starts with the “Big 1”.

Reply to  FJ Shepherd
June 21, 2016 8:51 pm

I think that will only get Trudeau as far as 20¼.

Reply to  janus100
June 21, 2016 7:08 am

Funny. Stolen. Thanks.

Reply to  PiperPaul
June 21, 2016 11:38 am

I did not claim that I am the author of this….

Reply to  PiperPaul
June 21, 2016 5:39 pm

No, I mean *I* stole it from your post!

Reply to  janus100
June 21, 2016 8:19 am


Rob Morrow
Reply to  janus100
June 21, 2016 10:05 am

Thanks Janus, this made my day.

Reply to  Rob Morrow
June 21, 2016 3:07 pm

Northern Exposure?

John Law
Reply to  janus100
June 21, 2016 9:58 pm

Just about “sums” up the Canadian government!

Reply to  janus100
June 21, 2016 10:57 pm

Excellent! 🙂
I really laughed out loud (and then saddened because it is sooo true).

June 21, 2016 6:23 am

Not a single mention of all the roasted eagles, etc.

Reply to  Ack
June 21, 2016 6:51 am
Reply to  Griff
June 21, 2016 7:05 am

..I suppose you believe everything that Hillary says too !! LOL…

Reply to  Griff
June 21, 2016 7:09 am

‘“The Ivanpah Unit 3 fire on May 19 was caused by the heliostats (mirrors) being locked in place in preparation for a maintenance activity (maintenance mode), causing the solar flux to briefly move over a portion of the boiler tower,” explains Knox. “The mirrors were unlocked and moved to remove the solar flux from the tower.” ‘
So now they just burn the plant itself. That is a weird trick.

Reply to  Griff
June 21, 2016 7:23 am

The article sure makes it sound like they solved it.
But did they?
The article says the were burning birds when the mirrors where focused above the tower in ‘standby’ position. 115 kills in a little over 4 hours, that is better than 25 birds an hour.
Their ‘weird trick’ solution was to change the ‘standby’ positioning of the mirrors to spread the concentrated light over a larger area and thus keep the energy low enough to be safe for any birds that happen to fly through. Sounds great.
BUT, when the plant is in operation don’t the mirrors kind of have to all be aimed at the same area? I mean isn’t that how they concentrate enough energy to heat the solution enough to get useable work out of it? So wouldn’t that mean that when producing power the mirrors have to be aimed in such a way as to create the same high energy areas that killed 25 birds an hour during ‘standby’?
Sounds more like they found a way to prevent bird kills while not operating but that they will be killing birds during power production. And they are just spinning it to cover up that fact.

Reply to  Griff
June 21, 2016 8:30 am

Can’t they just use the same mechanisms they use at airports to repel birds, sound waves I think?

Reply to  Griff
June 21, 2016 8:54 am

One would have to ask why not simply lay all the heliostats flat when in stand-by; why bother replacing a halo with some pancakes at all?
…I guess that wouldn’t be ‘clever-dick’ enough.

Reply to  Griff
June 21, 2016 8:56 pm

They simply turn their backs to the collector. No more smokers! Easy.

Reply to  Ack
June 21, 2016 7:12 am

I need 5 drinks to believe the Cleantechnica.

John Law
Reply to  Ack
June 21, 2016 10:12 pm

You mean the Colonel Gore spin off business,NFE (Nevada Fried Eagle)!

Reply to  Ack
June 22, 2016 9:03 am

In totally unrelated news, an inexpensive ‘Fried Chicken’ stand has opened up next to the solar plant.

June 21, 2016 6:25 am

Good News Everyone!
(Professor Farnsworth…Futurama)
‘Nuff said.
Do NV power customers get free critter jerky with their higher energy bills now?
I do find the use of molten salt is interesting but is it worth the questionable math and money? Probably not. If this was speculative to see how the use of molten salt can be applied to come up with another form of cheap reliable energy I could see it from that point of view. But this is going or is in operation and thrusting more expensive and as yet untested in a real world environment on the public is ludicrous.

george e. smith
Reply to  Jenn Runion
June 23, 2016 4:58 pm

But so far as I know they still have to burn natural gas to get the salts molten in the morning. Evidently the solar energy they can collect is insufficient to melt the salts.
And the article lies; it says they use no fuel. They do.
I think you could actually build homes for 75,000 families in the area they occupy with their mirrors.

Tom Halla
June 21, 2016 6:45 am

But it works so well for a solar storage plant! /sarc

June 21, 2016 6:46 am

So, at 135/MWh and a cost of $975,000,000 (and assuming no additional maintenance costs), once they’ve produced 7,222,222 MWh, they will have broken even.
At 481,800 MWh/yr, that would be 14.9 years.
Doesn’t sound so bad, except…
if it doesn’t generate more than about 10 percent or so instead, the break even point won’t be until 149 years, again not taking into consideration maintenance.

Reply to  JohnWho
June 21, 2016 7:17 am

Also not taking into account interest costs on the money borrowed to build the plant.

Jim A.
Reply to  JohnWho
June 21, 2016 10:09 am

Not to be a contrarian, but let’s not forget they don’t have any fuel costs. That is different. It’s still not near efficient as claimed, but no fuel costs has to help pay the loans a little quicker than a conventional plant. If it worked well, it might be worth a 10X cost experiment to find out, no? So I try to look at it as an investment as R&D instead of wanton waste of taxpayer dollars (as loan guarantees). There’s enough of that already to discourage new sources of depression driving facts… 🙂

Leonard Lane
Reply to  Jim A.
June 21, 2016 1:03 pm

They have huge fuel and water costs. Natural gas is used to start in the morning and runs for who knows how long? And the mirrors need to be washed with water to maintain a clean reflector. That water is hauled by trucks around the mirrors to wash them.
In addition, huge amounts of fuel were used to manufacture, transport, assemble, and maintain the facility. It may even cost more fuel to demolish and transport the waste to some suitable disposable site at sometime in the future. I wonder how all these fuel energy costs compare with the energy generated by the plant over its lifetime?

John in Oz
Reply to  Jim A.
June 21, 2016 4:35 pm

They have the cost of ‘fuelling’ the electric motors and electronics that control the site. Using their own power to do this means they cannot sell it, thus lose income (unless they are paid for gross production rather than dispatched power)

Coach Springer
Reply to  Jim A.
June 22, 2016 4:44 am

$975,000,000 for research? That is scientifically unnecessary. But it is an experiment to see if they can force us to use much more costly, less effective and less efficient method of power generation on the basis of “modern technology.”

Reply to  JohnWho
June 21, 2016 11:25 am

And don’t they have to have stand-by power ready in case of clouds, etc. I think they also have to use natural gas to get things started in the mornings. Is that accounted for in the costs?

June 21, 2016 6:48 am

I doubt the EcoWatch “journalist” knows or even cares…
“Copy, paste, DONE! I is a activist jernalist now!”

June 21, 2016 6:52 am

Cyclone Power Technology has developed an off the grid 10 Kw Solar Powered steam driven genset. Here in the US.

Todd F
Reply to  William E Heritage
June 21, 2016 7:18 am

Wikipedia article on cyclone power engines is quite disappointing.

Reply to  Todd F
June 21, 2016 8:45 am

Can you please site your source

Paul Coppin
Reply to  Todd F
June 21, 2016 2:28 pm

“Can you please site your source”
Over by the window, under the rubber tree plant.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  William E Heritage
June 21, 2016 11:26 am

I’ll withhold judgement until I see an actual production sample independently tested.

General P. Malaise
Reply to  Paul Penrose
June 22, 2016 12:46 am

amen !
why is it cost effective when the Ivanpah is only producing 20% of expected power and is similar in design.
I don’t believe we are being told the truth about it.

June 21, 2016 6:52 am

a 25-year contract to supply power to NV Energy for $135 per megawatt hour
now that is a sweet deal. the wholesale price of electricity in the US is about $34 per megawatt hour. So they guaranteed 4 times the wholesale price, paid for no doubt by higher electricity prices to Harry Reid.
Wasn’t this the power plant that got permission to use natural gas to supplement sunlight, because they found that there wasn’t enough energy from the mirrors to properly operate the molten salt?
Is this in reality a magicians trick? An energy supplier getting 4 times the wholesale price for a gas fired power plant, using mirrors to make it look green?

Joe Public
Reply to  ferdberple
June 21, 2016 9:08 am

“Wasn’t this the power plant that got permission to use natural gas to supplement sunlight, because they found that there wasn’t enough energy from the mirrors to properly operate the molten salt?”
That was Ivanpah.

Brett Keane
Reply to  Joe Public
June 21, 2016 5:26 pm

All smoke and mirrors. Sorry couldn’t resist.

Reply to  Joe Public
June 21, 2016 8:59 pm

So what were they smoking, Brett?

Reply to  Joe Public
June 22, 2016 2:05 am

So they are smoking dead birds. They call them “smokers”, don’t they?

Svend Ferdinandsen
Reply to  ferdberple
June 21, 2016 11:46 am

Like the spanish PV plants that operated diesel generators during night to top up the delivered energy.

June 21, 2016 6:58 am

Off Topic but serious proof that Canadian liberals are crazier than American liberals !!
.The beginnings of Soylent Green ? Ewwwwwwww !

Reply to  Marcus
June 21, 2016 3:31 pm

Not the craziest thing I’ve heard of being done to dispose of a body. ^_^

June 21, 2016 7:03 am

It is misleading to compare power generator build costs based simply on their nameplate capacity.
A nuclear power plant typically operates at 100% (or above) capacity, except during refueling shutdowns
A natural gas plant also often operates as a baseload (near 100%) capacity as well. Assuming this solar plant can achieve 50% capacity (unlikely) , its build cost per power produced is not ten times greater than a natural gas plant, but 20 times greater. As it stands , the cost looks to be 50 or more times as expensive.
Even at $17.8 actual million per produced MW, the plant is way beyond the cost of the Westinghouse AP 1000 Gen 3+ nuclear plants currently being built in South Carolina and Georgia – they are costing roughly $6 million per MW and will produce their power at around 100% capacity, any overage being stored in pumped storage. They also lack the capability of decimating our bird population as exhibited by thermal solar plants. It’s not just build and fuel costs to be considered – non-dispatchable power generators required backup power generation capacity, thus involving duplication

Reply to  arthur4563
June 21, 2016 8:11 am

The article suggests that the molten salt is dispatchable. It can be stored at a very hot temperature, and then the heat energy removed (by producing steam) when the energy is needed. It would be interesting to see a detailed analysis of how well (or not) it actually works.

Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
June 21, 2016 10:06 am

Unless you have really huge amounts of insulation, storing hot things always results in it cooling down on it’s own.
Unless the energy is used fairly quickly, a lot of the energy is going to be lost to the environment.

Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
June 21, 2016 7:35 pm

They forgot to mention that Ivanpah has prevously requested and receive permission from the state of California to consume much more natural gas to fire the “un-molten” salt that cools to an unusable temperature during the night. I may be not remembering correctly, but I think it was 5X more natural gas than was to be consumed by the initial design.

Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
June 21, 2016 7:58 pm

MarkW said: “Unless the energy is used fairly quickly, a lot of the energy is going to be lost to the environment.
Now that really could be considered to be a manmade contribution to glowbulll warming, couldn’t it?

Geoff Withnell
Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
June 22, 2016 6:33 am

Luc Ozade said
“Now that really could be considered to be a manmade contribution to glowbulll warming, couldn’t it?”
Not really, the energy involved came from sunlight, so it was going to end up as waste heat in the environment in any case, this is just trying to get some work out of it first.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  arthur4563
June 21, 2016 8:43 pm

You need to add the capital cost of the generation system that will stand by until the station shuts because of the strange natural phenomenon called sunset. Remember that the back up system does not generate revenue while it is standing by.

A C Osborn
June 21, 2016 7:06 am

You forget to mention it needs a Gas Boiler to heat the Molten Salts every morning to get the process started.
The only Green thing about it are the public who believe their fairy tales.

Joe Public
Reply to  A C Osborn
June 21, 2016 9:11 am

Ivanpah does; Crescent Dunes doesn’t. Apparently.
“The storage technology also eliminates the need for any backup fossil fuels, such as natural gas.”

Reply to  Joe Public
June 21, 2016 10:08 am

This would limit how much energy can drawn out of the salts over night.
Can’t let the salts cool down enough to require reheating the next morning.

Reply to  Joe Public
June 22, 2016 8:01 pm

There is a difference between startup and backup. Sounds like CD still requires startup.

Reply to  JBP
June 23, 2016 9:37 am

Can we then expect 100% proven 24/7/365 power and how much per day. Then just show the actual number of KWH produced 24/7 for 60 days?
What happens when the earth has a super volcano event that fills the sky with dust that could last years?

Tom Yoke
Reply to  A C Osborn
June 23, 2016 3:30 pm

Molten salts sound fantastically corrosive. How often must the storage containers and heat exchangers be replaced?

Reply to  Tom Yoke
June 23, 2016 3:39 pm

You mean what they tell you or what really happens?

Paul Westhaver
June 21, 2016 7:11 am

I can generate 8000 mwh/month. I am sure of it.
Let me check the arithmetic to be sure… watch me screw this up…
My generator cost me $500. It can produce 5000 watt continuously.
5000 x 24 x 30 = 3.6 million watt-hours or 3.6 MWh.
8000/3.6 = 2222 generators required at $500 each.
$1.11 million dollars to buy enough generators to build capacity that equals a 1 billion dollar solar plant.
Fuel… I could run the 2222 generators for 100 years and still not cost a billion dollars.

Reply to  Paul Westhaver
June 21, 2016 9:12 am

You’ll have to replace all the generators about 6-8 times over 100 years, Paul. You’ll need a crew of 5+/- small engine repair experts to fill the tanks, do preventive maintenance, and repairs. Still, those functions are also needed at the solar plant and your costs would be far below their costs.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  H.R.
June 21, 2016 9:33 am

HR….I figured I’d replace all of the generators every 5 years so add 20 million to the price….as you say… home depot gas generators are cheaper that the boon-doggle solar plant. So we agree!

Reply to  H.R.
June 21, 2016 10:09 am

You should be able to rig something up to keep the tanks full automatically.
I’m pretty sure the cost of such a system would be less than paying a team of people to keep them topped off for 100 years.

Reply to  H.R.
June 21, 2016 10:10 am

H.R. your system would achieve pretty close to 100% base plate for the entire time it was operational.

Reply to  H.R.
June 21, 2016 5:34 pm

10,000 heliostats means 20,000 servos plus other moving parts. Whats is the mean time between failures for those? Regardless, eventually you will be replacing at least a handful on a daily basis. That’s on top of the cost of keeping the mirrors clean. I think I would rather the ongoing expenses of ‘only’ 2,222 generators.

Reply to  Jtom
June 22, 2016 9:52 am

ARCO and Spain proved that in the 70s and then Spain in the 2000 times – greens repeat generational stupid acts.

Reply to  H.R.
June 21, 2016 7:07 pm

Paul W. – Oh yes. We agree! So triple or quadruple our WAGs for the extras and you could still live like a Rajah on the cost difference.
Thanks for the additional input MarkW, Jtom, Gamecock, & schitzree. Good points and good fun.

Reply to  H.R.
June 21, 2016 7:57 pm

They use around 2litres of fuel per hour and at current AU prices, 2222 of them at, lets call it AU$1.35/l is around $6k per hour to run them. That’s $144k per day to run them, a million dollars per week… I think you can probably see where this is going…

Reply to  H.R.
June 22, 2016 2:45 am

TimTheToolMan, I was thinking in U.S. dollars and costs. Of course Paul would be clever and arrange for fuel to be delivered without taxes so the fuel costs would be below $2.00USD/gallon. and he’d buy generators factory direct. And how much per week does the solar installation spend on gas to pre-heat the salt?
We’re just having some fun here and it’s still hard to put a damper on Paul’s idea.

Reply to  H.R.
June 22, 2016 7:12 pm

“We’re just having some fun here and it’s still hard to put a damper on Paul’s idea.”
Sure. But fuel cost wasn’t even mentioned in the fun calculations. Paul waved it of as being easily within the $1billion he was working with. The fact is that using my calculations he needs $5billion on fuel alone. And that’s at today’s prices let alone what they will be in say 50 years time. I think there is a perception that fuel is cheap when its really not…

Reply to  Paul Westhaver
June 21, 2016 10:46 am

I don’t think you figured in the cost of EPA, OSHA, EEOC, M-O-U-S-E helping you.

Paul Westhaver
Reply to  Gamecock
June 21, 2016 11:53 am

If 3 out of every 100 of the 75000 homeowners would install the 2222 generators, then I would not have to get involved. 🙂

Reply to  Gamecock
June 21, 2016 4:44 pm

we’ve already seen evidence that when the price of grid electricity exceeds the price of producing it your self, people produce it themselves.
Of course, when every home has it’s own generator running 24/7 the total amount of real pollution (Sulphur and Nitrogen compounds, particles, ect.) will probably skyrocket. Unintended consequences and all that.

June 21, 2016 7:19 am

The article should rather say that this extends solar power to 24/7, rather than provides it…
Because that’s what it does – it stores energy in the day to generate it at night, complementing solar PV.
And if “The average U.S. residential utility customer uses about 900 kWh per month” – well they don’t use it at an even rate: they need less at night: peak demand is also when aircon needed during the day in that area.
So do the sums again for night time use, in that area, with plant at full production output…

A C Osborn
Reply to  Griff
June 21, 2016 7:26 am

You also do not mention the Gas Boiler.

A C Osborn
Reply to  A C Osborn
June 21, 2016 7:29 am

Or the fact that have had to ask for more Gas because they got the design wrong.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  A C Osborn
June 21, 2016 10:39 am

You guys have missed their secret trick to generate solar power 24 hours a day, and it’s in plain sight:
The mirrors are in a circle. They go all the way around the tower.
Why didn’t they think of that before?

Ben of Houston
Reply to  A C Osborn
June 21, 2016 1:17 pm

Guys, that’s Ivanpah (or however you spell it). That’s a different installation, that, admittedly, looks quite similar at first glance.

Reply to  Griff
June 21, 2016 8:31 am

[blockquote]..complementing solar PV.[/blockquote]
What PV is it complementing? I’m not aware of any significant component of PV associated with this site. Did I miss something? Are you assuming widespread distributed PV in the plant’s service area? Is that a valid assumption?

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Griff
June 21, 2016 11:37 am

Nice try at deflection. The real issue you are trying to ignore is the fact that after a year of operation, this plant is still producing only 10% of predicted capacity. In any other situation, whether energy production, manufacturing, computer resources, etc., this would be considered an abject failure. Address that.

David Smith
Reply to  Paul Penrose
June 21, 2016 3:55 pm

— A Porsche sports car that’s got less power than a lawnmower
– A 1TB hard drive that’s full after 100GB
– You’ve got two hands but you’re trying to catch the ball with 1 finger
– Buy a quarter pounder in McDonalds but you can only eat the gherkins
– An Olympic sprinter who can only manage a slow walk
– You own a Tesla in London but you can’t even get to Luton (who’d want to?)
– You’ve got a ten inch d!cl< but can only give your wife….you get the idea.
Not very impressive eh Griff?

Reply to  Paul Penrose
June 22, 2016 3:33 am

I understand its still ramping up… how about the new Watts Bar nuclear plant – how’s that doing?

David Smith
Reply to  Paul Penrose
June 22, 2016 11:09 am

And what will it manage when it’s finished “ramping up”?

Leonard Lane
Reply to  Griff
June 22, 2016 3:21 pm

Solar power could be provided 24/7 by putting the entire generating plant on a huge railroad and race around the earth at about 1000 mph. Then it would always be in the sunlight and working.
The plant might have to be moved to California or Washington, DC to find someone smart as Gov Brown or Pres Obama to gain approval.

June 21, 2016 7:21 am

Col. Sanders has a good use in mind for such a flash fryer device.

Reply to  Pointman
June 21, 2016 4:47 pm

Maybe Colonel Sanders and this solar plant can work out a business arraingement.
I think it was meantioned previously that the solar plant fried over 25 birds an hour during daylight operation. That’s a lot of nuggets.

June 21, 2016 7:33 am

Let’s do a little economic math here. They built the thing at a cost of $975 million, and they have a contract to sell their electricity at $135/MWh for the next 25 years, with a supposed production of 481,800 MWh/yr. I don’t know how long the plant is supposed to last, so we’ll use the life of the contract as our basis for comparison. I also don’t know annual operating costs (if anyone knows where to find this, I’m all ears), so we will charitably assume it’s $0.
If I’m an investor with $975 million laying around, I could choose to build this plant (we’re going to assume magically overnight), or I could invest my cash elsewhere and expect an annualized return of around 7%, which we’ll be conservative with and round down to 5%. If I chose the latter option, after 25 years I’d have grown my money to ~$3.3 billion. If I chose the former, and the plant hit its performance expectations, I’d get $65 million a year in revenue, which I could then invest at 5%; after 25 years, the combined gains from revenue from the plant and revenue from investing my gains from the plant would be ~$3.1 billion. For those playing along at home, that’s a net loss of $200 million compared to my other option!
And note the assumptions I made here that don’t reflect reality:
-I have the money up front to pay cash for the entire construction (therefore, no financing expenses)
-I built the plant overnight (no delay between the initial investment and when the return starts coming in)
-My traditional investments only return 5% (if we increase it to 7%, the net loss grows to ~$1billion)
-There are no operating costs.
-I get the production that the flier said I would.
I don’t want to rule out salt plants as a potentially viable technology in the future, but to try to sell it as a sound investment in its current manifestation (“not bad as investments go”) is absurd.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Jimmy
June 21, 2016 7:46 am

When investing in a business you must always compute the minimum alternate investment return you could receive and subtract it from your expected return on the business to understand the real rate of return.

T Foster
Reply to  Tom in Florida
June 21, 2016 8:08 am

Solar produces, so I’m told, the rule of thumb max of 6 hours a day at max rate possible for a given Installation. That means you effectively have 18 hours with no generation, every day it’s not cloudy. The more expensive the installation (not merely fields of PV panels) the more glaringly wasteful those idle 3/4 of every 24 hour day appear.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Tom in Florida
June 21, 2016 1:15 pm

That’s what the 5% is for, to act as an unknown baseline.

Bruce Cobb
June 21, 2016 8:17 am

Solar and wind power make perfect sense.
For the math-and-economics-challenged.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Vancouver
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
June 21, 2016 2:45 pm

Bruce, they make perfect cents. Thirteen and a half, to be exact, and that is income, not net income.
As so many comparisons have been made with nuclear it would be good to see a comparison with hydro as is built in Northern Québec. That is ‘real’ renewable.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
June 23, 2016 9:48 am

One must use the new math to arrive at an acceptable green result.

June 21, 2016 8:22 am

Here is a treatise on another CSP (Ivanpah) comparing it with the truly clean energy source –
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plants plants were promoted by the Department of Energy (DOE) from the time the Dep’t was created under Pres. Carter. Several were built over the decades and none performed adequately. One burned up in 1986 and was rebuilt, enlarged, DOE arguing that the plants have to be big to take advantage of economy of scale.
Following that logic, this latest 392 MW (name-plate) giant was built on 13 km2 of land in Mojave Desert at a cost of 2.2 billion dollars. It generated disappointing .4 billion kWh [sic] thus producing at an average rate of 46 MW the first year and just a little more the next.
Note: It is typical for renewable energy projects to show different units for input, rated output and actual output. This practice makes performance and efficiency comparisons cumbersome, and therefore not pursued allowing misinformation to flourish. In the above paragraph, the former value is in “W” but the latter in “Wh.” The author wishes that such reporting use the same unit (preferably W, as with the 392 MW and 46 MW above) or it states, as an example, “…. the plant has been producing 12 % of its name-plate power.”
Rather than focusing on the poor performance of the plant thru its, so far, two years of operation, the following text and numbers show how the planned-for performance, capital and operational expenses, and earnings compare with those of another electricity producing plant.
The designed-for Capacity Factor of 31 % at Ivanpah indicates 120 MW to be the expected actual average output. That wattage was to justify the billions dollars investment, and it is the basis for this analysis.
The 2200 M$ price per 120 MW represents 18 $/W investment. By way of comparison, another nonpolluting source of electricity, nuclear power plant, the Millstone reactor No. 2 in Connecticut, operating at 880 MW since 1975, cost 0.5 $/W; Ivanpah is thus 36 times more expensive (inflation excluded).
With about 1000 employees receiving salary and benefits, the annual outlay for that alone is roughly 100 M$. Selling the annual 3.8 EJ at the projected 0.028 $/MJ yields 106 M$. Ouch – only 6 M$ left for other expenses, notably for natural gas whose burning produces some 8 % of the total output.
For comparison again, the Millstone nuclear plant complex employs also about 1000, and its two reactors have been producing 1870 MW actual electrical output. Assuming the same salaries, benefits, and the electricity selling price, the operating expense is 15 times higher at Ivanpah.
Note that the above two outlays are 35 and 15 times, not percent, higher and that this huge expense gap exists in an industry where a difference of just a few percent means the difference between success and bankruptcy. The magnitude of the gap hints also at the reason why the so-called “free” solar electricity is so expensive.*
As for the occupied land comparison, those 120 MW spread over 13 km2 represents 9.2 W/m2. In contrast, ground based nuclear plants produce some 2000 W/m2 thus utilizing the land area some 200 times more effectively. And they can be erected in any climate and in proximity to users.
If the purpose of the CSPs is to cut CO2 emissions, that expectation is unrealistic. The construction, operating, maintaining and eventually dismantling this plant will at best match the amount of CO2 claimed to be saved in non-burning fossil-fuels for that relatively small amount of electricity. And producing intermittent electricity causes CO2 generation elsewhere.
We must be either excessively rich or ignorant to be building power sources of the type that produce electricity we cannot afford.
Is anyone accountable for approving this already-on-paper deficient project? And for the other CSP projects in existence, being built, or planned?
It should be also pointed out, that the above ratios apply to a plant delivering its planned-for output. In contrast, the plant has averaged only 1/3rd of the plan to date meaning that those ratios are in fact three times worse. This is unusually bad even for a CSP although none of them performs to industry standard, an often heard excuse being that they are still “experimental” (for ½ century?).

John West
June 21, 2016 8:23 am

So, let me get this straight.
It covers 3500 acres and supplies 75,000 homes. There are about 133,957,180 US households. So, it takes care of 0.056% residential demand. Also, just to supply residential demand we’d need 1786 such plants spanning some 732,578,100 square miles which is greater than the contiguous US @ about 3,119,885 square miles. Considering the world is about 1,974,610,563 square miles we’d have to cover 37% of the planet with these things just to supply residential demand. Forget factories and commercial buildings.
Math check please.

Reply to  John West
June 21, 2016 8:48 am

1786 x 3500/640 = 9,767 sq miles

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 21, 2016 10:18 am

As someone else pointed out.
All the best sites will be taken first. Which means that later builds will have a lower power to size ratio than the early builds. Which will mean more land consumed.
Then there is the issue of power transmission. Because of line losses, power plants are usually built within 500 miles of customers. Since only a small fraction of the US population lives in the desert southwest, either most plants will need to be build in places that are cloudier, further north, or both; or they will have to be built in the desert southwest, but suffer huge amounts of transmission losses.
Either way, total area needed increases astronomically.

Reply to  John West
June 21, 2016 8:56 am

Aging slide-rule era engineer here with a math check. Something didn’t ‘feel right’ when I read your calculation.
3500 acres is a little under 6 square miles.
2000 times 75,000 homes is 150,000,000 homes.
Based on the original 3500 & 75,000 numbers… 6 x 2000 should be generous and amounts to 12,000 square miles.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
June 21, 2016 8:26 am

I went directly to the ecowatch.com article, hoping to see something interesting in the “comments” section, but that link goes nowhere. However, not only is their basic math wrong, their accounting is lousy as well.

“The whole project cost slightly under $1 billion and SolarReserve holds a 25-year contract to supply power to NV Energy for $135 per megawatt hour,” OilPrice.com observed. “The tower produces 110 megawatts of energy for 12 hours a day according to the company, which works out to roughly 1 million megawatts per year. This in turn implies a gross [return on assets] of ~13.5 percent—not bad as investments go.”

As David pointed out, 110 MW for 12 hours a day is not anywhere near “roughly” 1 million MWh per year. If we re-do the ROI calculation above we get:
Annual production (MWh) = 110 * 12 * 365.25 = 482130
Wholesale price [contract] (MWh) = $135
Construction Cost = $975,000,000
ROI = 482130 * 135 / 975000000 = 0.066756 = 6.68%, which is nowhere near “~13.5 percent”.
However, that is also wrong because it is counting gross income as “return”. You count return on investment based on net income, after subtracting operating expenses. Nobody makes investment decisions on “gross return on assets” — if isn’t cash coming back to you, it isn’t a “return”.
The EIA report Levelized Cost and Levelized Avoided Cost of New Generation Resources in the Annual Energy Outlook 2015, Table 1 lists “Fixed O&M” and “Transmission Investment” costs for solar thermal as $42.10 and $5.90 per MWh respectively.
So take the contract wholesale price of $135 and subtract $48.00 for the net operating income of $87.00 per MWh. The ROI calculation then goes:
ROI = 482130 * 87 / 975000000 = 0.043020 or 4.30 %
The same EIA report lists solar thermal capacity factor as 20% (lower than onshore wind), so if we go with that, the actual production would be 20% of the nameplate, or 22 MW per hour averaged over the whole year, or 22 * 24 * 365.25 = 192852 MWh / year, or 40% of the value assumed above (or 16071 MHw / month, which is still double the historical production shown in David’s graph).
Redoing the ROI calculation based on the EIA capacity factor we get:
ROI = 192852 * 87 / 975000000 = 0.017208 or 1.72%
which is even further from “nowhere near” the claimed 13.5 percent.
Let me put it this way: it is quite possible in today’s market to raise $975 million in investment with an honest 13.5% ROI over 25 years. But the only investor you can find willing to put down that much money for a 1.72% ROI is the US government. But according to EcoWatch, this is “not bad as investment go”.
I haven’t done the calculation on how much this project ends up costing per 0.1%deg&C it prevents in global warming; feel free if you so desire.

Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
June 21, 2016 10:40 am

Not to mention that the $135/MWh is based on blackmailing the US energy consumer. According to http://www.eia.gov/electricity/wholesale , the typical wholesale price for electricity varies between $20/MWH and $30/MWh. So the US electricity suppliers are paying 4-6 times as much for this ‘green’ power than they would for normal power. And that increase is of course passed on to the end customer.

Tom Yoke
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
June 23, 2016 3:46 pm

Just to close the loop, if they sold the power at the normal wholesale price of $30/mwh and used Allen’s cost accounting then that would yield an ROI of 0.38%. What a deal!

June 21, 2016 8:38 am

I sometimes wish that UK ministers or civil servants would allow themselves time to visit this site, it could save the long suffering UK taxpayer much pain.
According to “Arthur4563” the Westinghouse AP1000 units (are they effectively off the shelf) cost 6M USD /MW . Compare the cost of the Hinkley Point C EPR reactor (that may or may not be built) at £24.5Billion (latest from Wiki, up from original £18 billion) for a 3.2GW reactor . Cost/GW of the Westinghouse model is 1/2 that of the proposed Hinkley point C .
So was Westinghouse ever considered ?
Is it that the Westinghouse unit is too small in capacity and 3 stations would be required for 3 GW , and there is not enough space – Britain being very crowded already and likely to become even more so.?
I noticed also that the agreed strike price of the Hinkley energy is £92.5/MWh , whereas the Wiki aricle I looked at had this additional snippet of information:
“Finland has cancelled its fourth EPR nuclear power plant project at Olkiluoto[54] opting, instead, for a VVER-1200/V-491 reactor estimated to cost ‘less than €50/MWh (5 cents/kWh), including all production costs, depreciation, finance costs and waste management’.[55] ”
This gives the impression that we are led by a Govt of economic and scientific illiterates . Please someone reassure me that this is not so and that my analysis is just too naive.

Reply to  mikewaite
June 21, 2016 8:56 am

“This gives the impression demonstrates that we are led by a Govt of economic and scientific illiterates.”

Fixed it for ya’.

Reply to  mikewaite
June 21, 2016 9:00 am

Mike, don’t panic! Hinckley C will never be built because the French government as EdF’s major shareholder won’t underwrite the financial risk. Our only hope is Rolls Royce-derived Small Modular Reactors until someone bites the bullet and starts work on thorium.

Reply to  Ewan Macdonald
June 21, 2016 9:13 pm

Risk at the price of £92.5/MWh?
Also, if the EPR deal is broken, then EDF will never be able to make any other deal. It’s game over for the credibility not only of EDF but of any French owned society!
France’s credibility is already too low to allow that.
Of course, UK must be on the hook so that they can’t manage to derail the deal with safety nitpicking.

June 21, 2016 8:39 am

I think that all that the Salt storage of heat is going to do is smooth out power production during periods of low solar energy such as when a cloud covers the solar mirrors. Those that think it can provide the other 18 hours of the day should do some math. Determine the heat storage capacity per pound of the salt ( Heat of fusion. Then determine how many BTU’s of heat is needed to produce needed to produce 500 Degree steam at 500 PSI, Next multiply that by the needed 110 megawatts and the efficiency of the steam generation cycle (typically 33% or so). My back of the envelope calculations do not see any tank, with the massive amount of insulation needed, to provide 18 hours of power with no Sun.
Will gladly accept any explanation as to how they can make that claim.

June 21, 2016 8:43 am

So in the Middle of the hot sandy Desert how much fresh water does it take to clean the mirrors

Reply to  Jamspid
June 21, 2016 10:45 am

Good question? Any old western novels I have read set in the Mohave Desert, it is a very dusty environment. Those mirrors probably should be cleaned at least weekly.

Reply to  Jamspid
June 21, 2016 5:59 pm

Echos my own concern. I looked into solar home installations for my home. We get all four seasons. In the Spring, you would have to clean off a layer of yellow pine pollen. In the Summer, dust. Fall, leaves, and Winter, snow and ice. One look at the pictures when I used google images and searched ‘solar panels, snow’, convinced me I didn’t want to rely on solar power.
Besides, in this neck of the woods, you would have to clear-cut so much forest to let the sunshine through, that the local greens would have a conniption fit.

June 21, 2016 8:46 am

I’ll keep saying it: Cost is not a factor to Greens. In fact, their ideals are so solid that they don’t even mind saying “…at any cost” at the end of their gospels.
As long as it’s NOT Fossil Fuel, Greens are happy…at any cost.

Svend Ferdinandsen
Reply to  Bruckner8
June 21, 2016 11:59 am

Saving the world can not be prized (enough).

Mike M. (period)
June 21, 2016 8:50 am

Lorraine Chow,
You are correct in pointing out the idiocy of the reporter. But your second figure is hardly fair. First, 500 Mwh per year (the correct value) is a bit over 40 MWh per month, not 80 MWh as in your figure. Second, the plant is still being tested and has not yet been turned over to its owner (see http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/crescent-dunes-24-hour-solar-tower-is-online-15202). So it is to be expected that it is not yet producing at full power.
IT is, of course, somewhat too expensive to be competitive. But that is always the case for a first-of-its-kind project.

Mike M. (period)
Reply to  Mike M. (period)
June 21, 2016 8:54 am

Oops. The above should have been addressed to David Middleton. Lorraine Chow is the idiot reporter.

Reply to  Mike M. (period)
June 21, 2016 1:07 pm

@ David Middleton 9:51 am,
“SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes Project in Tonopah, Nevada is quietly providing clean, green solar energy to 75,000 homes in the Silver State even when the sun isn’t shining.
Did she check a place where the sun don’t shine? It seems like the article came from that place.

Reg Nelson
Reply to  Mike M. (period)
June 21, 2016 10:08 am

It isn’t a first-of-its-kind project. Ivanpah has been online for two and half years now. It already has asked for loan forgiveness and was on the verge of being shutdown, for not meeting required minimum targets, until the got an extension.

Reply to  Reg Nelson
June 21, 2016 11:55 am

David, for me as a taxpayer it is the same as Ivanpah – a total ripoff.

Joe Public
June 21, 2016 9:15 am

Solar Reserve’s website states only 500,000 MWh pa.

Bryan A
June 21, 2016 10:11 am

There is a problem with the other math as stipulated in the $ – MW quoted as $8,863,636
This figure is based on the Plant Cost of $975M/110MW. Problem is the plant produces this amount hourly and as such the $8M figure needs to be further reduced over the expected life of the facility. They certainly aren’t expending the initial cost of the facility on an hourly basis.
Over the course of a single year, the cost drops to $2,023 per year for a single year operation.
If the plant operated for 15 years with little operating expense, the cost drops to $134.91
So to match their price guarantee they would need to operate for more than 15 years.

June 21, 2016 10:25 am

Is it just me, or does such a facility look vulnerable to “messing” with by people that like to “mess” with things?

Walt D.
June 21, 2016 10:30 am

$135 MWh guaranteed?
Meanwhile, in Texas yesterday, the average hourly price at the Hub-Bus-Average was $26.70 MWh.((The maximum price in any hour was $54).
Seems like someone is being ripped off.

Walt D.
Reply to  David Middleton
June 21, 2016 1:34 pm

David. These are the actual prices from the ERCOT website. This is the average from all generators, which include coal and natural gas.
If you go to http://www.caiso.com and oasis.caiso.com you can get all the information for California.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Vancouver
Reply to  Walt D.
June 21, 2016 2:10 pm

Walt D
“(The maximum price in any hour was $54).”
The essence of the false claim of a >13% return on investment is the payment of a subsidised price for the power.
I am impressed that they got bit working, of course, an engineering marvel. Economic marvel? Not so much. I like others would like the see the net input to the grid shown with all local deductions accounted for to keep it running. An annual figure would probably be sobering. Does the plant consume half of the power generated by the steam plant? I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
Remember there are windmills off northern Scotland that are net consumers of electricity. They have heated nacelles and electric motors to keep the blades turning to prevent the main shaft bending.
Question: how is the cold side of the steam generator cooked? Are they using water sprayed in a cooling tower? Where are they getting it? The big problem with power generation by steam and dry lands is the water. Ask the South Africans. Coal steam, gas steam, solar steam, molten salt steam, it all requires cooling on on huge scale. If there is no open evaporation the efficiency is a lot lower than it might be.

Tom Judd
June 21, 2016 10:39 am

“The average U.S. residential utility customer uses about 900 kWh per month.
“75,000 homes * 900 KWh/month = 67,500,000 kWh/month = 67,500 MWh/month
“In its best month so far, Crescent Dunes generated 9,095 MWh… About 3 hours of electricity per day for 75,000 homes.”
As Glen Reynolds (Instapundit) likes to say: “This is a feature, not a bug.” The intention (albeit not stated) is that we’ll all (of course, with several notable exceptions) have to learn to get along with less. As Maurice Strong has stated, the middle class lifestyle with its single family homes, and AC, is unsustainable. As Barack Obama has stated, we can’t just live wherever we want. The electricity thus generated is probably more than sufficient for high density public housing – with window fans.

Bill Wood
Reply to  Tom Judd
June 21, 2016 5:45 pm

Unfortunately, Elon Musk expects to add 500,000 electric cars by 2018. Tee bulk of these new, cheap ($35k) vehicles will probably be sold in southern California. Converting electricity to a transportation fuel will certainly add to the average households energy budget. The normal pattern of operation will either be charging the car at home at night when the solar system is relying on stored salt heat or charging at work during the day and competing with maxed out air conditioners for power.
Just some thoughts from the experience of having lived in the desert southwest, during the summer months air conditioners need to run at night to maintain sleeping temperatures for modern urban humans.. Also the weather in the Mojave includes sandstorms. A full on sandstorm as the effect on glass of sandpaper. When the shiny mirrors are turned into opal glass, even their current yield will be unattainable. Large scale sandstorms are not frequent, but 25 years is a long time.

Reply to  Bill Wood
June 22, 2016 9:56 am

Good points Bill,
here is some history many will find interesting – hint we have been here before . . con job maybe huh?

June 21, 2016 10:43 am

Yet Another Article that omits the fact that, on average, each of the thousands of heliostats (10,347 for Crescent Dunes) consumes over 100 watts per hour while generating electricity. This 1.034 WWhr is not counted in their calculation of power delivered to homes. In fact none of the power used to operate any of the equipment on the site, lighting, communications, creature comfort, I.e., workers is counted. The claim th Output of the generator as “delivered power” however, the power consumed by th plant is taken from the grid and measured by a separate meter. Typical “house load” is about 10 to 15 %. Which for Crescent Dunes is about one third of the claimed delivered power.
The article completely ignores the required (startup) and actual consumption of natural gas needed to meet their claims. Numerous articles on the Internet indicate tha Ivanpah is generating about one third of their delivered power with/by natural gas heating of the system. Thus this plant is only slightly better in terms of CO2 production than a NG CCTG Unit, at ten times the price and one tenth the capacity factor.

Reply to  usurbrain
June 21, 2016 10:55 am

I take that you meant to say 1.034 MW. Not sure how many hours of the day it uses that much power. If we estimate 8-12, then it is 8-12 MWh per day, or over a quarter of a GWh each month. Compaired to the 9 GWh/month it is currently producing, that is not much (2.5%-3.5%).

Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
June 21, 2016 5:18 pm

Yes MW.
Estimate based upon the fact that the mirrors are the size of garage doors and a garage door opener uses that much power, need to also consider that it takes two each, for azimuth and elevation adjustments. That is the lowest possible power I could estimate as that could be done with worm gear or planetary gear drive system. That size motor though could limit motion during heavy wind conditions.
Then you have the salt pumps, water pumps, for making steam at 500+ psi. The pumps. For the condensate cooling system, water purification system, the pumps for the industrial cooler system, Then the control system, HVAC, lighting, communications, computers (which fail when to hot/cold)and other power loads. Every plant I have worked at has used at least 15% of name plate rated power when in “hot standby.” This is not like a Photovoltaic solar collection panel system, the support systems are big power hogs. You are talking ten to twenty, minimum, pump motors with double, triple digit horsepower rating running 12 hrs a day. Think a typical 100 Mw coal fired power station.(which they don’t make anymore.

Philip Schaeffer
Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
June 21, 2016 8:18 pm

“Estimate based upon the fact that the mirrors are the size of garage doors and a garage door opener uses that much power, need to also consider that it takes two each, for azimuth and elevation adjustments.”
I don’t think you’ve thought this through. A garage door opener only needs the power it does because it has to move the door quickly, and overcome high levels of friction. That’s a completely nonsensical way to determine how much power it takes to keep each panel facing right way.

June 21, 2016 10:57 am

I believe the biggest issue we should be focusing on with these plants is the over priced electricity that they are selling. $135/MWh is 4-6 times the going rate. This is in fact a government mandated subsidy, paid for by the US electrical consumer. This should be creating outrage!

Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
June 22, 2016 9:23 pm

For 25 years. Also replacing a fossil fuel powered plant that is not fully depreciated and must be paid for by the consumer.

June 21, 2016 11:24 am

What’s the budgeted maintenance and depreciation on 10,000 moving mirrors ?
What’s the total moving parts count versus a nuke or fossil ?

Reply to  Bob Armstrong
June 21, 2016 2:09 pm

Yes Bob Armstrong- what is the cost of cleaning all those mirrors of dust accumulation and how often.?

June 21, 2016 11:35 am

How many birds does it fry an hour????

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  David
June 21, 2016 11:54 am

Who cares? They are giving their lives to “save the planet”, that’s all that matters.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
June 21, 2016 3:28 pm

Bruce I need to know how many birds so I can compute the carbon credits. The only way the piece of junk/%$^$ is reducing carbon is by killing things that exhale.

June 21, 2016 11:53 am

My wife and I drove from Southern Nevada to Northern Nevada right after new years. I don’t believe there are 75,000 homes in the entire state!

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Paul
June 21, 2016 1:26 pm

Maybe not, but I’ll bet a couple of big hotels in Las Vegas take more than this plant can produce at full output.
I found a 2007 Forbes article regarding Las Vegas consumption:

The city demands 5,600 megawatts on a summer day. By 2015 that’s expected to hit 8,000.

I assume the figures quotes are actually megawatt-hours. To put that in perspective, the Crescent Dunes CSP facility even at the 50% capacity factor claimed only produces 1320 MWh a day, so we’d need 6 of them to keep Las Vegas running (at the 2015 estimated load). If we take the EIA capacity factor of 20% the daily output is 528 MWh, so we need 15 or so similar CSP plants to keep Sin City in business.

Reply to  Paul
June 22, 2016 3:32 am

Alan – many big hotels etc in Las Vegas have solar panels… and Las Vegas has LED street lighting which has reduced electricity used..

June 21, 2016 12:21 pm

I wish everybody doing the calculations here were using the power unit when considering power. All those kWh per day, MWh per months, per decade, per week, per year – those are simply expressions of power and so the watt applies. Who wants to be converting? Let’s apply the KISS principle. Furthermore, when speaking about the actual power of any renewable source, a whole year must be accumulated before its output becomes comparable. Spring, summer, winter, … the output differs seasonally. Therefore, until the whole year, better yet 5 years, yield is accumulated, judgments are guesses.
To help: 1 kWh/y = 0.114 W; 1 MWh/y = 0.114 kW; 1 GWh/y = 0.114 MW.
Similarly, avoid the “elastic units” such as the “home.” It means what anyone wants it to mean. Here in the US, the EPA coins 1.5 kW for the average US home that uses electricity for all except heating (the local number, of course, varies – from Florida to Alaska). An all-electric home, on the other hand, 7.5 kW (again, anywhere from 5 kW to 10 kW depending on the region). Gas heating alone is about 5 KW in the cooler regions.
Lets uncover the way-out claims such as “enough to power 10,000 houses” (or homes?).

Reply to  jake
June 21, 2016 5:29 pm

Process is used by the renewable energy propagandists to keep you confused.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Vancouver
June 21, 2016 12:28 pm

Looking at the price they are getting for the power, this ‘13.5% return’ is in fact subsidised. If they sold the power retail, which is very unlikely, they would be running a loss. If they sold the power wholesale it would be running a big loss.
So…the technology works, but we already knew it would. It is also economically unviable, but we already knew that too. It roasts birds to cinders. We also knew that it would, bit not how many. I guess we learned something for the expenditure of a billion smackeroos.

June 21, 2016 12:32 pm

Solar CSP in the Obama policy years runs on the same shell game for costs to rate payers as the nuclear industry did under Jimmy Carter’s DoE. The difference today is that it should be a lot more obvious that natural gas supply is boundless for those with pipeline access and much lower forward prices. So with all factors considered, policy leadership is a lot dumber today than in the 1970s. Industry hype is about the same and the shell game on cost incidence is just as efficient as before. Only the names and the executive bravado have changed.

June 21, 2016 2:04 pm

Is there a way to bring up a class action suit against these thieves?

June 21, 2016 2:34 pm

Imagine how many LED bulbs the feds could have given away with $737,000,000!
Let’s assume a relatively high cost of $10/bulb (they are much cheaper for normal 60W equivalent now), because it’s the feds we’re talking about. That’s 73,000,000 bulbs. If these bulbs (8.5W) replaced CFLs (13W), that equates to 4.5W * 73,000,000 * 1h= 328 MWh!

michael hart
June 21, 2016 2:36 pm

If molten-salt thermal energy storage was economically viable then traditional generators would have an economic incentive to use it without subsidies.
But they don’t.
The color of the lipstick you put on the green pig really doesn’t make any difference to the fact that it is still just a pig.

Gunga din
Reply to  michael hart
June 21, 2016 2:43 pm

If you think a solar power plant can be made into is a perpetual energy machine, you might be a Green-neck.

Reply to  Gunga din
June 21, 2016 4:04 pm


Gunga Din
Reply to  Gunga din
June 21, 2016 4:49 pm

Thanks, Menicholas .
The closest we’ll ever come is to utilizing what solar has already stored, more commonly known as “fossil fuels”, is to burn it.
What us old fossils have to contribute isn’t always bad. (despite the methane8-)

Pat from country Vic
June 21, 2016 4:32 pm

I wonder hot much waste heat the thing produces? And what happens to it? Does it, gasp, heat up the atmosphere, by any chance?
Maybe we’ve found the source of polar-bear-drowning ‘global warming’!

Reply to  Pat from country Vic
June 21, 2016 4:41 pm

It “smokes” birds, so unless that would be considered a “design feature”, I’m thinking there is a serious “UHI” dome over these things.

June 21, 2016 4:47 pm

How many birds [a.k.a. smokers] does it kill each day?
When did 24/7 = 3 hours?

Reply to  profitup10
June 21, 2016 5:13 pm

25+ birds fried per hour during daylight operation, was the figure used in a post upthread.

Reply to  TA
June 21, 2016 8:24 pm

Is that “estimated” or “observed”?
If observed, wonder how many smaller birds aren’t observed?

Reply to  TA
June 22, 2016 9:42 am

This is the same technology that Spain went broke trying . . not a 24/7/365 source and costs three times as much as fossil fuel. Check Spain and solar –

Reply to  profitup10
June 21, 2016 8:54 pm

profitup 10: 24/7 is 3.43.

Reply to  Wayne Delbeke
June 22, 2016 9:47 am

Maybe we could just use Pi huh? Green Pi provides all the power the world needs. he he he

Fred of Greenslopes
June 21, 2016 6:05 pm

Saw a TV news item the other day praising an experimental solar plant here in OZ in which heliostats focused on a PV panel to vastly increase the electricity production. To prevent the panel from melting a refrigeration unit provide cooling. I could not help wondering how much power was consumed in the cooling, hopefully less than the device produced.

June 21, 2016 6:18 pm

Guys, it’s a first of its kind pilot plant. No need to be so critical of the economics. As a proof of concept (store solar and deliver energy whenever you need it) it works fine. Or not. But that is what it should be judged on, not some comparison to mature technologies.

Reply to  benben
June 21, 2016 8:12 pm

Hi Ben. This is probably a good example of why our viewpoints differ.
“first of its kind pilot plant”
No, it is not. Everything has been done before.
1) For example WUWT recently ran a story on a similar facility built in the mid 1980s. The gist of it is that the plant failed on every metric and was shuttered. In the early 1990s, it was rebuilt “bigger and better” with “new technologies” and “improved economies of scale”. Again, it was a financial disaster and an operational fiasco, and was finally closed. As far as I know, it’s bones are still out there somewhere in the Calif. desert.
2) Ivanpah sets itself on fire. Enough said.
3) A loooong time ago (1960s): There was a research facility in the Spanish Pyrenees mountains which used mirrors to focus sunlight on a furnace. For a while, they claimed the highest temperatures on earth short of a nuclear blast. (this was just before plasma torches became widespread). When asked about power production, the operator always stressed that this was a research facility, and the plant size and cost is just too large for a practical power plant.
So you see all this has been around for a very long time, perhaps much longer than the PR types would have you believe.
Now we can do engineering and calculations and people can run the financial numbers. If (IF) this were a true pilot plant demonstrator project, we could allow a 2x (perhaps) miss on the targets. On the other hand, if a company, with it’s own money, was doing a demonstrator, we would expect the plant to exceed it’s targets to prove that *it works*.
This project misses not by 2x, but by 10x. Around here, we can do the math better than that. Can you understand why we feel that the plant proponents were less than honest? We also note that huge amounts of taxpayer money are always in play with these projects. Can you understand why people who pay taxes have very hard feelings towards another taxpayer financed boondoggle.

Ian Macdonald
Reply to  TonyL
June 21, 2016 8:44 pm

By contrast a thorium molten salt reactor ran in the 1950’s and did what it was supposed to. Yet, all suggestions that we should revive that technology are talked down in favour of this nonsense. There are bound to be financial risks in any new development, but it would seem more rational to spend the capital on a development which has a chance of working, than on one that’s been tried before and did not work.
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is to keep repeating a failed action again and again, in the hope of a different outcome.

Reply to  TonyL
June 21, 2016 9:55 pm

actually there is quite some work on thorium being done, mostly in India because they have large thorium deposits and want to be energy independent as a political objective. But same as with nuclear, the economic fundamentals just aren’t there. There was quite a lot of research on it because on paper its an incredibly attractive proposition: all the pros of nuclear but without the drawbacks. Too bad!

Reply to  benben
June 21, 2016 9:52 pm

Hey TonyL,
I agree with you that a real discussion of the fundamentals of this type of technology would be interesting. I’ve seen a couple of presentations and IMHO it’s kind of shaky if they will ever get to being economically viable. But the engineering challenges solved to get a plant of that scale running on a daily basis are incredible.
But the discussion above… *sigh* just a bunch of incredibly naive calculations based on a headline from a random website. People here just use it as an excuse to think they are smarter than everyone else while in reality It has nothing to do with the realities of designing and running a plant like that.

Reply to  benben
June 22, 2016 6:00 am

Please cite the differences in numbers from those posted on the Solar Reserve web site. I found no significant differences, other than the extremely rosy picture they projected. Like using name plate (gross) output rather than actual delivered. Yet the claimed nameplate as net. Seemed Solar Reserve is more to blame for the confusion. Search the explanation of difference in gross and net. Solar Reserve has hidden more information than the Clinton foundation has donations.

Reply to  benben
June 22, 2016 1:45 pm

the point is that it is a pilot plant. A technology demonstrator. The US government supports it because they believe that over time the tech will grow, and they want US companies to have a piece of that pie. So what happens here is that they scale up, run into all kind of problems, and then fix that for the next plant that will be even larger. It is interesting to see how WUWT tries to spin that learning curve as a kind of failure of the technology while in the real world this technology has been successfully scaled up using the lessons learnt here and is being actively developed outside the US. The US government investment was very successful in that regard.

Reply to  benben
June 22, 2016 1:58 pm

No, it’s interesting how YOU try to spin the abject failure of that “renewable” whitewash of ridiculously a gas plant that wasn’t even viable on paper.

Tom Halla
Reply to  benben
June 22, 2016 2:14 pm

Benben and Roger Sowell–if the technology is so promising, why don’t rich greens finance those puppies? Relying on public financing is an admission it is really all politics.

Reply to  benben
June 23, 2016 9:16 am

Did Spain not prove this technology did not work 24/7/365 and did they not prove that the cost to produce KWH power at a price competitive price. Spain is buying nuclear power from France as is Germany. Germany and others buy Hydro power from the Nordic regions.

Reply to  benben
June 23, 2016 6:06 am

Tom Halla, I understand you would say that, but this is a very simplistic way of looking at the role of government in innovation. Early stage innovation is almost always funded by governments because they can take much higher risks. Stuff like the internet, plastics, etc. etc. all of it finds its basis in government funded r&d. Anyway, you should of course discuss whether the technology is viable even when scaled up, but to pretend that a pilot plant should compete economically in an established market space is pretty ridiculous, and that is exactly what is happening here.
[Military R&D actually. Because, the civilians in “government” survive anything. And everything. The military gets killed if the opposing force thinks faster than they do. .mod]

Reply to  benben
June 23, 2016 10:16 am


France – Espagne : création d’une nouvelle interconnexion souterraine de 65 km
Cette nouvelle ligne a permis de doubler le niveau d’interconnexion entre la France et l’Espagne, qui est passé de 1,4 GW à 2,8 GW, ce qui reste inférieur aux 10% minimum que recommande l’Union européenne.
L’investissement, environ 700 M€, a été supporté à 50% par RTE et à 50% par REE (Red Eléctrica de España), via leur société commune Inelfe (INterconnexion Électrique France-Espagne) L’interconnexion a été déclarée «Projet d’intérêt européen» et a été financée par l’Union européenne à hauteur de 225 M€ maximum dans le cadre du programme EEPR (European Energy Program for Recovery). Il a également bénéficié d’un prêt de la Banque européenne d’investissement de 350 M€ consenti à RTE et à REE.

From 1.4 GW to 2.8 GW, so an additional capacity of 1.4 GW, for 700 M€, so we get 2 W of France/Spain per €.
And Europe is telling us to do more of that crap.

Reply to  benben
June 23, 2016 6:13 am

Two plants of this type (121 MW) are being built in Israel, the first one is scheduled to go online next year.

June 22, 2016 3:25 am
June 22, 2016 4:39 am

Well sure it’s a big, ridiculously expensive and unwieldy, and not very effective in creating energy.
However, it remains a great business opportunity with the government guaranteeing 76% of your investment. It’s like going to Las Vegas with a million dollars with the government paying back as least $760,000 of what you lose. This does not include price guarantees which guarantees profits as well.

June 22, 2016 5:18 am

I wonder what those Liberal AG’s are on this one? Unlike the oil companies, the lies spread about solar are causing real financial damage.

Reply to  CO2isLife
June 22, 2016 6:02 am

State AG should sue Ivanpah and Crescent Dunes.

Reply to  usurbrain
June 22, 2016 9:49 am

The project got a waiver from the e=green endangered species act for killing animals and insects on the endangered list? Hello .. .

Reply to  CO2isLife
June 22, 2016 10:23 am

The State AG should sue them for false advertising and lies about “delivered” electric power. Look at their web sites and the number of homes they claim these facilities will power.

June 22, 2016 5:30 am

Alternate headlines
World’s First 24/7 Solar Power Plant Powers 2.7 Million Homes for 5 minutes per day
(Utility-scale solar advocates don’t read past the ‘# homes’ part)
World’s First 24/7 Solar Power Plant Powers My Little House for almost 10,000 years per day
(Their interest in a solar powered grid is contrived and actually stems from a selfish preoccupation with their own house, bankrupting the country to jump start the technology so they can buy more cool stuff, or have the evil power companies buy it for them. Like the famous New Yorker Magazine ‘map’ that shows areas beyond NY as indistinct blobs, their vision for the future does not clearly discern renters or persons making less than $30k/yr.)
DISCLAIMER: My characterization of ‘hypothetical solar advocate’ is in no way intended to represent some imaginary person, living or dead. These people are real and I have encountered them.

June 22, 2016 6:47 am

Just how low would power production be in December? Surely notably lower than February or March. How large does the “base load” plant need to be to cover the shortage on a cloudy December day? How many cloudy Winter days are there? What does that add to costs?

Randy in Ridgecrest
June 22, 2016 7:31 am

Having lived in the Mojave Desert for 30 years now I am astounded and dismayed at the apparent ease that these projects have of getting permits to literally blade off square miles of precious “habitat”. Over the last few decades environmental groups working through the BLM have systematically reduced access (beyond walking) into vast areas, usually in the name of some endangered animal – e.g. Desert Tortoise or Mojave Ground Squirrel. Generally I am against this creeping closing of public lands and have put my money where my mouth is fighting it. But now all you have to do is put together some hairbrained (from a practical engineering point) scheme and you are on your way with gov financial backing and some kind of rammed through from above environment impact process (for Kali – CEQA Ca Environmental Quality Act), and you get to spend a billion dollars while conducting habitat (and scenic) destruction on a massive scale.

Reply to  Randy in Ridgecrest
June 22, 2016 10:31 am

SoCal born & raised desert rat. I also am dismayed over much of the desert encroachment but would be much more positive for these projects if they actually delivered as promised.
The bird flares etc. are a real bummer though and if the power generated isn’t cost-effective these places should be shuttered and experimental stations should be kept small till they are.

Reply to  harkin1
June 23, 2016 9:30 am

Closed – like the ARCO project in the 80s. Not one can come even close to meeting the low cost of nuclear or natural gas. The west coast is littered with closed solar, geothermal, and wind projects.
Do not accept lies and misrepresentations – demand proof and valid numbers. Include required 100% grid load back up generators.

June 22, 2016 10:27 am

If these are the three collection fields south of town (Tonopah) then I flew over these on Monday on my way to SLC. I had no idea they had built these. The bright foci were very similar to Ivanpah.

June 22, 2016 2:27 pm

The real problem is, to energize Los Angeles, we would have to cover all of the Mohave Desert with these monstrous things.

June 23, 2016 9:12 am

I would point out that since it is a molten salt – theoretically it can generate 24 hours a day.
The rated capacity is likely due to the molten salt –> electricity process, which is not a solar PV number.
Of course, as noted, reality isn’t the same as theory, but there may be a very fundamental math assumption/error in the article.

June 29, 2016 6:01 am

The only math necessary is this: burning C02 = Death by global warming or climate change while renewable energy=hope for the future.

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