Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

The BBC, that bastion of slanted reportage on all things green, has an article about a new solar power plant entitled “The Colossal African Solar Plant That Could Power Europe“. It’s full of all kinds of interesting information about the plant, located in Ouarzazate, Morocco. Man, how come Africa gets all the great place names, that one just reeks of mystery, “Ouar-za-za-te”, makes me want to go visit … but I digress. It’s called the “Noor” power plant, from the Arabic word for “light”.

The reporter talks about a variety of things, including the fact that on the day the reporter visited it was overcast … but somehow, despite hyperventilating about just how awesome and gosh-dang wonderful the plant is and the difference this will make to the planet, the reporter never got around to talking about the cost. Funny, that.


Being a congenial sort of fellow, at least on a good day with a following wind, I figured I’d give them a hand. The relevant numbers are available at the Wikipedia page—the plant cost $3.9 billion dollars US ($3.9E+9, much of it a gift from hard-pressed European taxpayers diverted by guilty CO2-obsessed European liberals), and it produces 370 gigawatt-hours per year (370E+9 watt-hrs).

Now, in the US a power plant typically sells its product for something like six cents US per kilowatt-hour. Multiplying that by 370 GWhr/year gives us an annual value of the energy produced of about $22,000,000 dollars per year.

And at twenty-two mega-bucks per year, how long will it take to pay back the $3.9 billion dollar cost of the plant?

Er … um … breakeven time is a hundred and seventy-seven years … but only if there are zero maintenance costs … and if there is no interest on any borrowed funds … and if you don’t count avoided income available from investing the four giga-bucks elsewhere for a century … ooogh.

However, I do note that on the Wikipedia page it says that they are selling the electricity wholesale at US$ 0.19 per kilowatt-hour. Not good news for poor people in Morocco. This brings the breakeven time down to a mere fifty-six years … again if there are no maintenance costs, no interest costs, and no avoided income.

You know, people keep selling these plants on the basis of saving the world, but at that horrendous cost and huge breakeven time, I’m not sure we can afford to keep saving the poor thing time after time …

Further research, however, elucidates the conundrum. It turns out that this is not just an energy generation plant. It’s a moral lesson for the world and a harbinger of the future and will save CO2 and serve as a template for really big money wasting projects and … hang on, that’s my interpretation. Let me get the actual claims, curiously from a Freedom of Information Act document. To start with, it says:

Both cost-effectiveness analysis and cost-benefit analysis indicate that the project is not economically justified under prevailing economic conditions. 

Ya think???

However, the plant is supposed to provide the following intangible benefits:

  • Climate change mitigation
  • Increase in factors of production (physical capital, human capital, and natural capital)
  • Accelerated innovation, through correction of market failures in knowledge
  • Enhanced efficiency, through correction of non-environmental market failures
  • Increased resilience to natural disasters, commodity price volatility, and economic crises
  • Job creation and poverty reduction

My favorite? “Correction of non-environmental market failures”. That’s got to be worth big bucks.

So all you have to do is to put numbers on those intangibles, make the values large enough, and suddenly this money-losing proposition will be ready to “power Europe” … at three times the market cost of electricity … not counting significant transmission costs … as soon as the multibillion dollar high voltage high ampacity DC undersea power cable gets funded and designed and laid across the Mediterranean from Morocco to Europe …

Another beautiful green dream ship wrecked on a reef of hard economics. It least it seems no US taxpayer money is going into this debacle. That’s good news, because we need it to line Elon Musk’s pockets …


Por favor, if you disagree with someone please QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU DISAGREE WITH. I can defend my own words, but only if I know which ones you are referring to.


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James Kramer

I assume that 3.9 Billion does not include the costs of a sea bottom transmission line to Europe. I’m not an electrical engineer but is that even possible without intermediate stations which would have to be sea bottom as well. You also need to add in the transmission costs.

James Kramer

I checked a couple of things, the Gibralter Strait is 9 miles across roughly at the closest point between the Africa and Europe. It ranges between 900 and 3000 ft deep and the bottom profile is rough.
Germany, France and Spain collectively used about 1,250,000 GW/hr in 2015

Power all of Europe through one transmission line?
What a target: one key point to destroy all of Europe!!!
Did they count the BILLIONS that will be required to defend it from terrorists?

Bryan A

This thing will be just like Ivanpah when completed.
Total of 3 molten salt reactors…
Cover about 5 square miles…
Have a nameplate capacity similar to Diablo Canyon Unit 1…
Probably produce about 1/4 of that…
Still require conventional backup to keep the salt hot…
As for powering Europe goes…RIIIGHT perhaps power 1 in 50 homes for 6 hours a day

Samuel C Cogar

blockquote>….. and it produces 370 gigawatt-hours per year
I assume that actually means …..
it produces 370 gigawatt-hours ….. per each group of ‘365 / 6-hour’ non-cloudy/non-dust stormy days
And who/what provides the power for the other 18 hours of each of those 365 days?

It is one giant terrorist target from a few crazy Muslims running around chasing camels on the sands of North Africa.


The high power line is routine engineering for at least 50 years. They want to build a long power line from Iceland to England. High power DC is the way they do undersea power lines since day 1..
The real trouble is 1 GWH per day is a trivial amount of power. Not worth building a power line to get such a trivial amount of power..

Bryan A

Seeing what has happened in the Mojave, 1GWH per day will probably be 300MW without fossil assistance


1 GWH per day / 24h = 1E09 / 24 GWH per hour = 41.7 MW
If they can make that into 300 MW, they have solved the world’s energy problems !

Tim Crome

Norway and Germany are currently “investing” in a power interconnector for the small sum of 28BNOK, about $4B. It may not be directly comparable but gives an indication of the order of magnitude of the cable cost.
The Norwegian German project is another green scheme to allow Norwegian hydroelectric to balance German wind and solar. The effect on us poor norwegian power consumers is that we will have to pay both higher electricity costs (El in Norway is currently cheaper than in Germany, but that will even out.) and half of the investment!
Another cable will connect Norway to the UK, total amount of copper for both sets of cables is 280000T, so I guess the copper producers are happy!

Nigel S

Don’t forget to allow for a ship dragging its anchor which is believed to be the cause of the loss of half the France/UK interconnector in November and possibly the straw that breaks the camel’s back for us this winter.
To add insult to injury the Met Office have taken to naming every bit of bad weather to keep up with the big boys in USA. Hence ‘Angus’; I’m shocked, shocked to know that there is bad weather in The English Channel in November.


Tim Crome “us poor norwegian power consumers” I’ve been to your beautiful country this year but I was sad to see how your country is changing in a Big Brother state where government wants to know how you move and what you spent. I thought Norwagians were freedom loving people. I’ve seen the same thing hapening in Denmark and Sweden.

Don K

“Seeing what has happened in the Mojave, 1GWH per day will probably be 300MW without fossil assistance”
Different technology Bryan. Ivanpah is molten salt which isn’t working as well in practice as on paper and in pub/internet ahem … “discussions”. Quarzazate looks to be solar PV which is reasonably well understood. It might actually deliver 1GW. And it shouldn’t need fossil fuel assist … just fossil fuel or nuclear or hydro or something backup. BTW, since the sun doesn’t shine at night and PV doesn’t work well at low sun angles and there are some cloudy days, Quarzazate is probably something like 3GW one third of the time rather than 1GW continuous.

Bryan A

Wow Tim, if your figures pan out, just look at all those Green Jobs being created /snarkasm

Tim Crome

Nordlink webside with indicative costs and the envisaged benefits.

The noon solar power plant consists of two solar trough plants with different capacity molten salt storage, a solar tower plant with molten salt storage and and a PV power plant.
Seems they do a research what works best.
Check the details at


Cables are old technology. They should transmit the power via satellite!

Ronald Todd

A giga watt of power from Arab lands beamed down from satellite what could possibly go wrong?

The Original Mike M

via satellite! … all to Al Gore’s house.

“Cables are old technology. They should transmit the power via satellite!”
Dude, It’s all wireless these days.
Homage to Fletch !!


If you look at the design criteria for 10KW Reunion island feed you will see the problem
The beam needs to be 17m wide for 10KW to keep the power level below biological safe level of 5 mW/cm2.
It s a simple calculation power (10KW) divided by cross sectional area (2226 cm2)
Now try the calculation of 40MW or 330MW 🙂
If you can’t do the maths you need a 320m wide beam for 40MW and a 2100m wide beam for 330MW. Nice antenna arrays for those sizes 🙂
I guess the alternative is to fry anything flying into the beam … if you get it high enough in density we could go for instant fried bird for the locals as a side benefit.

Joe Public

The Beeb’s reporter also ‘forgot’ to mention ……

Fossil Fuel Needs
Energy supply using fossil fuel is crucial in order to:
– maintain the eutectic salts at high temperature so that they remain liquid (solidification at 110°C), and
– maintain the temperature of the oil above its minimal operational temperature (8°C for synthetic oil) and feed the pumps at night so that oil keeps circulating in the circuits.
Back-up fuel needs for the Ouarzazate complex have been estimated at 19T/day of gasoil for a capacity of 500 MW. Gasoil with a sulphur content of 50 ppm is recommended.



That probably explains those large oil tanks in the picture.

19T/day? Is that 19 tons? That is not trivial.


My last power bill retailed to me at about 4,4 cents a KWH. That’s power generated from coal.

I’d bite your hand off for 4.4c/kWh. My tariff here in Fife, (Scotland) is around 14p/kWh when all the fixed costs are included.

bit chilly

luckily we have not had any proper winters for a while here on the east coast,so usage is down. with the amount on biomass plants of differing sizes being built around the kingdom i am hoping the uhi effect will keep the usage low 😉

And of course, every apple you eat, every toilet you flush, every council service you use, are gobbling up 14.4p/kWh that’s passed onto you (and me, I only live 400 miles from you).


The 4.4 KWH cents doesn’t include all the fixed costs. One of the my bills that I checked a while back, put the total cost at around 14 cents a KWH when everything was factored in. I’m in Alberta Canada.

John F. Hultquist

From central Washington State
Residential rate, monthly
Facilities Charge . . . . . $19.00
Energy Charge … . . . . $0897/kWh
Our house is 100% electric
Wood stove for emergency heating


Just across the county border its 14.3 pence per unit – double what it was just eight years ago, There’s some serious gouging getting done on an intransigent public. Peterhead gas station recently lost out amongst the spare capacity boondoggle. Our so-called ‘executives’ will soon meet reality. Personally, I’d criminally try them for public offence under office.

We come close to 30 €ct/kwh here in Germany, all costs and taxes included.

Willis Eschenbach

In California the insane Renewables Mandate has doubled the cost in a decade, we’re up to $0.15 here … and Anthony gets charged over ninety cents a kilowatt-hour at peak time in Chico.

90 cents???? That’s insane!!!!

So scratch that intangible “poverty reduction” and change it to “poverty creation”.


That’s bad. In California you’re lucky that you don’t have to run a furnace all winter long, and whatever kind of winter you do get, isn’t as long or cold as ours is here in Alberta.


Looking at my electric bill here in Fallbrook, CA. 15c for first 369 kwhr; then goes to 39c kwhr after that . Burning ~900kwh per month gets me ~29.2c/kwhr overall. Then there are the additional line and delivery charges which adds another $15 to the bill.

Rob – I think you must be looking at an old bill. My last EPCOR bill worked out to $233.27 for 2373 kWh which is 9.8 cents per kWh (October 14 to November 14) with taxes, distribution charge, transmission charge, rate rider, Balancing Pool Allocation and Local Access Fee. The Generation Charge was close to yours at 4.34 (two rates – 887 kWh at 3.684 and 1486 kWh at 4.385).
Power costs are down by about 2/3 from a couple of years ago when the economy in Alberta was going all out before the oil crash and surplus power wasn’t available. Then the generating charge was north of 11 cents per kWh and total charges were 16 to 17 cents per kWh.
Right now, the Pool price is depressed due to the crappy economy and low demand. Even the current cold snap isn’t expected to make much difference.
Now the Carbon tax and other regulation changes coming in January of 2017 is something else.
Reading the Provincial Government budget, out here in Faraway, Alberta (yup it’s a real place), my annual costs (Fuel, heating electricity etc -) look to be going up by about $5,000 per year and though I am long retired, selling my farm puts me in the category of No Carbon Tax Rebate that the government is advertising every day on TV. Even if I did, I bet the net cost versus the rebate won’t balance out for most people.
Government “watch the pea” game at it’s best. We all know the pea is palmed and there won’t be any winners except the “House”.
Sorry for the rant, Rob. Stay warm. My weather station says 26C below right now (30 with wind chill). Time to put another log on the fire.
Great article Willis.
Looks like solar makes sense in California with those kind of mid day electricity rates. But where I live, at this time of year, I get less than 3 hours a day of sunlight over the trees south of my house. Pretty much none on December 22.comment image?oh=d7affb38ec2073532aab98398bb9ab72&oe=58B659FE


what’s truly insane is the provincial Liberal Government here in Ontario paying $0.80/kWh on 20 year contracts to homeowners/farmers/businesses who bought into rooftop solar photovoltaics (those who could afford the installations, that is). When the going peak rate is roughly $0.18/kWh
Did you know that the Niagra Falls hydroelectric turbines are running at something like 25% capacity?
Seems like some ‘renewables’ are more equal than other ‘renewables’…
No matter, Ontario is waaay past defacto bankruptcy. I’d say, ‘don’t invest’ but hey! Extend and Pretend. It’s the way of the world it seems.


(spell check. dang.) “Niagara” Falls. And Wayne D: – thanks I guess for reminding me – The Ontario Carbon Tax coming as well, January 1st. Great windfall for corporations here, who can purchase discount carbon credits from the collapsed world market at far below set price here. Great scheme.
Follow the money.

I’m paying 25 (Euro) cents/KWh in Munich.

Steve Keppel-Jones

Tiburon: the provincial Ontario Liberals are funding that preposterously over-subsidized tariff with taxes on your electricity and mine. The cost to produce the electricity is about 3 cents. We are paying 8 to 18 cents depending on the time of day. (Not counting transmission, distribution, fixed infrastructure, taxes, surcharges, etc. etc.) The difference is what’s paying for those vastly overpriced “renewable” installations… and it’s going to get significantly worse with the new carbon taxes in January!


Still not the highest in the USA. The Connecticut average is $0.17/kVAh.

Manoel Silvestre-Borges IV

I have to laugh whenever someone talks about electricity prices in the teens of cents per KWH being the “highest in the US”. We pay over $0.26/KWH on Kauai and Molokai is suppposedly over $0.30. Hawaii has been a US state for over 57 years…

NW sage

Here in the NW, the government funded (capital) and operated [Corps of Engineers] and distributed [Bonneville Power Authority – a government corporation] hydro power (upwards of 75% of our power used) now costs us between 9 and 10 cents USD per kwh ‘delivered’ to the door. The cost varies depending on the amount of flow that must be diverted if the salmon and steelhead in the Columbia river decide its time to spawn. And my area is served by a PUD [public cooperative – not for profit].

John F. Hultquist

See my comment above where I missed a decimal point:
Energy Charge … . . . . $0.0897/kWh
Very similar situation, I think.


@ Wayne Delbeke
December 10, 2016 at 7:32 pm
No, I’m looking at the last Epcor bill which I just got from the mailbox yesterday. It’s not due until Dec. 22. This bill is up about $4.00 from the one before that which was $97 and change. I know the rates are low right now and have been for a while, and other than their stupid carbon tax, the rates are suppose to stay general low for the next four years. Temperature here right now, -20C. The crooks that run the province now, are running it into the ground. I think it’s going to get very expensive to live here, and since I’m retired, we’ve been talking about selling out and moving down to BC where winters are shorter and not as cold. Maybe in the Creston area or something like that.

Don K

Ooops — damn. I guess it IS molten salt. Might well work as poorly as Ivanpah.

steven f

The current door 1 facility only has 3hours of molten salt storage. In the morning there isn’t enough heat left in the tanks to preheat the turbine. Therefore a second heat source of (fossil fuel) must be used to preheat in the morning. The NoorII and III will have 8hours of molten salt storage available and in the morning will probably have enough residual heat left to preheat the turbine.
Ivanpah has Zero thermal storage. It needs natural gas to preheat the turbine in the morning.

You have just refilled all my amunition pouches, thanks for the present Willis. Merry Christmas.

Roy Jones

The Guardian gave it a write-up earlier this year:
They give the final cost as $9 billion:
“It is a very, very significant project in Africa,” said Mafalda Duarte, the manager of Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which provided $435m (£300m) of the $9bn project’s funding. “Morocco is showing real leadership and bringing the cost of the technology down in the process.”
Although they are getting a lot for their money:
“The power station on the edge of the Saharan desert will be the size of the country’s capital city by the time it is finished in 2018, and provide electricity for 1.1 million people.”
Perhaps they needed a show-case project for their presentations at the Marrakech Climate Change Conference. When you’re the host you have to make some sort of an effort if you want the subsidies to keep rolling in.

Patrick Ernst

The power generation systems in Africa are woeful. I know a lot of Africans, from central Africa through to the North. Many run small businesses and are entrepreneurial. Others will take on humble jobs as cleaners, taxi drivers, aged carers and the like. They are taking the opportunity, here in Australia, to get their kids educated. Awesome peoples – kind and generous.
The European colonial mindset is still strong amongst some people, except is is intellectual colonialism. The “I know better what is best for you” thinking. If you do a search on Wikipedia for “power stations in Africa” you can see how woeful is the situation for the vast number of African countries. Countries like Ethiopia have enormous hydro resources but most other countries are generating pitiful amounts of power using diesel and other fuel oils. Some decent new coal and/or new gen nuclear with a proper grid would end the famines and wars in Africa, I believe.
Thanks for the great, if saddening, maddening post Willis.

I think it was Matt Ridley who made a statement in his book ‘The rational Optimist’ where he says that wars are fought over food, nothing more.
Access to cheap energy and technology has allowed our agricultural systems to keep up with our population (so much so that the EU was chucking food down the drain to ensure competition was stifled) but we deprive the developing world of the same fossil fuel energy we used to get rich.
I have, for many years, struggled with the relative ethics of socialism and capitalism (well, conservatism). I always believed capitalism was the right course, but the altruistic side of socialism also attracted me.
My conundrum has finally been solved with the juxtaposition of the relative extremes, indeed the apparent flip where it seems capitalism is revealing itself, starkly, as more concerned with people and humanity that the socialism.
I never got the quote “Any man who is not a socialist at age 20 has no heart. Any man who is still a socialist at age 40 has no head.” as I thought people adopted lifelong political views. Now I’m over 40 (ahem…..well over 40) I’m glad I am now a capitalist (conservative) just as I was in my youth.
I now despise the stranglehold the left have had over the western world for the last 40 years or so. I despise them for their selfish desires couched in terms of caring for everybody whilst taxation is their principle means of wealth and non-jobs the pinnacle of achievement.
I’m all for the environment, wild animals, flowers, clean air and water, healthy living etc. But if we can’t afford anything but gruel to eat, we are doing something badly wrong, and socialism is rapidly sending us down the route of a gruel society.
I will be kneeling down at my bedside tonight, for the first time ever, and praying to an entity I don’t believe in, that Donald Trump is the real deal.
Dear Lord
may The Donald
liberate America and
encourage prosperity
The UK is at the start line
of Europe’s liberation
Talk to Russia and China
make the deal
not insecurity
their people are praying
Make trade
not war.


Good post, HotScot. I, and many others, hope your prayer is answered.

John P Miller

The dilemma you felt between free market capitalism as a mechanism to ensure economic freedom and maximize wealth for all and the altruism of socialism is resolvable as follows. First, altruism MUST BE voluntary. One cannot force (at the point of a gun) someone else to be “charitable.” The result of such force is neither altruism nor charity. Therefore, socialism, which supports the notion that the State can use its legitimate force to compel some to give the fruit of their labor to others has NOTHING to do with altruism — or charity.
Therefore, for a just, civil, and prosperous society in which people are free to maximize who they can be economically and morally, one needs free market capitalism, a governmental structure that strongly reveals and punishes violence and fraud, and social institutions that encourage charity (which, by definition, must be voluntary).
I believe it is the mistake of thinking that taking care of those incapable of doing that themselves to a standard each of us deems acceptable should be compelled by the use of legitimate force (i.e., government) is what causes people to feel the dilemma you felt.
If one believes that forcing others to “give” to those less fortunate (to the standard and degree decided by those wielding that force) is acceptable, then any atrocity is possible.

Kaiser Derden

“capitalism is revealing itself, starkly, as more concerned with people and humanity that the socialism.” I sincerely hope it didn’t take you years to come to that realization … I’ll guess your original ideas on capitalism came from a socialist teacher … and your current observation is just as wrong … capitalism is not concerned with humanity … capitalism is about freedom and its thru freedom that people and humanity take care of themselves just fine … just stop with the virtue signaling … take care of yourself and your family and friends … nobody else needs your virtuous help 🙂

Kalifornia Kook

I’m an American. Our press loves to conflate crony capitalism with capitalism (and they are no where near the same). The Donald has made many promises. If he tries to achieve a small percentage of them, he will go down in history as a great president. When one looks at his Cabinet selections and transition team appointments, one can be shaken by the immensity of the problem he seems to be trying to solve. I was slow to come to backing him – and frankly, this was the first presidential election I did not support monetarily, because 1) he had no chance, and 2) he was probably blowing smoke.
But these appointments. They dwarf his words. He’s acting like a company CEO. He may make things happen. And if he does, he may change our lives – the world – dramatically for the better. He may achieve his silly-seeming rhetoric.
Then again, maybe he will turn into a politician, and we’re all screwed as usual. “Same shit, different day.”

Patrick MJD

Go to Lagos, Nigeria, to see what “renewable nirvana” will look like when people deploy their own power systems.

Patrick MJD

“Patrick Ernst December 10, 2016 at 3:26 pm
Countries like Ethiopia have enormous hydro resources…”
There is a hydro plant on the Blue Nile, near the “Whispering Falls”, which diverts ~75% of water to generation. Downstream, Ethiopia is building the biggest hydro plant in Afica. Dwarfs Aswan. Countries downstream are a little concerned.

Gene Doebley

Did the article mention what they do for power on cloudy days and over night?


Well, Gene, we will run diesel generators here in the UK. Of course.
Now, I like ‘environmentally friendly’ solutions. Most of my rain water goes into soakaways here on the South Downs, south of London.
But they need to be cost-effective ones.
I get a bit back fro the sewage company because I use soakaways
I’ve been to Ouzazate [a Marrakesh holiday day-trip in about 2005] Big film studio there, but also does get overcast – Atlantic clouds.
Name plate versus Actual. And if they have to run a Diesel to keep it warm – the green starts looking very green [with pictures of past Presidents . . . . . . .]
No – not snarko directo.
At all!

Lil Fella from OZ

Costs? What costs. The Left don’t see the financial side of things


Costs will be paid by buying a printing press for each solar plant. Employees, repairs, operating costs, and interest charges will be paid for in cash, offset by sale of power to users. A very small fraction of the output energy will be used to power the printing press, making the plant self-sustaining. Trump and his fellow oil industry capitalist minions will probably say this is all bogus, but don’t be fooled. Global warming think of the children robust Koch brothers Hitler 97% Putin ocean acidification dead coral malaria rising sea level extinctions dandruff Zika wooga-wooga monster…


Yeah, it’s like “lets double the costs” and “lets halve the price”, and “government should give money for this”.
The middle class, not totally convinced on the idea, is still forced to pay it all.

Very true.
Most calculations they make are static.


Most calculations ‘they’ make include a rather variable factor linked [indirectly] with the cost of fresh unicorn droppings.
Thus, magically – QED.
Free translation of QED is –
‘The answer you wanted/desired/lusted after can be delivered . . . . and IS! Just like that!’
[Apologies to Tommy Cooper, Comic Genius.]
I do futures in unicorn droppings, fresh, fermented or dried.

Claude Harvey

There’s not a central solar plant anywhere in the world that can stand on rational economics. One must resort to a perverted “good versus evil, benefits/cost analysis” in order to justify the awful things. And one must not include among those costs the backup and/or energy storage capital required to accommodate intermittent and variable solar power output.

And if, as we are assured, the climate is already beyond the ‘tipping point’ these mad schemes will be useless anyway as the climate will create hurricanes, droughts, dust storms etc. so they won’t work anyway.
What planet do these people live on?

Bill Crow

Now all they need is advanced grid storage and transmission capability to actually use the electricity that might be intermittently generated.


I once facetiously proposed a data storage system that would store information by placing it into endlessly circulating packets on a token ring LAN. Perhaps a similar scheme could be used for the power gnerated here by building more or thicker wires!

I thought that style plant looked familiar. It is a concentrated solar plant (CSP) from Abengoa. That Spanish company is in bankruptcy, its US subsidiary is in liquidation with the US government trying to recover $165 million of the $2.2 billion Abengoa received in guarantees and subsidies from the US alone. Great deal for the US. Great deal for Morocco. NOTs.
For economics of CSP and PV solar, see previous guest post Grid Solar at Judith’s Climate Etc.

Curious George

It is a victory of philantropy over brain.

I’m a taxpayer, not a philanthropist!

John W. Garrett

What’s wrong with you ?
Why are you so worried about cost ?
Don’t you know it’s OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY ?
There’s an infinite supply of OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY.

Bloke down the pub

Increased resilience to natural disasters, commodity price volatility, and economic crises
Good to know that Morocco doesn’t have any natural disasters that will affect it as much as they would a coal fired plant.

Mark from the Midwest

But it’s so shiny!

David Chappell

For now…


Wait for the first sandstorm followed by the first rain.
Unless they have developed a solar panel that works when covered in 2″ of crusted sand.
And yes, it does rain in Morocco.


Accelerated innovation, through correction of market failures in knowledge
Enhanced efficiency, through correction of non-environmental market failures
well, at least they plan on learning from their mistakes
So they set this thing up…no knowing what they were doing….but plan on learning how to do it later

” [At] least it seems no US taxpayer money is going into this debacle.”
I think that’s not precisely true. The U.S. spends 3.3% of GDP on military spending. Germany spends just 1.2% and France only 2.2%. We cover much of the cost of protecting them, and of policing the world, which leaves them money to blow on boondoggles like this.

Willis Eschenbach

Thanks, Thomas. How much we spend overall is our own choice. How much we spend on NATO is a different question. The new Secretary of Defense and the rest will readjust the NATO burden to fall more equitably. Trump said he’d do it, and he will.

Philip Schaeffer

Willis said:
“Trump said he’d do it, and he will.”
Well, Trump also said he’d prosecute Hillary Clinton…. We’ll see, but “because Trump said he would” doesn’t count for much.

Willis Eschenbach

Philip Schaeffer December 11, 2016 at 12:59 am

Willis said:

“Trump said he’d do it, and he will.”

Well, Trump also said he’d prosecute Hillary Clinton…. We’ll see, but “because Trump said he would” doesn’t count for much.

Readjusting the NATO burden was a part of his stated platform. Locking Hillary up was a throwaway campaign line.
Let me also note that the President cannot say to the FBI “Don’t investigate Joe Bloggs” or any other citizen. That’s up to the FBI, which is totally independent in that regard … and which also has investigations of the Clinton Foundation going in five cities …
So regardless of what the President says, (1) there won’t be a new email investigation barring new evidence, and (2) the FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundation will continue.
That means that the President-Elect gets a freebie—he gets to be the good guy, magnanimous, the bigger man … and the investigation of the Clinton Foundation goes on regardless. It’s a win-win.


Do you read the Dilbert bloke – Scott Adams?
His blog is interesting.
Pre-election and post-election Trumps are different animals, if I understand right.
Not sure how that will play in middle America [likewise pro-anti-Brexiteering Remoaners here].
Probably needs some fidelity to campaign statements.
Not total [although “prosecute Hillary Clinton” may be reasonably elided. May, I said.].
I know we ‘Live in Interesting Times’ – but not sure I want to enjoy that!
Just like being warm.

Gary Pearse

Yeah and these percentages are of drastically different GDPs.


I think the next U.S. military budget is going to be pushing $650 billion.


Good point, Thomas.


I almost regret eschewing the “take advantage of dumb people” business model in my youth. It is the largest market, after all.
I was afraid I wouldn’t sleep well at night. I don’t anyway, but I’m also not rich.

Ross King

Where’s Griff on this? I need my daily rib-tickler.

Griff’s reading the writing on the wall.

Leo Smith


Nigel S

Once he’s wound the weight back up to power the light no doubt.


I have been down the pub, which is serving an excellent seasonal ‘Advent Ale’


Good for you.
I’m imbibing a cheapo French red.
If we don’t cross post before, Happy Christmas, and A Healthy New Year!!

Patrick MJD

Do you know how much CO2 is emitted in beer making Griff? You planet destroyer!

The promotion says it will power Europe. The problem is the same as all these remote projects, the distance you can transmit electricity without excessive line loss. From the location to Malaga in Spain is approximately 1000 km. This is at the limit of transmission, even if you do as Russia and Manitoba Canada did, and convert the power to DC to reduce line loss. The problem with that is the power lost in the conversion and the further loss when you reconvert to AC for the European system.
I can see African window cleaners being busy, but few others.

John F. Hultquist

From near the Columbia River near: 45.596654, -121.117173
to Sylmar, CA (just north of LA. About 800 miles [1,300 km.]


The wiki page says Noor1 is an 160 MW powerplant with expected output of 370 GWh/ year. Is your stated figure of 670 GWh/year a simple typing error or is the wiki numer in error?

Willis Eschenbach

Typing error … fixed, thanks.


What about….
How do they keep all the sand off the panels! And the associate cost!
Don’t forget its smack bang in the Sahara Desert. And what happens during sandstorms? How many days or weeks is this plant off-line! And Morocco gets lots of sandstorms.
So I have to ask…who is getting the pay-off on this? Where is the money going?
In 10 years time, Noor will be buried under 10ft of sand, and forgotten.


That’s exactly what I was thinking – one big sandstorm, and that thing is toast.


They’re going to put it inside a greenhouse so it has the added advantage of trapping greenhouse gases.


Sandstorms will be outlawed by EU directive.


Nearly wet my monitor with red wine. Hugely appreciated!
But – another example of the growing extra-territoriality of laws . . . . .

Gary Pearse

The surfaces will be sandblasted to useless before they get buried.

Tom Yoke

The pay-off is to Virtue Signaling elites who get to display their green credentials to critics and competitors.
You disagree with spending money on a boondoggle like this? You must be in the pay of the fossil-fuel industry. Not virtuous like me.
That is the incentive structure that drives this stuff.


“Not virtuious like me” +1 LOL


Virtuous, sorry

Bryan A

At first I thought you said
“Not vitreous like me”
But then you usually are clear on your statements

Ross Giddings

As Margaret Thatcher so famously said
“The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money”

Ah! Our Mag’s.
Perhaps Theresa will prove as effective.

Nigel S

About the same time as this thing starts ‘powering Europe’.


Are you – how could you not be – a member of the Manically Over-Optimistic Club-Union?
Well, I hope little Terri fixes things, but I remain an agnostic, I fear . . . .
Still in thrall to Southern Railways for my daily commute up to Town: – http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/service_disruptions/149985.aspx
Hardly worth getting up next week. Trains cancelled.
Off thread – but – blimey . . . . . . . . .

Robert Christopher

You also need to include the cost of the Accounts department: bureaucrats,especially financial bureaucrats, don’t come cheap!

Horse Feathers

I wonder how they will stand up to sand storms? The green house of cards is on the verge of collapsing. It’s all about wind – hot air, that is! 😉

Bryan A

Many will get “Etched” to the point of needing to be replaced. Though it will provide government jobs for mirror maintenance.


The overriding question is: Where did this idea that intermittent power from solar or wind would ever be economical come from? Isn’t obvious that when the intermittent power stops, then a fossil or nuclear power plant must come on line to make up the decrease? And since 80%+ of the cost of power is capital and labor, then the cost of the power plants sitting idle is enormous! The intermittent power is worth the avoided energy cost or less then 2 cents/kilowatt hr.
John Maulden, a really smart economist and commentator, was recently lauding the morocco solar plant! It’s like the elite of our counry can do simple calculations with a pencil and paper.


“The overriding question is: Where did this idea that intermittent power from solar or wind would ever be economical come from?”
Yeah, who thought this was a good idea? How many more billions of dollars will they spend before they figure out wind and solar thermal are deadends?

Roger Knights

I assume your last line meant to say “can’t do.”


If not “can’t do.” – it needs a big /SNARKO SQUARED

Dodgy Geezer

… much of it a gift from guilty CO2-obsessed European liberals)…
Now, why do I doubt that? Why do I think that a gift from hard-pressed European tax-payers, diverted to Africans by guilt-obsessed liberals (after taking their cut) is much more likely?

NW sage

Same thing. The gift from European Liberals statement just left out the obvious that NO Liberal ever spends his OWN money – See above quote attributed to Margaret Thatcher about running out of other peoples money.

Willis Eschenbach

Indeed, dodgy, your description is more accurate … I stole it and put it into the head post.

Thought I recognized that type. Is a concentrating solar plant (CSP) from Abengoa. The hopeless economics of same were detailed in Climate Etc. Guest Post Grid Solar. Note that Abengoa is in Spanish bankruptcy. Its US affiliate is in bankruptcy dissolution proceedings, with the US gov trying to recover $165 milliion of the $2.2 billion in grants and subsidies Abengoa received from the US.
iF the recovery succeeds, what a great deal for US taxpayers, NOT.


There are lots of places where photovoltaic (PV) makes sense. My favourite example is the parking ticket dispensers in our nearby metropolis. They are right downtown where there are lots of electric lines. The thing is that hooking up to the grid would cost >$500 for each dispenser. The PV array is about a foot by a foot and it plus a battery and circuitry probably cost a couple of hundred bucks.
Having said the above, please note that there are zero solar panels on my house. If I lived three miles from the nearest grid connection, there would be. Solar has its place.

NW sage

I was going to put solar panels on my house too but I couldn’t find the night side.


Yup, lots of these powering emergency phones along the (one) highway in rural oz. Best place for em.


If there’s no nearby grid, it’s ironic that solar’s place is where the sun don’t shine.


Where there IS a nearby grid…

What’s a parking meter?
Ever notice how goverment can justify spending tax dollars to collect more tax dollars.
If you lived off grid you would have an ICE driven generator. Changed oil and filters on our 6.5 kw propane generator.
It is easy to live without electricity. Billions do it everyday.


It really is worse than we thought….

Gary Pearse

“That’s good news, because we need it to line Elon Musk’s pockets …” Elon gets a lot more than $3.9B and returns nothing. $22M/y is at least something even with 150years of payback. I hope this doesn’t look like approve of the solar plant!


Gary, of those $22M they have to buy oil for turbine preheat for at least $10M/y and I am sure there is use for those $12M/y in that station.
It was stressed in atricle that the payback is merely theoretical.
By the way, this Norwegain-Germany cable project power loss on 1400 MW max power is about 100 MW just in copper.
It is twice the total power of the Moroccon project.

How much does it cost to back up that facility with fossil fuels?

But think of the great value of all that virtue signalling!


Interesting the difference in CSP plant costs when building in Morroco.
The prototype Accione CSP design (Nevada Solar One in 2007) cost $266MM and produces134MMkWh annually.
Noor is another Accione project, but done without American assistance, completed at a reported $3900MM and produces 370MMkWh.
Must be a lot of room under that table.


Baksheesh accounts for much of the difference.

Javert Chip

What’s your source for “Now, in the US a power plant typically sells its product for something like six cents US per kilowatt-hour. Multiplying that by 370 GWhr/year gives us an annual value of the energy produced of about $22,000,000 dollars per year.”?
Your quoted 6 cents/kWh is roughly 50% the numbers I find with a couple quick web searches (https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_5_6_a and http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2011/10/27/141766341/the-price-of-electricity-in-your-state)
Assuming 12-13 cents is correct, that’s $44,000,000/year – a material change, but no where near enough to impact your 100% correct conclusion of an unbelievably stupid economic investment (my words…).

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

Javert Chip:
Both those tables are end-user rates. The power generating plant sells to the grid operator at wholesale rates. And both tables list rates for Georgia that are higher than actual. Here are standard Georgia Power residential rates. Highest rate during winter months is $0.047641 / kWH; in the summer it’s $0.097273. GP is obviously paying less than that to the generation facility.

James Kramer

I know that one summer the power system that I worked at was making money in large amounts selling power to some states that had their local units offline for repairs. We were selling it at $50/MW-hr or $0.05/KW-hr. We sold it locally at much lower rates. The left coast and the NE all pay a lot more for their power, all those regulations drive costs up.


You are too kind, Mr. Willis. This Potemkin village of a power plant does not fail because of meany harsh economics. It fails because of physics.

Nameplate capacity 160MW, expected avg capacity 42.24MW, for a load factor of 26.4%. At a cost comparable with a nuclear power plant with nameplate capacity of ~1GW and load factor of ~99%.
And as for supplying _all_ of Europe’s power need, I guess if “all of Europe” is approximately 80,000 small homes or a dozen small factories, that’s almost accurate. 🙂

staspeterson BSME,MBA, MSMa

I am glad that enormous fossil fuel reserves, enough for centuries, now unlocked with new technologies, will bridge us through to the rapidly coming, clean, inexhaustible, Fusion Energy freedom,

Oh come on, the greens will find something wrong with fusion. They are all glass half empty people.


The left need poverty to be relevant. What is the good to the left of a well fed, housed, educated, and healthy populace? Environmentalism is just one excuse for the state to keep us poor and, as an added benefit, to virtue-police all aspects of life.
Fusion is the green’s worst nightmare, and standard fission nuclear power generation their next-worst. Fracking third, oil and gas fourth. The only power sources that are acceptable are those that don’t work.

Mark, how true are your words. I never cease to be amazed that, despite many of the left loonies having a first-class university education, their brains all seem to turn to mush when faced with reality. I know it’s more to do with ‘faith’ than anything realistic, but it’s still almost incomprehensible that they seem to never be able to see the bottom line.

Mark can you just imagine if all the money spend ( and will be spend in the future) on these projects would have been spend on drilling water wells and improving agriculture in these countries on a local scale? Add in a few schools, hospitals and generators for running small scale electrical grids? This whole solar scheme is a sick, twisted vision by people that have no clue of economics and are truly destroying livelihoods of tens of millions of people.
Socialism is the most dangerous “philosophy” on the planet.
What happened to the Drax power plant in the UK is also a travesty, Changing it from a coal fired plant to a wood pellet plant that needs to be imported from the USA using bunker oil burning ( the worst ) ships and then moving it via train , lorries etc should be investigated and the people responsible should be convicted, jailed and fined heavily. When I talk with family in the EU they have not got a clue what I am talking about. The MSM should be prosecuted as well as far as I am concerned ( sorry about the rant)

Leo Smith

Fusion also leaves trail of radioactive elements behind. The greens will object.
And, after all, the highest deaths from radiation induced cancer are down to one fusion reactor.
Its called ‘the sun’….

Brian H

Indeed. lppfusion.com

Charles Barnes

How much energy went into materials and construction of the plant

Thanks again for a good post.

Willis Eschenbach

Glad you like it.

David L. Hagen

1st Develop dispatchable solar to be cheaper than coal/gas/nuclear
This is why we need hard nosed life cycle costing with RD&D focus on making dispatchable solar power cheaper than coal, gas and nuclear, regardless of fuzzy climate projections. See recommendations by Bjorn Lomborg and Copenhagen Consensus as the most cost effective investment – NOT subsidies for current uncompetitive systems like this in Morocco.
Make it cheaper to go green

Globally, we will spend $2.5 trillion on subsidies for wind and solar over the next 25 years — and they will still need subsidizing, according to the IEA. The impact will be a trivial reduction in temperature rise by 2100 of 0.03 degrees Fahrenheit. What if, instead of spending these trillions of dollars trying to push the deployment of inefficient solar and wind, we devoted ourselves to making green energy cheaper?
If we could make solar and wind cheaper than fossil fuels, we wouldn’t have to force (or subsidize) anyone to stop burning coal and oil. Everyone would shift to the cheaper and cleaner alternatives.
This could take a decade or it could take four. But the truth is that, as long as we invest mostly in today’s inefficient technology that we know doesn’t work, we will not get much closer.

James Kramer

Making it cheaper does not solve the intermittency problem. Neither solar nor wind can be made into base load power. There is one green power source that makes sense and that is nuclear. If we poured that money in building prototype nuke plants with the new designs we would be spending it wisely. Maybe the thorium cycle plants can be made to work.

David L. Hagen

James Kramer False. Read what I wrote. “Develop DISPATCHABLE solar”. That implies cheap thermal storage sufficient to provide base load regional realiability. Nuclear is an alternative option. Fund both and let the best win. Maybe a some mix of the two.

James Kramer

How can it work as base load power when it vanishes when the sky is overcast or even when a cloud crosses the sun?! Or in the case of wind power when the wind isn’t blowing or is blowing too much. Neither will be reliable unless you are assuming weather control. I have to say that solar in Morocco makes a lot more sense than solar in cloudy Germany. And the sun angle is obviously somewhat better than it is in northern Europe. But remember that even Morocco isn’t that far south. New York City is on the same latitude as Madrid Spain.

David L. Hagen

“Making it cheaper does not solve the intermittency problem.”
Making it cheaper doesn’t solve the problem of the millions of birds and bats killed by windmills and solar thermal.

Patrick MJD

Dispatchable solar, that’s funny.


This is an exceptionally sunny place…
Plus of course Morocco is building solar CSP which will provided stored heat for overnight generation…


David L. Hagen Your links are interesting but thermal storage is not the same as electric energy storage. Did you think people would miss the conflation of two separate concepts. If not, explain how stored solar heat is going to be “dispatched” from Africa to Europe.
You could take your own advice, especially the first part: Think.

Patrick MJD

“Griff December 11, 2016 at 8:44 am
This is an exceptionally sunny place…”
Australia is sunny too, most times. But it’s 9pm here in Sydney right now and I just looked outside the window, and I can’t see too much sunshine. And I see solar rooftop installations pointing everywhere but north!

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

David L. Hagen:
I can’t access that link without signing up, but can you point to an working CSP plant that actually delivers fully dispatchable power? Ivanpah is delivering about about 70% of promised output and currently uses a fair amount of natural gas to keep the salt hot during part of the night. And they sell power at $200/MWh, which is way more than coal or CCGT units get.
“Make renewables cheaper” sounds wonderful, but performance has been lacking to date.

steven f

Gemasolar power plant in spain. it has 15hours of molten salt storage allowing it to produce power 24hr a day. ivanpah has zero storage capability and needs natural gas to preheat the cold turbine in the morning.

David L. Hagen

Alan Watt See articles on solar thermal power storage. See recent reviews of solar thermal power storage e.g., . e.g. see: Review on concentrating solar power plants and new developments in high temperature thermal energy storage technologies. PS I encourage you to do your homework first. Practice the method shown here.

David L. Hagen

Allan Watt The link I gave is publicly accessible at no cost. Making it Cheaper to go green. Otherwise learn how to use the internet. There are numerous other articles by Bjorn Lomborg and the Copenhagen Consensus advocating this. For technical articles, you can always try Scholar.Google.Com


Ivanpah needs to mark each turbine with little birdie stencils, 1 per kill, different silhouettes, like fighter planes. There can only be one ace of aces.


David L. Hagen:

“Develop DISPATCHABLE solar”

There is no theory as to how such a thing might even be possible.
Let me explain:
An internal combustion engine runs at ~25% thermodynamic efficiency.
I could use thermodynamics to design an engine running at 65% efficiency. Now the problem is one of engineering, particularly materials which can handle the extreme temperatures and stresses. But at least it is theoretically possible.
Solar is:
1) diffuse
2) intermittent
We know that to overcome these limitations requires a lot of money and a lot of gear.
Nobody has any idea how to get to dispatchable solar in a system which produces more power than it took to build the plant in the first place.
No amount of “hard nosed life cycle costing with RD&D” is going to change that. Solar is just too far down the hole.

David L. Hagen

TonyL Spoken as a true disbeliever, expert in “magic”, slightly knowledgeable in conventional wisdom. 1) The Wartsilla 31 internal combustion engine has achieved 53% efficiency. 2) By “Nobody has any idea” you apparently claim universal knowledge of all humans as well as throughout the cosmos! Remarkable. 3) solar system which produces more power than it took to build the plant. The Energy Return on Investment (EROI) of conventional solar thermal power systems is already reported as in the range of 9 to 19. That is NOT an upper limit! Re “too far down the hole.” May I recommend you have been digging your hole too deep. Time to get out into the light! May I recommend you learn to search for current information before pontificating.


A big diesel such as found on a ship can run at 45% efficiency. And they don’t run at extreme conditions. That’s a reasonable compromise.

Make it cheaper to go green
If Solar or Wind was large screen TV’s the answer would be obvious. When TV’s were $10,000 almost no one had one. Now they are $1000 or less and everyone has one.
Imagine that instead we had subsidized manufacturers that produced $10,000 large screen TV’s, with $9000 subsidies, so that it only cost $1000 to buy a TV after the government subsidy. Why would manufacturers ever get the cost down? Why would the government care, the $9000 subsidy would be very popular, so long as it was added to the debt not the tax rate.

David L. Hagen

fredberple Agreed. Thus Bjorn’s pragmatic economist focus to focus RD&D on reducing costs of renewables until they are competitive NOT subsidizing inherently expensive systems. The DOE has set a SunShot target of 3 c/kWh for 2030. However, Dubai Water and Electric has already received a bit of 2.99 c/kWh in May 2016 for 800 MWe. See discussion Understanding the record low 3 cent solar in Dubai in context

Leo Smith

Dispatchable solar.
Okay…is solar cheaper than say …nuclear?
Nope,. So adding storage to it will make it cheaper?….
Or perhaps you mean storing heat and then using a heat engine to extract power…
Oh dear. heat engine likely to be less than 50% efficient, so double the size and cost….
Whichever way you cook it, solar plus storage of some sort is always going to be way more expensive than nuclear. To the point where it may not even repay the energy invested in its total construction.

David L. Hagen

Leo Smith A disbeliever pontificating without insight? See 52% efficient with a single expander at 100 MWe. You haven’t even begun to explore how to reduce solar power costs!

Ray in SC

David L. Hagen, your link is to a patent application for a CCGT system. Do you care to explain what this has to do with solar power or are you just posting random goggle searches that you do not understand?

Ray in SC

David L. Hagen, your link is to a patent application for a CCGT system. Do you care to explain what this has to do with solar power or are you just posting random goggle searches that you do not understand?

David L. Hagen

Ray in SC. 1) Read just a little further and you will find that I am the primary inventor (who wrote the patent) and so know something about the topic! 2) Then if you could indulge us read just a bit further and think about my comment, you will realize that it is NOT a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) since it does NOT have a steam turbine or Rankine cycle. 3) Concentrating solar power systems can generate high temperature heat sufficient to heat the gas to drive a gas turbine.


What if the notion that “green” power generation does not emit CO2 is 100% exactly opposite of the truth?

David L. Hagen

Dav09 Generally agree on benefits of CO2. Important but separate issue.
Solution. Seek the greatest life cycle benefit /cost ratio. Consider all benefits and costs. See The Right Climate Stuff, for a validated climate model. (IPCC’s models are not validated. CO2 Science documents benefits from many plant studies.

Morocco is a net importer of energy, but may soon start producing its own natural gas:http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Morocco-Could-Start-Pumping-Natural-Gas-By-2019.html


Just when the Muslim stranglehold on oil supplies is broken they talk about giving them control over electricity .


Here’s another example of the big renewable energy project.
In Iowa, Midamerican Energy Co. owned by Berkshire Hathaway/Warren Buffett announced a $3.6 billion 2000 MW wind project named Wind XI. The announcement said they will build 1000 wind turbines over a two year period.
With the federal construction tax credit and state/federal production tax credits, the owner will get his investment back in 10 years. The full cost to the American taxpayers may eventually be $5.6 billion.
Iowa customers will not receive a rate increase for some indeterminable period. Hopefully, the current electric rate will cover all operating and maintenance expenses of the project.
I’m sure the Iowa customers of MidAmerican really appreciate the generosity of the American taxpayers.
Maybe Willis can do a more complete, full examination of this project

great post


It beats the space-based solar power project idea and the space mining venture stories too.


On California energy costs… my friend in Redding works minimum wage and pays $200 a month for water and electricity. Her neighbors disconnected from the grid. On recent cold days I hear their cars running in the driveway a fair amount. At the nearby Safeway many folks sit in their cars in the early morning with engines running.

Until the police tell they can not sleep in their vehicles.

California – the ‘no’ state.


The main problem with wind and solar is the pathetically low energy density. Look at the size of this thing! 1,400,000 square meters – the size of 200 football fields! If we adopt this approach to solve the climate change non-problem, we’ll run out of planet.


So, the refugee crises are powered by the clean, green blight. Something similar happened in China that led to the progress of urban ghettos.


What do they do at night, beside burn fossil fuel to keep the lights on and the tele and fridge running?