How much electricity may produce a $1 Billion Solar Plant backed by the Obama Energy Department?

Guest post by Albert Parker

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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crescent_Dunes_Solar_Energy_Project#/media/File:Crescent_Dunes_Solar_December_2014.JPG

It is in the news, as expected Crescent Dunes, the world largest concentrated solar power plant featuring 10 hours of molten salt thermal energy storage, just went bust.

https://www.reviewjournal.com/opinion/letters/letter-much-touted-crescent-dunes-solar-plant-goes-bust-1935510/

https://www.cato.org/blog/crescent-dunes-another-green-flop

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/another-federally-backed-solar-energy-project-just-went-belly-116506

The electricity produced, as usual not even when needed but mostly when the sun was shining (and often not even when there was sun) is very well known, as the EIA data are also proposed by Wikipedia in a synthetic table.

crescent

Thanks to the savvy energy administrators of the Obama era, the US taxpayers have thus paid unpredictable electricity from the sun 2.38 $ per kWh.

It was expected from Crescent Dunes a production in excess of 500,000 MWh per year over 25 years, or 12,500,000 MWh, of fully dispatchable (or sort of) electricity at a cost of 0.08 $ per kWh.

Taxpayers of other countries of similarly savvy energy administrators, South Africa, Chile and Australia, were just spared the blood bath by the lack of any investor willing to contribute off his/her pockets additional money to the money the taxpayers were forced to contribute.

123 thoughts on “How much electricity may produce a $1 Billion Solar Plant backed by the Obama Energy Department?

      • To paraphrase the words Capt. James T. Kirk…..”Double Dumb [deleted. language. Mod] on the Obama administration” and everyone that was duped into voting to put them in power!

        • Amusingly in Fallout New Vegas once you complete the quest to switch the solar plant back on there is STILL not enough electricity to go around and you have to choose who gets shafted.

      • The intense heat only happens with the mirrors are all synchronised on the tower. They will stopped in a position which does not do that.

        They will probably be pointed at the sky in a way to display the Coca Cola logo to passing aircraft. Much more profitable.

        Rather sad to see this was not better managed.

        • The root failure of this facility was not management, it was inherently too complex for current technology. I’m not saying it was managed brilliantly, but even if it had been, it still would have failed.

          • We have much the same problem with Wind.

            There seemed to be some expectation that eg a 2MW ‘plate’ turbine will produce 2MW. Of course reality intrudes and, over time, it turns out to be 25% of that meaning that one needs 4x the number of turbines for your planned output.

            I’m sure that the participants already knew that. Government subsidy means take the money and run.

          • Could’ve been sold to the military and tested as a possible satellite-destroyer. Couldn’t work at night, tho.

    • Maybe Obama will make a movie for Netflix: The Birds III (yes, there was a II in the 90’s).

  1. The way political influence and money flew around in this failed scheme makes one wonder if an investigation might be in order? I know this area near Tonopah, Nevada, and the Crescent Dunes are a very active blowing sand, silt, and dust area, which I don’t imagine is good for solar reflector mirrors. The other problem is siting these types of operations in very remote areas with long transmission lines to consumers and subsequent energy loss. Coordinated with Valerie Jerrit in the Obama Whitehouse? Some day persons are going to start to ask “What did Obama know and when did he know it?”.

        • We can only imagine just how much of that money found its way into offshore bank accounts accessible by politicians and bureaucrats. There might be a few degrees of separation but rest assure they managed to acquire assets with that corrupt money.

        • I don’t know guys and gals, the outcome worked out pretty well if Barack could buy that remote seaside $15,000,000 home (where he can readily serve bravely monitor sea level rise for us) on those pennies he saved from his $174,000 senatorial salary and $400,000 presidential salary (all the while supporting a family in spendy Wash D.C.) following that historically least corrupt administration evah as he had pledged from the outset.

          Think of this as a really big sparkly monument to the fact that we’ll believe just about anything.

    • What would be the point? I mean we were taught that certain banks are too big to fail. So it only goes to reason that the elite are obviously too big to be charged.

      • I mean we were taught that certain banks are too big to fail

        IMHO it wasn’t the banks that were too big to fail. It was AIG (American Insurance Group).

        What, it seemed to me, brought about intervention was that AIG had filed for protection in The US not realising that, under UK law, they had to immediately cease trading in London.

        Upshot – Billions of $ and monstrous numbers of insurance policies just stopped in ‘mid-air’.

        Here in The UK, massive numbers of people and organisations were suddenly uninsured but didn’t know it. Same in The US and across the globe. AIG being Earth’s largest insurer and London being a key hub.

      • “I mean we were taught that certain banks are too big to fail. So it only goes to reason that the elite are obviously too big to be charged.”

        A better way to say it is (as I did in 2008), “too big to jail.” (It rhymes!)

  2. Instead – the Australian Government gave $93 million of taxpayers’ money into a ‘hot rocks’ operation in South Australia – spruiked by their invested spokesman ‘climate change’ alarmist, Tim Flannery.

    The man that claimed ‘even the rains that fall would not fill the rivers and dams’ – that then all overflowed.

    Such a good investment – a share price of zero, operations wound up, everybody bankrupt.

    • Guess who grew filthy rich off this payola scheme. Former NV Senator and Majority Leader Harry “The Horse” Reid (D), that’s who. It was approved on his watch. And NV Energy was counting on this solar energy when they promised Nevada would be 50% “renewable” by 2030.

  3. Thanks to the savvy energy administrators of the Obama era, the US taxpayers have thus paid unpredictable electricity from the sun 2.38 $ per kWh.

    Seen from an investment point of view, this is certainly bad, very bad. But, if we look at it from an experimental viewpoint, it is only bad. They could have made the experiment on a smaller scale and seen how that would workout.

    The issues there may have been, were they fixable or were the issues of such a nature that any future similar designs are futile?

    • They could have made the experiment on a smaller scale and seen how that would workout.

      They did.

      While this argument has been going on since the proof of concept “power tower” tested near Dagget CA in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Apparently lesson’s “learned” in Dagget from (Solar One and Solar Two), were not necessarily applied to Ivanpah or Crescent Dunes. link

      Some folks think Solar Two was a commercial success. Hmmm. I’m skeptical.

      Someone commented that the price of solar pv panels had fallen so much that they made the gargantuan mirror/boiler projects uneconomical. Of course, that doesn’t square with Solar Two being a commercial success.

    • They did. Sandia National Laboratory. I used to work with an engineer who worked there. energy.sandia.gov/tag/solar-tower-4/

      Its good for incinerating avian life forms. He said they called them flamers.

    • As I recall from when this was announced, it was that they were unable to maintain the contracted level of supply. They had basically over-estimated what they would get out of the system. Enough to land them in legal troubles.

      Now I don’t see why that leads to a total shut down of this massive and costly installation, you just renegotiate a smaller supply which, with the aid of some real production data, you know you can achieve. The customer makes up the short fall elsewhere rather than now having to replace the whole output capacity.

      There’s probably more to this than meets the eye once you know the details. I often get the impression these things are designed to fail, like the other similar one which was built without any storage at all.

    • Exactly, should have been done on a smaller scale. Ditto wind turbines, a few dozen different sizes and locations. Germany has proven on a massive scale that wind is not the answer. Willfully uninformed voters and corrupt politicians continue to think otherwise.

  4. All that money for 0.5TWh/year of unreliable electricity. Pathetic. How could any government fall for such a scam?

    • The government did not fall for this scam, they were the scammers. Other people’s money spends freely.

      The question is: How could any citizenry be stupid enough to keep voting the same scammers back into office?

      • “The question is: How could any citizenry be stupid enough to keep voting the same scammers back into office?”

        That *is* the question. My guess at the answer is too many of the citizenry have been brainwashed by the Leftwing Media and the Education System into believing a false reality that lionizes the Left and demonizes the Right..

        • The citizenry are unaware, and even if informed of such, they can’t maintain focus because so many other things compete for time and attention.

          • Yes, voters are unaware. Why? Because the press is now almost uniformly left wing and refuses to hold any green scammers to account. The stories almost write themselves, but they still need scribes and publishers, both in short supply when criticism of the green theology is involved.

      • How could the voters be so stupid? That’s the easy question. We want to believe what the promisors offer – comfort and ease without effort. We are greedy and lazy, therefore gullible.

          • Green and hopeful is just another way of saying ignorant and gullible. I don’t suffer fools gladly. Ignorance is a choice.

        • Each voter knows that his/her Representative and two Senators are doing a great job (bringing home pork to the constituency). It’s all the other Representatives and Senators who should be voted out of office.

          (BTW, I have been voting against the incumbents, and will continue to do so.)

      • The citizenry doesn’t WANT to know anything technical. Until there is a fatal failure, and then they are all armchair experts. Let’s be clear: both parties of our government WANT catastrophic climate change to be true. It’s a license to tax individuals indirectly with no fallout to them at election time.

        • Both parties TRUE. TRUMP! No. He may be a “Republican” But he is not of the party. He is not a politician. You know how to tell? He promised to bo things, and has done them. That is why the political establishment, especially the Democrat party, is against him, they do not want to be held to account for their promises. What will they run on next time if they fix things this time???

    • Actually it depends on how you define unreliable.

      All the problems I read about for Crescent Dunes relates to the Salt Storage. Which is odd as Solana with a larger storage seems to have problems with micro bursts, transformer fires and vapors. To produce expensive energy.

      If you look at the second graph you will see solar producing after dark in January. Seeing as this is the US EIA website I really doubt they are running 200 MW generator to make it work, like other places were caught at. Solana still is only producing around 80 or 90% of “predicted”.

      https://www.eia.gov/beta/electricity/gridmonitor/dashboard/electric_overview/balancing_authority/AZPS

      Now is it worth around 14 cents a kWH, not in my opinion. Do I think it is cool yes. Do I want them using my tax dollars for this type of boondoggle, well no.

      Just because I am interested I have been keeping a chart of all US Solar thermal plants (not many).
      http://www.mediafire.com/file/nihyy96xcs6a4sc/Concertrated_Solar_output_comparison_post.xlsx/file
      Update it around the end of each month or so when new data becomes available.

      T2M

  5. If you watch the start of “Blade Runner: 2049” all these plants are hammered with rain and barely any sunlight. How do they make power? (Ok, I know it is a film).

    • The plants were converted to produce electricity by absorbing the energy from the rain constantly falling on them.

      Obviously.

  6. The other failing: the place toasted flying critters in flight, which would be okay with me if the critters were mosquitos or locusts. But no, they weren’t mosquitos or locusts getting toasted.

    Regards,
    Bob

    • Unecessary destruction of wildlife is a good reason to shut this plant down, if there wasn’t another reason, and a good reason to shut all the other, similar plants down, and a good reason to never built another such plant.

      That goes for windmills, too.

    • As a successor to Kentucky Fried Chicken, we get Nevada Fried Birds.

      If this monstrosity was supposed to produce 500,000 MWh per year, or about 41,700 MWh per month, it never did better than 33,387 MWh in June 2018, or 80% of its projected average monthly capacity, in the month with the highest insolation.

      During its 43 months of operation, its produced a total of 418,849 MWh, or an average of 9,741 MWh per month, or about 23.4% of its projected average monthly capacity.

      Did anyone ever try doing this on a smaller scale (for less money) to check its feasibility and operability before sinking $1 billion into the full-scale project? That’s usually what is done for new technology in the private sector–it’s called a pilot plant.

      But Obama is too much of a genius to bother with such small-scale testing. He was too busy stopping the seas from rising (by the way, they are still rising).

  7. Is there any way to short the used mirror market? I have a feeling there’s going to be a glut on the supply side.

  8. Like virtually every renewable energy project, the Crescent Dunes scheme was never intended to harvest sunlight. It’s true purpose was to harvest the tax credits and then make money through their arbitrage for wealthy investors to use in tax writedowns.

    • I am an accountant in the UK (in US terms – a CPA) – so much for my physics degree – so I do not know how tax credits work in the US. There are numerous dodgy investment schemes in the UK (often related to film production) and, after HM Revenue & Customs declared them ineffective, many people (often professional soccer players) had to repay their tax relief. However, one of the general rules of investment is that you don’t spend a dollar to receive cents in tax relief. If you invest a dollar, get it back as well as some possible return and tax relief then that is a good investment. If you invest a dollar and lose it as the company goes bust and you receive just cents in tax relief, that would be a bad investment. Does the US system work in such a way that the investors are always better off whether the company succeeds or fails? Or is it only the arbitragers who make money?

      • No matter whether you’re selling tulip bulbs or electricity, If you’re building the system that is made with OPM, but you receive the tax credits that you can then resell, do you really care how much money it is losing?

        Seriously, does anyone think the electricity from one of these Rube Goldberg contraptions could ever be competitive at grid scale? The electricity from this project is 10x higher than even solar PV produced electricity, which itself is 5x higher than reliably generated baseload power from nat gas generators.

        • And it being more expensive is NOT the only issue – it simply does not produce the power when it it needed, not does it produce power consistently or reliably. Which renders it useless, as the REAL electric generation sources, powered by fossil fuels, have to be maintained in addition to these useless pieces of garbage. So the solution is obvious – build and maintain what actually provides the electricity needed on demand and reliably, and don’t waste resources on “renewable” crap.

    • Just like socialism they want to keep trying it until it works or they have murdered eveyone which ever comes first.

  9. I think my comment got lost somewhere my apologies if this is a duplicate. Related to unreliable energy source.

    Actually it depends on how you define unreliable.

    All the problems I read about for Crescent Dunes relates to the Salt Storage. Which is odd as Solana with a larger storage seems to have problems with micro bursts, transformer fires and vapors. To produce expensive energy.

    If you look at the second graph you will see solar producing after dark in January. Seeing as this is the US EIA website I really doubt they are running 200 MW generator to make it work, like other places were caught at. Solana still is only producing around 80 or 90% of “predicted”.

    https://www.eia.gov/beta/electricity/gridmonitor/dashboard/electric_overview/balancing_authority/AZPS

    Now is it worth around 14 cents a kWH, not in my opinion. Do I think it is cool yes. Do I want them using my tax dollars for this type of boondoggle, well no.

    Just because I am interested I have been keeping a chart of all US Solar thermal plants (not many).

    http://www.mediafire.com/file/nihyy96xcs6a4sc/Concertrated_Solar_output_comparison_post.xlsx/file
    Update it around the end of each month or so when new data becomes available.

    T2M

  10. Awww… well I don’t know that it’s totally wasted. One of Erik Von Daniken’s great great grandchildren might have a field day with that. You don’t suppose there’d be an immediate quid in flogging all that solar purified salt by Gaia for a motzah to the climate changers, vegans, Extinction Rebellionistas and sundry leftover hippies do you?

  11. Bloomberg is saying (according to Washington Post):
    “The steam generators at Crescent Dunes require custom parts and a staff of dozens to keep things humming and to conduct regular maintenance. By the time the plant opened in 2015, the increased efficiency of cheap solar panels had already surpassed its technology, and today it’s obsolete—the latest panels can pump out power at a fraction of the cost for decades with just an occasional hosing-down.”

    Clearly bad and expensive maintenance. However, the comparison with PV panels cannot be directly. Built into the “Crescent Dunes” was storage. Thus, “Crescent Dunes” can only be compared to PV with battery storage of similar capacity.

    Personally I prefer the more economic and environmentally friendly gas or nuclear, but failed projects should be analyzed in detail, in particular this project, as it was mainly public funded. Therefore it would be prudent to have published a report explaining what was god and what was bad. This would help the public and future developers to evaluate if they can over the issues revealed in this project.

    • If Bloomberg believes that the only maintenance solar panels need is “an occasional hosing-down”, then he is more delusional than I thought.

  12. I think the world needs to understand the fraudulent political motives behind this scam. But this particular article is a hard to understand because of its syntax

    How much electricity may produce a $1 Billion Solar Plant backed by the Obama Energy Department?

    The usual word order in English is . But that parse produces incoherence:
    Subject=”electricity”
    Verb=”may produce”
    Object=”Obama Energy Department”

    Is it possible this article is a machine translation from another language?

    • “Is it possible this article is a machine translation from another language?”

      It is likely translated from Australian 🙂
      Sorry, I could not resist.

      • Ooooh, Harsh! I’ll have you know that while we strayans do have some curious turns of phrase, they are all, and without exception, grammatically correct and all our sentences parse satisfactorily. The exception is our print media which baffles us too.

  13. The title of this item is screwed up. Put the word “produce” at the end and change the word may to “will” and it makes sense! As it stands, it sounds like the electricity produces a billion dollars, and that makes no sense!

    • I agree confusing title.

      How much electricity may produce a $1 Billion Solar Plant backed by the Obama Energy Department?

      Suggested fix.

      How much electricity a $1 Billion Solar Plant backed by the Obama Energy Department may produce?

      • “How much electricity a $1 Billion Solar Plant backed by the Obama Energy Department may produce?”

        Still doesn’t quite work.

        How about: “How much electricity may a $1 Billion Solar Plant backed by the Obama Energy Department produce?

    • I agree – the heading “How much electricity may produce a $1 Billion Solar Plant backed by the Obama Energy Department?” does not make sense.

  14. I heard a few days ago that Alberta is going to setup a solar farm….shaking head….at 51 degrees north!!! Yah…that will work….

  15. Simply atrocious and incompetent engineering. I hope that some of the engineers involved loose their PE licenses. But then, does that ever happen?

    • “loose their PE licenses”

      Sounds like they were pretty loose already. Maybe they’ll lose them.

  16. The Obama messaging theme of “we don’t pick winners” was meant to provide cover for their real aim of “we pick certain losers with special connections to our administration and Congressional allies because hey the taxpayers are dumb and perennially misinformed by us and our media friends.”

    This is the only logical conclusion for the repeating series of large-scale failures at DOE with forced due diligence that the private sector had no interest in. Also keep in mind that the best of breed firms with ample private investment and real due diligence were also used as cover in the overall totals of program accomplishments. The politicos were just busy sprinkling in certain key losers and they knew that.

  17. The sister plant, Ivanpah, has no storage and burns lots of diesel is doing no better.

    This technology is not the solution to whatever the question was/is!

  18. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is Often called the “congressional watchdog,” GAO examines how taxpayer dollars are spent and provides Congress and federal agencies with objective, reliable information to help the government save money and work more efficiently.

    GAO: an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. Independent and they work for Congress? Or should it be!! Objective and reliable!!

    • Yes, sort of like FBI objectivity (that Obama gang), IRS objectivity (Lois), and EPA agenda research (that other gang). Such institutions are nonpartisan until pressed by the Party that knows just how to press and get away with it without consequences. It takes great skill, confidence, and political power to pull that off.

      DOE loan and and grant program objectivity was clearly off the rails with Pelosi and Reid making the calls to the White House to clear away the any pesky objectivity and rules.

  19. Thanks to the savvy energy administrators of the Obama era, the US taxpayers have thus paid unpredictable electricity from the sun 2.38 $ per kWh. – article

    Checking my own electric bill, the cost to generate and supply electricity is as follows:
    Supply charge: $0.05919/Kwh
    Transmission charge: $0.01256
    For 354 Kwh for the month of January, that works out to a little over $0.07 cents per KwH
    There’s a metering charge and a distribution charge, but again, they are both less than $0.04/Kwh.

    Because my gas-fired furnace runs its motor and blower on eletricity, that adds to my costs in the winter, but they are still quite modest.

    So how is this idiot experiment in defrauding people better than what I have???? Just trying to understand this nonsense, that’s all.

  20. funniest thing, bill gates invested in mirror solar power start up, he along google and jeff bezos also invested in molten salt battery. and it turns out technology of those 2 start up could be found at crescent dune. so after obama, next is bill gates, google, and jeff bezos. history always repeat themself

    • I wouldn’t give a fig for Bill and Jeff’s decision to invest in these technologies. It’s their money, they can waste it as they see fit. If they actually stumble into something profitable I’ll be right in line to congratulate them.

  21. I’m sorry, but this article (especially the title) is written is some form of English that I am not familiar with.

  22. Was this article translated from a language other than English? It just reads very strangely, from the headline and throughout.

  23. I have yet to see an analysis of if solar can compete with fossil fuels without subsidies.

    When I say compete that means including the cost to store the energy during the night or cloudy days. Certainly if it can’t compete in sunniest places in the world it won’t be able to compete elsewhere.

  24. Obama Energy Department? Today, 2/4/20, the Energy Department webpage says this:
    https://www.energy.gov/lpo/crescent-dunes

    “Upon completion, Crescent Dunes became the largest molten salt power tower in the world.

    TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION
    Crescent Dunes is the first deployment of solar power tower technology in the United States that uses molten salt as a primary heat transfer fluid. The heat absorbed by the salt can be stored and produce electricity when required. This enables the plant to generate clean, renewable power during times when direct sunlight is not available. The innovative molten salt storage allows the project to generate power at full load on call (dispatched) for up to 10 hours without any sunlight.

    ECONOMIC IMPACT
    Crescent Dunes created more than 600 construction jobs and is expected to support 45 permanent jobs. Under the project’s unique development agreement with Nye County, the project targets filling 90% of the construction jobs with Nevada residents, utilizing both union and non-union subcontractors. During operations, the project will disburse more than $10 million per year in salaries and operating costs.”

    Apparently, good Obama’s folks at the Energy Department did not get the message – yet. The Swamp, maybe?

    • I perceive even a similarity with the impeachment hearings. House managers keep repeating their mantra ad nauseam, disregarding anything around them.

  25. Hang on, let’s not tear it all down just yet. Think of all those clever administrators and climate saviours who put their all into this. At the very least each one of them should be afforded an opportunity to climb to the top of the tower and admire the midday view before it is all ground into dust. I recommend sunscreen.

  26. Those schemes are not really new. When I was a young man – a couple of decades ago – I read about one such project in Spain and it just looked great to me. Free power. Needless to say that at the time I was young and undisturbed by such trivial things as cost and productivity. It all made instant sense to me. Today, much older with plenty of scars on my back from past mistakes, I know that any venture that cannot carry itself financially needs an outside source of cash or dies. That mechanism, death by lack of cash, is a good thing as it cleans that plate and allows mistakes to get corrected. End subsidies.

  27. It still is a very cool thing. Makes a great location for motion pictures and sci fi shoots. Made quite a nice documentary on discovery too. Wonder if it will be decommissioned or if some will give it another try. As to storage, one would expect highest power demand in Nevada during day time when airconditioning and cooling are switched on.

  28. The project was a complete success. As hoped, a very nice chunk of the billion dollars invested in the plant is now sitting in the pockets of those who promulgated it.

    Who cares if some of investors took a haircut? It’s not like this was built largely with taxpayer funds. Oh wait… strike that!

  29. Well we Ozzies did our bit blowing hard earned on geothermal and sinking a couple of wave generators so we’re pulling our weight with the Anglo Dalliance. What more do you want from the free world so quit yer bellyachin!

  30. I don’t see where anyone has factored the non-trivial cost site clearance and restoration. If extractive minerals companies have to restore their sites should not the solar farm and wind turbine park developers be personally liable for the same thing?

  31. “The electricity produced, as usual not even when needed but mostly when the sun was shining (and often not even when there was sun) is very well known, as the EIA data are also proposed by Wikipedia in a synthetic table.

    Thanks to the savvy energy administrators of the Obama era, the US taxpayers have thus paid unpredictable electricity from the sun 2.38 $ per kWh.”
    ____________________________________

    Can’t assess because of unintended consequences, anyway https://www.google.com/search?q=markets+love+volatility&oq=markets+love+volatility+&aqs=chrome.

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