Arvid Pasto, Sparks, NV May 2020
In the May 12th edition of the Reno Gazette-Journal (RGJ), there appeared a description of a newly-approved (by the U.S. Government) solar power facility, near Las Vegas, called Gemini. This would place it not very far from the recently-defunct solar power facility known as Crescent Dunes. The new facility is quite different in operation from Crescent Dunes, relying on huge photovoltaic cells to capture sunlight and turn it into electricity, with backup power batteries to store the electricity for use when the sun isn’t shining. In Crescent Dunes, huge mirrors were focused into a tank of molten salt atop a high tower. The heated salt was pumped down and through a turbine to extract electric power.
The RGJ article (https://www.rgj.com/story/news/2020/05/12/biggest-us-solar-project-approved-nevada-despite-critics/3120319001/ ) describes the proposed and newly-approved facility: “The $1 billion Gemini solar and battery storage project about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Las Vegas is expected to produce 690 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 260,000 households — and annually offset greenhouse emissions of about 83,000 cars.
It will create about 2,000 direct and indirect jobs and inject an estimated $712.5 million in the economy as the nation tries to recover from the downturn brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said.”
“The joint venture by Australia’s Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners and California-based Arevia Power is part of an integrated resource plan Nevada’s Public Utilities Commission approved last year for NV Energy, which is owned by billionaire Warren Buffet and is Nevada’s largest utility.
Coupled with a 380 megawatt AC battery storage system, it will be one of the first in Nevada to include batteries to enable power delivery after the sun goes down.”
However, with the failure of the nearby Crescent Dunes solar plant, some are not convinced that the promises can or will be kept. In a recent article ( https://climatechangedispatch.com/more-on-billion-dollar-solar-boondoggle-in-vegas/ )
Dr. Jay Lehr says “This is a fairy tale of absurdity being sold to Las Vegas just as the snake oil salesmen of the old west plied their trade.” “It must have 100% backed up with fossil fuel or nuclear power to ensure that the communities’ electric grid can not let them down. Las Vegas of all places can not afford a blackout.
Thinking that some special new battery is going to maintain as much power as the absent sun, has been and will be an impossibility for the foreseeable future.
The mandatory back up fossil fuel must stand by running near full out and emitting carbon dioxide and producing no electricity until the sun can not fill the bill and it must step in.”
He ends with “The excess cost for the excess backup power will show up in the electric bills of the residents of Las Vegas as sure as night shall follow day.”
Probably the most unsettling proposal for the new solar plant is described in the RGJ article:
“The first phase of the project covering about 11 square miles (28 sq. km) of federal land is expected to be completed next year with 440 MW of solar capacity for use in Nevada. Another 250 MW of generating capacity would be added in the second phase with the power sold in Nevada or exported to Arizona and California in 2022.”
That is, they expect to sell solar electric power to California and Arizona. Yet California already often produces more solar power than they can use, so they either have to curtail power generation, or actually PAY Arizona to take their excess power. See for instance http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-fi-electricity-solar/ .
In this article, the authors show that California is on a solar production upswing that shows no end. Certainly, they will not need to buy any from NV.
When excess electric power is produced, California energy regulators or grids order the power to be shut off (known as curtailment), or they pay someone else to take it (AZ).
Thus, I wonder how well thought out the Gemini solar power plan actually is, and whether this plant will be just another Nevada solar boondoggle.