Ivanpah running at 40% of expected output while killing about 3,500 birds a year


(Photo of Ivanpah wing-toasting tower in operation. Photo by James Ulvog.)

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System next to I-15 just south of the California-Nevada border is only generating 40% of the expected electricity while at the same time killing a lot more birds than officially reported.

6/12 – Wall Street Journal – High-Tech Solar Projects Fail to Deliver / $2.2 billion California project generates 40% of expected electricity – The Ivanpah solar-thermal plant in the Mojave Desert has been open 15 months. I think it was in testing for several months before that.

It was supposed to deliver over 1 million mWh a year but is only running at 40% of that level according to the article.

Article says offered causes include a lot of equipment breaking (even though it is only around 18 months old). They are still working their way down the learning curve with plenty of on-the-job learning on how to run the plant.

As I’ve mentioned before, they were planning to use natural gas to run the facility for an hour a day to get it going before the sun power really kicks in. They are having to use four times as much natural gas to get the plant started in the morning.

Most entertaining excuse offered for poor results is there’s not enough sun. In the Mojave Desert.

For the last 15 months it’s been more cloudy than expected.

In the Mojave Desert.

For 15 months straight.

That explanation means we are supposed to infer the engineers who calculated the expected output didn’t realize that it isn’t radiantly brilliant every day of every month of  every year in the Mojave desert. That would be a rather serious error.

The article says that in the U.S., solar farms produce six times the amount of energy as solar-thermal plants. In 2014 solar power generated 0.33% of all electricity. Using that ratio mentioned in the article of 6:1, that means that solar-thermal generated 0.05% of our electricity and solar farms provided 0.28%. Put another way, out of every 2,121 watts generated last year across the country, one came from solar-thermal. Out of every 353 watts generated, one came from a solar farm.

Then there’s the cost.

Renewable energy analysts say new solar farms are selling electricity at around five cents a kilowatt-hour. I need to research that idea some more. I did not realize it was that low. Article does not say what their costs are running. (Learning is why I’m doing this blog by the way.)

That is in contrast to the article saying federal data shows electricity coming out of Ivanpah is selling from $.12 up to $.25 a kWh. If those numbers are right that means that wing-toasters are running between 2 1/2 and 5 times the price of solar farms.

Spreading that $2.2 billion over 40% of the expected output will have a terrible impact on the profitability.

6/14 – Million Dollar Way – Enquiring Minds Want to Know – Regarding that string of excuses, consider the challenges that exist in drilling for oil, or even more so, running a nuclear power plant. From the article:

Before I go on: this is poppycock — “new solar-thermal technology isn’t as simple as traditional solar panel installations.” Sounds like whining. The nuclear energy industry has much more challenging problems. The oil industry has many more challenges due to an anti-oil atmosphere in Washington — just ask BP. Ask the Bakken operators who can be charged with a felony for one dead migratory duck. It sounds like … {the named spokesman for the project owner who says solar-thermal is far more complicated than photovoltaic panels} is not up to the challenges involved in procuring and replacing solar panels.

Article points out the engineers designing the project only had somewhere around 100 years of data on daily sunlight to work with.

That would be why they missed the forecast for 15 months.

Additional comment:

But if there’s not enough sunshine in southern California / Nevada, how in the world do solar enthusiasts think there’s even a remote chance of enough solar energy to power the world … ever.

Remember, there just wasn’t enough sun.

For the last 15 months in a row.

In the Mojave desert.

Next post:  Ivanpah kills an estimated 3,500 birds a year while producing at 40% of forecast.

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