Ivanpah gets a reprieve

Low output, high cost, bird-killing, natural gas guzzling solar project has another year to hit contracted output. Photo by James Ulvog.
Low output, high cost, bird-killing, natural gas guzzling solar project has another year to hit contracted output requirements. Photo by James Ulvog.

Mentioned yesterday that the Ivanpah wing-toaster facility was in danger of having to close because it wasn’t producing enough electricity.

The plant owners can breathe easier. The Press Enterprise reports on 3/17: PUC gives Ivanpah plant operators more time to increase output.

In what looks to be a contract dispute, PG&E pointed out Ivanpah plant wasn’t delivering the contractually required amount of electricity and therefore was in violation of some state rules or regulations or something.

That meant Ivanpah needed special dispensation to continue operations. On Thursday, the state gave that permission.

Article says Ivanpah’s parent company paid PG&E an undisclosed amount of money in return for more time to get output increased. In return, PG&E won’t declare Ivanpah in default. That’s what makes me think this whole thing was just a contract dispute. Or perhaps it is just a way to a price cut.

On Thursday the PUC approved the forbearance agreement. It set July 31, 2016 as a deadline to hit the output target. The agreement apparently has a provision to allow an additional six months.

Article says that an official from the plant’s owner indicated the expectation has been it would take four years to hit the targeted output levels.

Article says that PG&E buys the output from two of the units with the purchase agreements being confidential. That means it’s not exactly clear how far short the output is falling and I’m guessing that means the exact pricing mechanism isn’t public either.

Output from the other tower goes to SCE, here in Southern California. PG&E serves Northern California.

3/19 – Ben Heard –Ivanpah solar should be given more time – Mr. Heard is an engineer in Australia who used to oppose nuclear power but after studying the issue is now a nuclear power advocate on the basis that it is the most environmentally friendly source of power.

He says Ivanpah should be given plenty more time in order to prove what concentrated solar power can or cannot do. If the project is halted before the owners say they’ve done everything I can, that partisans can always claim CSP might have worked. On the other hand, the author asserts, if the project is given all the time it needs and everyone then realizes this technology is a flop, then we will all know it was a failure.

Basically that’s the concept of giving some enough rope to hang themselves.

My only hope is that someday there will actually be honest counts of the bird deaths and that we might see the actual cost structure. I realize that is a stretch on both counts.

3/17 – Wall Street Journal – California Regulators Give Ivanpah Solar Plant More Time – This was probably the first article that appeared, but I saw it last and it has less information than the Press Enterprise article above.

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