Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

Archive for the tag “Ivanpah”

How to cope with the intermittent output from solar power plants during a solar eclipse? Turn off your air conditioning and sweat it out.

For one day in August the Ivanpah facility won’t be incinerating as many birds as usual, due to the solar eclipse. Photo by James Ulvog.

Yeah, turn up the a/c temp is what those of us in California should do during the solar eclipse on August 21, according to the CPUC. Sweat it out.

The eclipse will start about 9 a.m. and hit maximum sun coverage about 10:20, with full sun resuming about 11:54 a.m.

Two issues. That is the front end of peak solar production during the day and August 21 is likely to be a hot day. That means output from solar plants will be lower than usual while demand for electricity will likely be higher than usual.

Drop in amount of sunlight is expected to be about 62% in SoCal, around 76% in northern part of state.

During the eclipse, about two-thirds of the solar production will be lost at the time of day when about 40% of our electricity comes from solar plants. Using those numbers means we will lose about 27% of our electricity production during that three hour time frame.

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More disruption in the electricity grid from all that solar output

Curtailed electricity in California during 2016 was greater than the output from any one of those towers. Photo by James Ulvog.

The routine surge of electricity during the late morning and early afternoon in California is disrupting the electricity system. Matching the excess production of electricity during the day with highest use in the evening is going to be expensive for consumers.

The underlying issue is solar is neither reliable nor dispatchable.  The issue is beginning to be a problem and will get far worse.

3/5/17 – Wall Street Journal – How California Utilities are Managing Excess Solar Power – There is so much solar power in California that when the sun is bright, there is too much electricity and it must be sold cheaply just to get rid of it. Then, when the sun goes down and demand goes up after people get home from work, there isn’t enough electricity and the spot price goes sky high.

Article says that during the day, the wholesale spot price of electricity frequently shrinks to zero. Occasionally the wholesale spot price can hit $1,000 a megawatt-hour after dark. That would be about a dollar a kilowatt. $1.00.

At the end of the article there is a comment that on 178 days in 2016 the wholesale price went negative. The spot was below zero. The solar plants in California had to pay someone to take the excess electricity. I wonder what that does to the bottom line at Ivanpah? (That is a rhetorical question. – Impact on them is zero because I think they are on a multi-decade fixed price contract.)

Huge battery plants can store electricity during the day and discharge at night. That is expensive. Article says the price ranges from $285 up to $581 a megawatt-hour, which is in contrast to a natural gas peaker at $155 to $227 a megawatt-hour. That is around twice as expensive.

3/18/17 – David Danelski of Press-Enterprise at Daily Bulletin – Here’s how California ended up with too much solar power – The amount of solar power now online in California is so high that it is disrupting the electricity market.

The impact of so much solar capacity shows up at two times during the day.

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Additional issues at Ivanpah: melting the salt and high winds

Production possible when there is no rain, or clouds, and if the wind isn't blowing too strong. Tilted photo by James Ulvog.

Production possible only when there is no rain, or clouds, and if the wind isn’t blowing too strong. Tilt angle photo by James Ulvog.

In my learning about energy, I’ve picked up on a few more problems with concentrated solar power, which is the design of the wing-toasting facility at Ivanpah.

Keeping the molten salt melted

All those mirrors focus the sun on the top of the tower in order to superheat a liquid, which is then circulated to turbines, which spin, thus generating electricity. The liquid returns to the top of the tower for another superheating.

The liquid?

Molten salt.

The melting temperature of molten salt is in the range of 225° C or perhaps 260° C. Of course my accounting brain doesn’t think Celsius, so I translated those numbers, coming up with something in the range of 437° F or 500° F. Let’s just call that 400°.

My accounting brain can tell that is really hot.

Another thing I have learned is that once the sun goes down the molten salt is allowed to freeze. It would take a lot of energy to keep that much salt over 400 so that it stayed liquid. That means in the morning it is either sludge or solid and needs to be heated above the melting point so it will work.

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More news on the damage from solar power

For those panels to pay off, the regulators need to keep rules in place for a decade or two. Not a good bet. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

For those panels to pay off, you are betting the regulators will keep rules in place for a decade or two. Not a particularly good bet. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com


Two articles last week on disruptions from solar power. Illustration why it’s not wise to make it decade-long bet on residential rooftop solar. Also, a video surveillance system that might, perhaps allow getting an accurate count on the tally of bird deaths at Ivanpah.

7/26 – New York Times – Why Home Solar Panels No Longer in Some States – Friendly suggestion for your consideration: Don’t place $20,000 on a 12 year bet that politically driven government regulators won’t change the rules.

The story of one specific man in California is used to illustrate the danger of betting on stability in government rules.

In California, electricity rates have been structured so that there are four tiers of consumption. To punish heavy residential electricity users, prices in tiers three and four are steep, running as high as $.36 a kilowatt-hour for tier 4 with PG&E. To protect most folks from rising cost of electricity the lower two tiers were set low, resulting in a cross-subsidy. Read more…

Ivanpah wing toasting facility toasts Ivanpah wing toasting facility

Ivanpah facility toasted itself instead of birds on Thursday. Photo by James Ulvog.

Ivanpah facility toasted itself instead of birds on Thursday. Photo by James Ulvog.

The solar facility that typically sets birds on fire scored itself big time on Thursday.

One of the solar collecting towers at Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System had a fire about two-thirds of the way up the tower. Early reports indicate some of the garage-door sized mirrors were misaligned and focused the searing heat on the middle part of tower instead of the collector. The heat reportedly started a number of electrical cables on fire.

The solar generator set itself on fire instead of setting birds on fire which generates visible streamers. Those are birds started on fire and falling to the ground streaming smoke.

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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.

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Poorly producing Ivanpah plant might have to close due to low production

The glare from those towers is visible from the air 100 miles away. The field around that white-hot tower toasts birds. Photo by James Ulvog.

The glare from the Ivanpah towers is visible to pilots 100 miles away. The field around that white-hot tower toasts birds that venture too close. Photo by James Ulvog.

In news cheered by all migratory birds west of the Mississippi, The Wall Street Journal reports on 3/16 that Ivanpah Solar Plant May Be Forced to Shut Down.

In old news, the plant isn’t producing as much electricity as expected. The new information is the wing-toasting solar plant isn’t meeting its contractually required output. Due to peculiarities of the regulatory world, this means it needs special permission from state regulators to keep operating.

Update: One year reprieve to meet contract requirements granted when PUC approved a forebearance agreement between PG&E and Ivanpah.

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Update on devastation from wind and solar power. Catching up on backlog of articles.

Only one of the three Ivanpah towers is burning the wings off birds at the moment this picture was taken in 2013. Photo by James Ulvog.

Only one of the three Ivanpah towers is burning the wings off birds at the moment this picture was taken in 2013. Photo by James Ulvog.

I have a plethora of articles on the wide range of economic, environmental, and biological harm caused by wind and solar power. Will try to get caught up. So much devastation. So little time.

3/2/15 – Coyote Blog – New Business Opportunity: Lolo’s Eagle and Waffles Next to Large Solar Plants – Post points to the following two articles. Those articles plus this headline suggest that if the solar plants can get away with killing eagles and other federally protected migratory birds, then perhaps there is a business opportunity from serving up the carcasses as exotic dishes at a nearby café.

2/18/15 – ReWire – Scores of Birds Killed During Test of The Project in Nevada – During a test on 1/14/15 at the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project outside Tonopah, Nevada, federal biologists counted 130 streamers.

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Why solar-thermal farms are accurately called wing-toasters – Ivahpah offs an estimated 3,500 birds a year.


(Wing toaster portion of a wing-toasting facility in operation. Top of the tower is where the protected, migratory, and other birds get cooked. The white-hot section is around 750 degrees. Photo by James Ulvog.)

A detailed study of bird casualties estimates the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System kills about 3,500 birds a year. This is while it is only generating at 40% of expected capacity.

4/22 – Chris Clarke at ReWire – Solar Plant Likely Killed 3,500 Birds in 1st Year – The Ivanpah facility hired a firm to research the number of birds killed at the location. The number of fatalities is in a range between 2,500 and 6,700 with a point estimate of 3,504.

That is a range of 6.8 to 18.4 per day with point estimate of 9.6 each and every day.

That is in contrast to the facility’s biologist’s official count of 695 dead and eight injured birds. That would be an average of 1.9 casualties each day. Read more…

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.

Read more…

Update on solar and wind power – solar #33

More on the economic, environmental, and ecological devastation caused by solar and wind power. This post discusses flaws in the master plan to develop wind and solar in the California desert.

Update 11/18: Chris Clarke informs us that You Have More Time to Comment on That Desert Energy Plan. The deadline for comment has been extended from January 9 to February 23, which is an additional six weeks. He points out you better get started. At 8,000 pages, you need to get through 800 pages a day to make sure your comment is thorough and responsive enough that the regulators can’t just throw away your letter.

10/23 – ReWire – California’s Renewable Energy Plan Misses the Point of Renewable Energy Chris Clarke shreds what logic and rational thought went into the plans to develop the California desert into a massive solar and wind farm.

The 6,000+ page Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is essentially an EIR to develop the desert starting from east of LA and San Diego all the way to the Nevada border. Previously mentioned this plan here.

Mr. Clarke explains the goal of the plan is to develop 20,000 MW of renewable energy in the desert by 2020.

Mr. Clarke says that is equivalent to an additional Read more…

Ivanpah update – solar #32

The huge collecting solar power plant in the California desert near the Nevada border, Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, is in distress as an energy producer and as a business deal.

Output in the first eight months of operation is about one-third of what was expected.

Project negotiated a delay of its first two loan payments and is requesting federal grants to pick up the tab for those payments plus one more.

In the accounting world when a borrower doesn’t make payments in accordance with the original loan agreement it is called a troubled debt restructuring. In finance that is called a workout. In banking that is an impaired loan. In politics and the media world we call that a bailout.

9/23 – Wall Street Journal – Ivanpah Solar Project Owners Delay Repaying Loans, Documents Say – NRG, Google, BrightSource Said to Delay Paying Back Loans – Project was built with a $1.6B guaranteed loan as part of the total reported price tag of $2.2B.

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Update on solar power – #31


(Photo by James Ulvog; one of three towers is in operation.)

Here are a few articles on the down side of solar energy: more categories of environmental damage / bulldozer moving forward a 6,000+ page plan for desert use / late coverage of cancelling another environmental disaster.

9/29 – PA Pundits International – Deroy Murdock – Earth-Friendly Energy Is Anything But – Article surveys the devastation caused by wind and solar power. In addition to many issues I’ve discussed on this blog, the article points out two more.

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Saving a few hundred sparrows doesn’t make up for killing a brown pelican. Solar #25


(Photo by James Ulvog)

(Update: this is actually solar #27. Oops.)

One of the entertainingly deceptive arguments defending the number of birds killed by wind turbines and solar farms is that cats kill far more birds every year.

Various reports suggest upwards of a billion birds nationwide are taken out by cats each year. The intentionally misleading argument is essentially that the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of birds taken out by renewable energy don’t count because outside cats are responsible for so much more damage in the avian world.

Funding spay & neuter clinics as mitigation for dead migratory birds

So that you don’t think I’m making this up, check out the AP’s Big Story report: Emerging Solar Plants Scorch Birds in Mid-Air.

This major AP report discusses the thousands of birds killed at the Ivanpah facility south of the Nevada-California border on the way to Las Vegas.

Over 300,000 heliostats focus sunlight on three towers 400 feet in the air. The temperature around the towers reportedly hits 700 degrees.

Nobody knows how many birds are killed by the towers and die on site. Current methodology for tallying those fatalities is seriously undercounting the number.

Nobody has the foggiest clue how many birds are mortally wounded and land outside the perimeter of the site since there is zero effort to count them.

Nobody understands the causality of why so many birds are dying.

Scroll down to the last six paragraphs of the article. Some key comments:

Biologists don’t know of any way to reduce the number of birds that get their wings toasted.

The project owner is offering to pay $1.8 million to compensate for the expected bird deaths. The net impact of that settlement would be issuing a kill-all-you-want permit that gets them off the hook for all future birds that die at the site.

The company is also offering to fund projects to spay and neuter domesticated cats.


(Photo by James Ulvog of a threat to pelicans and migratory ducks that is every bit as serious as a couple of heliostats in the desert. Also as much of a threat to the golden eagle and California condor populations as any wind turbine. Check out the vicious eyes, fangs, and claws of a deadly bird killer.)

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Does the Ivanpah solar facility toast 642 or 28,000 birds a year? Solar #24



(Photo by James Ulvog)

Officials from Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System report there were 321 dead birds found on the site in the first six months of operation. Annualizing that would imply 642 birds will die each year at the facility shown above.

Is that the total of birds killed at the site? Let me ask you a few questions.

  • Is the total number of drunk drivers on the road determined by looking at the official FBI statistics on DUI arrests?
  • Is the extent of insider trading equal to the number of SEC enforcement actions filed?
  • Is the total amount of criminal behavior leading up to the 2008 great recession equal to the number of criminal indictments issued by the Justice Department (which is zero if you didn’t know)?

If you answered yes to all of those three questions then you will certainly agree that the grand total of birds killed at Ivanpah is limited to the reported amount of 321 in six months, or around 600 a year.

On the other hand, if you think the number of drunk drivers is greater than the number arrested or if you believe there is actually more insider trading going on than the SEC prosecutes, then the question is to what extent are the toasted wings undercounted at Ivanpah.

Causes of undercount

Read more…

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