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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 “solar power”

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.

Read more…

Massive experiment to store electricity will add massive cost to consumers

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The Gordon Butte Pumped Storage Hydro Project in Montana is moving forward, having previously received an assessment of no significant impact on the environment from FERC and having just received a 50 year license to operate the facility.

Looks to me like the project will substantially increase the cost of electricity.

Stored water concept

The concept is that electricity generated by wind farms or solar farms when there is no need for the electricity can be sent to the Gordon Butte facility. The otherwise unusable electricity will be used to pump water from a reservoir uphill to a reservoir at a higher elevation. That “stores” the potential energy.

Later, when consumers want more electricity than the slice-and-dicers and wing-toasters can produce, water will be drained from the upper reservoir to the lower reservoir through turbines thus generating electricity from the stored water.

Read more…

Updates on renewable energy

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub before it merged into Adobe Stock.

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub before it merged into Adobe Stock.

A few of many articles of interest for unreliable energy.

  • Very large solar farm completed in snowy Minnesota
  • Fighting over taxes on wind power

10/21 – AP at Reuters – Construction wraps up on largest solar facility in Midwest and 1/21/16 – Star Tribune – Largest Minnesota solar array wins approval from utility regulators and Community Energy Solar – North Star Solar

The North Star Solar facility in Minnesota has over 440,000 solar panels with theoretical capacity of 100 MW. Reported cost is $180M.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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…

More news on the environmental and ecological damage caused by unreliable renewables.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

FWS proposes to allow 4,200 incidental takings (that means killing them) of the above bird each year. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

The bad news just keeps rolling in on how much damage is caused by wind and solar power. An update on the proposal to allow wind projects to kill off a bunch of eagles, more followup on an Ivanpah tower starting itself on fire, and negative electricity prices in Germany.

5/15 – Robert Bryce at Wall Street Journal – An Ill Wind: Open Season on Bald Eagles / Sacrificing 4,200 of the birds a year for green energy sounds fine to regulators.

Proposed rule will extend to 30 years from 5 years the amount of time that wind farm operators are allowed to kill eagles. This will allow taking out up to 4,200 bald eagles a year out of the estimated 72,400 living in the US today.

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.

Read more…

More disruption from unstable renewable energy

Unreliable energy. Notice turbines are facing many different directions as indicator of low, irregular output. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Unreliable energy near Palm Springs, CA. Notice turbines are facing many different directions as indicator of low, irregular output. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Renewable energy sources are unreliable because the output is variable and unpredictable. They also require massive subsidies to underwrite installation and production. Here are a few articles I’ve noted that describe the economic and environmental damage from unreliables.


3/26/16 – Wall Street Journal – Solar-Panel Installers Face Clouded Future / Solar-power incentives for homeowners shrinking as local utilities pressure state regulators – Let’s go through the economics again.

Residential solar power only works because of massive subsidies. Federal taxpayers must provide subsidies through federal tax credits, state taxpayers must provide subsidies through state incentives, and electricity users must provide subsidies through net-metering. If any subsidy goes away, the economics of residential solar collapse.

Article makes the point one more time: unreliable renewables only with heavy subsidies. When Nevada announced plans to cut back the massive cross-subsidy from other consumers, solar installers closed up shop in the state.

Here’s why. Look at the payment given to solar-customers for electricity their site produces but doesn’t use:

Read more…

The energy revolution driven by fracking isn’t over – 2 of 2

Training rig. Photo by James Ulvog.

Training rig. Photo by James Ulvog.

Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have turned the energy world upside down. The massive transition isn’t over. A few articles on the massive benefits of fracking. Part 1 of this discussion here.

2/14 – Matt Ridley, Rational Optimist – Low Oil Prices Are a Good Thing / The shale revolution has changed the world  – Article explains that low oil prices are an incredible benefit for consumers across the world.

Pointing out news that is not news to anyone who has paid attention to the energy business in the recent years, article explains the current volatility is currently disrupting and will continue to disrupt many producers. A lot of producers will go out of business. Keep in mind that the drilling rigs, equipment, and especially the oil under the ground will not vaporize as a result. The know-how to more efficiently drill more productive wells more quickly more cheaply will be around a long time.

Article explains a cited book which makes the point that the shale revolution is just getting started. The improved efficiency producing higher output in the last two years has brought many producers to the point where they can be productive in the $30 or $40 range.

The technology has increased to the point that if prices rebound to slightly higher levels than where they are now would make it possible to bring horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing into conventional oil fields and produce increases there.

The net effect of all these amazing advances is that shale oil will put a cap on how far oil prices can rise. As prices go up a whole bunch of undrilled locations become lucrative.

3/1 – Mark Perry, Carpe Diem – Charts and Updates on America’s Amazing Shale Revolution, It’s Not over yet – Astounding graphs, as usual.

Read more…

Net metering and solar+storage

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

A few articles catching my eye on consumer level solar, particularly the battle over non-solar retail customers involuntarily subsidizing rooftop installations of their neighbors, also known as net-metering. Of note is that in general solar power projects are only feasible with massive federal subsidies and residential solar power also requires heavy subsidies from other customers in the form of net-metering as well as all levels of government.

12/29/15 – Wall Street Journal – Nevada’s Solar Flare / State regulators roll back the net-metering electricity scam. Nevada is reducing the subsidy homeowners with solar panels get for electricity that isn’t used.

Currently, the electricity generated by solar panels that isn’t used by the homeowner is credited at the retail rate instead of the wholesale rate. That clever angle being played is that the retail rate also includes distribution costs, while wholesale rate reflects generation only.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

That’s all for Palen Solar Power Project

The future for the land that was going to be used for the Palen solar project. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

The future for the land that was going to be used for the Palen solar project. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

There will not be any environmental and economic destruction from the Palen project in Riverside County. It is as dead as the wildlife it would have otherwise killed.

12/16/15 – Chris Clarke at ReWire – Weird Twist for Riverside County Solar Project – The Palen Solar Power Project has been sold by its near bankrupt owner to the fifth owner. A bankruptcy court has approved the transfer from Abengoa Solar to Maverick Solar LLC (sub of EDF Renewable Energy).

Read more…

More on the destruction from solar power

NIce view of the mountain, huh? What looks like a lake is appealing to birds, but landing on it will be deadly. Photo by James Ulvog.

Nice view of the mountain, huh? What looks like a lake is appealing to birds, but landing on it would be deadly. Photo by James Ulvog.

Have lots of articles on the damage from wind and solar power I want to discuss. Background article on wing-toasters suggests we may not see any more concentrated solar towers blight landscape and destroy wildlife. Article has video of the ‘streamers’ killed by a solar tower – 14 are visible in 9 seconds.

Oh, the solar-powered Ivanpah facility burns so much natural gas that the project will have to participate in the state cap-and-trade program.

9/25/15 – Chris Clarke at ReWire – Are Solar Power Towers Doomed in California? –  We can only hope.

Article gives deep background on the various concentrated solar power facilities actually built, planned, or abandoned in California.

There are currently two operating solar tower projects in California:

  • 392 mW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating system next to I-15 near the California-Nevada border and
  • 5mW Sierra Sun Tower demonstration project in Lancaster.

Article discusses a variety of other projects, with the only one that seems likely to move forward is the 500mW Palen Solar Electric Generating System, which at the time of the article was  going to be built with parabolic trough design instead of the wing-toasting CSP towers. (In 2/16, regulators finally pulled the plug on the stalled project.)

CSP is providing only 4% of the solar power in the state.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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