Solar Energy Prescription — Aloe Vera

It is cloudy in the ATX and the Big Red Car does not like it.

Some years ago, before oil went to where it is, there was much pocket protector discussion about the efficacy of solar power — freeeeeeeeeeeeeeee energy, whee!

Lots of money got diverted from the real world to big projects. One of the biggest was in California.

It was a massive project in the Mojave Desert by Ivanpah (the company who built it) which was funded by a $1,600,000,000, that’s $1.6 BILLION dollars, loan guaranty from the Obama administration. Look at this baby, wow!

Small point — that’s YOUR money and YOUR government picking winners in the free market. Some find fault with such a thing.

How did it work out, Big Red Car?

So, now, the results are in.

1. In 2014, the solar power plant produced only 45% of its promised output.

2. In 2015, the solar power plant produced only 68% of its promised output.

3. The latest cost per megawatt hour was $200/mwh. That is six times the cost of conventionally generated power in California which has high generation costs already.

4. The California Energy Commission is likely to order its shuttering. To close it down.

The plant itself — owned by Ivanpah which is a joint venture amongst Google, BrightSource Energy, and NRG Energy — opened in 2014 and was described as a cutting edge modern marvel which would produce low cost energy and gobs of it.

It is a series of enormous mirrors which reflect the sun’s rays onto water boilers built on 450 foot towers. There are a total of 170,000 such mirrors (called “heliostats” by the energy illuminati) focused on three boilers on the big towers. [Note to self: invest in the mirror maker?]

It was supposed to be able to produce almost 400 megawatts of power which was widely trumpeted as being able to power 100,000 homes with cheap, renewable solar power.

Pfffffffffffffft!

What now, Big Red Car?

Now, there are two big problems. There are a few other problems but these are the BIG ones.

1. The solar power plant is NOT meeting its objectives and the buyers of the power are unhappy as they had planned on that level of output.

2. The plant is likely going to be closed down because of the absurd cost of the power. Nobody, even goofy California, wants $200/mwh power.

When the plant was unable to meet its projections what did the sponsor do?

The sponsor applied for a $539,000,000 GRANT from the Federal government (again, that is YOUR money, dear reader).

To recap:

Ivanpah: “Dear Obama administration would you please guaranty this loan for $1,600,000,000 to build this great project in the Mojave Desert that will produce gobs of cheap, renewable energy?”

Obama admin: “Yes, Google and BrightSource Energy and NRG Energy, we will do that for you.”

Some time later.

Ivanpah: “Uh, Obama administration, our project isn’t hitting its output numbers. Could you please give us — I mean award us — a grant for $539,000,000 with which to pay off some of the loan you are already guaranteeing for us? Please.”

This is not exactly how free markets are supposed to work.

The other little problems are:

1. About 1-28,000 birds have flown over the plant and been incinerated.

2. It sends up a “nearly blinding glare” for about six to ten miles which is a problem for aviation.

Bottom line it, Big Red Car

The Mojave Desert solar power plant is producing inadequate amounts of power at a cost of six times the alternative. All of the proponents were WRONG! Wrong!

The Federal government — your government spending your money — funded this fiasco.

The California Energy Commission is going to force this lemon to close down.

This project was built on the back of the government — loan guaranties, grants — thereby making the public the holder of the losses while the original developers are moving on. This is called making your losses public while making your profits private. It is a scam.

And, the best part, YOU paid for it, y’all. You are left holding the incinerated, dead carcass of the Ivanpah project.

[Can I interest anyone in a slightly used mirror?]

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be good to yourself and watch some basketball. Go Heels!

  • Lisa Zirkle

    Man, where has this blog been all my life? Loving your take on things. Keep it up!

  • sigmaalgebra

    Terrific

    Terrific data and exposé Fantastic.

    $1 Billion for Salt

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, I know that that Mojave desert is a very special place with a lot of sunlight, but, but, but, but how the heck will that plant supply power at night?

    Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay I’ve got it: All they need is some salt! Well, quite a lot of salt. And use the excess energy during the day to heat the salt to be really hot, and at night use the hot salt to make steam! “Obama? Just need another $1 billion or so for some salt? Please?”.

    Paid Positions

    Gee, $1.6 billion: Now I’m starting to understand better why on a lot of Internet fora, e.g., Hacker News, Business Insider, various liberal sites, some of the Greenies argue so vociferously for clean, renewable energy!

    I argue back, but the most they do is just call me ugly names.

    So, that arguing is a special case of the old observation that “Can’t argue with someone who is being paid for their position.” or some such.

    Skyrocket

    Of course Green energy costs more, a lot more, but you have to understand, it also kills birds, blinds airplane pilots, and doesn’t work at night!

    As in

    “Obama: My Plan Makes Electricity Rates Skyrocket”

    at

    Yup, “skyrocket”, e.g., 600%.

    Gingrich Patronizing Coeds

    I still like the way Speaker Gingrich addressed two very, very wound up Amherst University coeds, hysterical, over-achieving, overly assertive, wildly gullible, enviro bimbos:

    The video didn’t show the girls very well, but one of them might have been pretty: “Honey, my car is just outside. How about we get some coffee and talk about being Green and 100% all-natural?”.

    We know that God must have loved bimbos because he made so many of them.

    CO2

    The Greenies and their arguments about CO2 make no sense to me: E.g., from the present, back to the 1970s, 1940s, the 1700s, …, several hundred thousand years, the record of CO2 concentration changes fails to fit at all well the record of temperature changes.

    Sunspots

    A better argument, but I suspect needing more details on CO2 from volcanoes and in the oceans, is

    The Great Global Warming Swindle

    So, CO2 is just irrelevant. Instead, what’s crucial are clouds, which have a net cooling effect, seeded by cosmic rays, at times blocked by the solar wind from sun spots. So more sunspots, fewer clouds, warmer planet. And, unlike CO2, the sunspot data fits the temperature data.

    Bought and Paid for

    Of that $1.6 billion, gotta suspect that some of it ended up in a Swiss bank account.

    Al Guru’s Scam

    The exposé here is a stake through the heart, at least some nails for the coffin, of Saint Laureate Al Guru’s flim-flam, fraud scam.

  • Yeah, there will be setbacks, but solar is the future. There is this giant nuclear reactor in space that’s been giving the earth clean and free energy for a few billion years. It’s up to us to develop the tech, the companies, and government infrastructure to harness it.

    As for holding a $1.6B carcass… no big deal. I’ve seen the governments budget. When solar gets to the point of the Joint Strike Fighter, let me know.

    Until the, you gotta spend money to make sunny…

    • JLM

      .
      You will get no disagreement from me that solar should be huge but it is not there just now. What we need is pilot projects which allow us to find the financially efficient G spot for solar.

      It is also disconcerting that the project was justified on the basis of patently false assertions. “I don’t know for sure” she have been in the convo.

      This is essentially a failed full scale project that was funded by the government when reasonable folks suggest there is a need for more pilot projects.

      In much that same way that space travel is being privatized, solar has to work on its own and the public can’t be asked to fund the whims of the likes of Google. Let Google funds its own ideas.

      BRC
      http://www.themusingsofthebigredcar.com

      • Solar is the future. I’m sick of hearing that argument. It doesn’t mean we subsidize it today. Coal is cheap. Natural gas is cheap. Oil is cheap. Nuclear once built is stable and cheap. It’s stupid to do solar on large scale. If you want to put it on your house and run a closed circuit, so be it. Unbundle energy. But to do it at scale when it’s a totally unproven and inefficient technology is not only unwise, but it’s being stupid. Americans don’t like stupid.

    • sigmaalgebra

      Candidate Near-Term Uses for Solar Power

      Solar: Maybe in deserts next to the sea, use solar power to take the salt, etc. out of sea water for domestic water, agriculture, etc. So, do reverse osmosis, electrolysis, whatever the engineering says is best.

      If Joule Unlimited can get their varieties of algae working, etc., then use solar to make motor fuel.

      Use solar energy, water, and coal to make gasoline via, say, some version of the old Fischer-Tropsch process. Put the gasoline in a pipeline and sell it.

      In each case, the biggie question is — cost effective?

      Cost Analysis

      For the candidate projects, and Ivanpah, mostly should be able to do a fairly accurate cost analysis just from the first project plans with the engineering, etc.

      That the Ivanpah project was supposed to produce cheap power, say, $0.02 per KWH or $20 per MWH, but ended up at $200 MWH suggests that cost analysis from the first project plans with the engineering was fraudulent.

      That is, that project wasn’t challenging research such as hydrogen fusion, asteroid mining, curing cancer, or showing that P = NP and, instead, was all just some fairly straightforward engineering.

      I smell politics, not R&D or engineering.

      Feeding the US Electric Grid

      Apparently the Ivanpah project was trying to feed the main US electric power grid, or at least the California part of it.

      There, to me, IMHO, first-cut, the problem is not the solar power but the storage. IMHO, even if the solar power, as electric power, was free, cost $0.00 MWH, capex and opex, it still would be worthless on the grid due to no storage. So, the issue is storage. My guess is that, net, the storage alone costs more per MWH than current main grid power sources.

      Storage

      So, for R&D on solar, f’get about solar and work on storage instead.

      People have tried storage: Hot salt, flywheels, classic batteries, new capacitors, pumped hydro, compressed air, etc.

      Gee, I didn’t mention compressed springs and twisted rubber bands — maybe we need to rush to try those! “Obama, $1 billion for twisted rubber bands! Please!”.

      Since so far the free market has not deployed much in storage, we can short-cut the engineering-economic (name of a department at Stanford) arithmetic and conclude the cost is too darned high.

      Summary

      I’m for serious R&D. I’m not for foolish boondoggles. Ivanpah looks to me like a boondoggle. The next US Attorney General may have some cases to bring.

  • JLM

    .
    The final report card is in on the $1.6 BILLION dollar Mojave Desert solar power plant — it gets an F.

    The plant is likely to be shuttered because nobody wants to buy $200/mwh power — even in California that is SIX times the alternative.

    This was funded with YOUR money.

    http://themusingsofthebigredcar.com/solar-energy-prescription-aloe-vera/

    BRC
    http://www.themusingsofthebigredcar.com