Ivanpah Solar Thermal officially opens

BrightSource Energy’s 377 MWe (net at peak) Ivanpah solar thermal power station officially opened on February 13, 2014. Secretary Earnest Moniz, in a rather amusing turn of phrase, called the plant a “shining example of how the United States is becoming a world leader in solar energy.” With more than 340,000 computer controlled mirrors spread over 3,500 acres of desert land focusing reflected sunlight onto three 459 foot tall towers, there is no doubt that the plant will shine brightly. As the DOE blog described it, Ivanpah is a “photogenic facility”.

With an expected capacity factor of 32% the plant should produce about a billion kilowatt-hours per year. According to most sources, the plant cost $2.2 billion, about $1.6 billion of which was financed with a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. Though that financial support is mentioned frequently, the project received several additional incentives that made it an attractive investment.

Since Ivanpah is a solar energy project and not a nuclear project, it was eligible for DOE loan guarantees under section 1705 as opposed to the section 1703. That means the government appropriated funds for the Credit Subsidy Cost, which is the fee that is supposed to reimburse the federal government for the risk associated with providing the loan guarantee.

In contrast, when Constellation Energy was offered a loan guarantee for the Calvert Cliff unit 2 nuclear project under the same 2005 Energy Policy Act program that provided Ivanpah’s funding, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) calculated a fee of $880 million for a $7.5 billion loan.

Since it began operation before 2016, Ivanpah was eligible for the 30% Investment Tax Credit in Lieu of Production Tax Credits that was initially devised as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and applied to solar thermal with subsequent legislation, so the developers will receive a refund of $660 million within the next 18 months.

Since Ivanpah is a solar thermal power system that began operating before the end of 2013, it qualifies for Modified Accelerated Cost-Recovery System (MACRS) + Bonus Depreciation (2008-2013). The value of that treatment varied depending on the profitability of the company taking the deduction, but there is an active market that enables even loss making companies like BrightSource to benefit from the favorable depreciation schedules.

The project also benefits from California’s renewables portfolio standard that mandates that utilities operating in the state purchase at least 33% of their power by 2020 from qualifying renewable energy sources. The Wall Street Journal reports that utilities have signed 25 year power purchase agreements to buy the power from Ivanpah, but neither the utilities nor the state utility regulator has disclosed the price that the utilities will pay. They have only stated that the costs will be rolled into the bundled rate paid by electricity customers.

If you are interested in a complete list of the incentives that made it possible for the Ivanpah developers to attract the “private” capital that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has often described as being very interested in solar energy development, I highly recommend reading the Risk Factors section of BrightSource’s S-1 filing for their aborted initial public offering.

As Kennedy described, the power purchase agreement encouraged by the renewable portfolio standard was one of the clinchers that made the deal attractive to his investment company.

Unlike Solyndra which received corporate financing from DOE, and which had no assurance that it would be able to sell its product, Ivanpah and the Central Valley Solar Ranch projects have contractual commitments from California’s largest utilities to buy all of its power at fixed prices. This is comparable to building a new hotel with the guarantee that it will have 100% occupancy rates for 20+ years.

There has been quite a bit of commentary in sources like KCET Rewire about the effect that the operation of the system is having on birds. As one might imagine, flying over a 4,000 acre field of shining mirrors that are focusing solar energy to specific points more than 450 feet above the ground might be a hazardous endeavor. Apparently air temperatures near the boilers can reach 1,000 F. Solar energy may be natural and renewable, but it is not necessarily safe in concentrated form.

The site’s construction was also delayed when the builders discovered that there were more desert tortoises on the site than initially expected.

It will be interesting to follow the performance of this project over time. There are a large number of moving parts – at least 340,000 of them keeping the mirrors aimed at the boilers – and all of the normal pumps, valves, pipes, and chemistry associated with operating high pressure steam systems. It will be wonderful if the system operates reliably, but I suspect that there will be more than a few unscheduled maintenance shutdowns that reduce the achieved capacity factor to something substantially less than the claimed 32%.

Does anyone know if there will be any publicly accessible performance reports submitted?

About Rod Adams

118 Responses to “Ivanpah Solar Thermal officially opens”

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  1. Daniel says:

    In the mean Time Monz is buzy selling ie dumping DOE’s Uranium surplus on the spot market.

    All of the uranium mining States have begged him to respect the tradition of the DOE not to inject more than the traditional 10% that was the law a few years ago.

    But the Monz killed that law and decided to kill Uranium mining in 5 states.

    Congress has been notified. Expect action in 2035 when the mémo Will land on their desk.

    Fédéral agencies are not to interfère in market forces until the Monz décides otherwise.

  2. Alberto says:

    Good luck to Ivanpah.
    Light clouds passing on site were enough to thermal cycle Eurelios solar steam generator and to show its infeasibility (Adrano, Sicily, Italy 1981-85).

    • Daniel says:

      Good luck to wild life.

    • SB says:

      I believe this facility also has natural gas fired boilers to reduce thermal transients (and allow the system to be started up in the morning).

    • jmdesp says:

      The technology does work now, as shown by Spain with Andasol. After some trials, France also succeeded in making Thémis work, it was stopped because the operations just didn’t pay the salaries of the workers.

  3. Daniel says:

    And how is the clean up fund being managed again ?

    Oh. I see. We will wait until we get there.

    Nice.

  4. John Chatelle says:

    Sounds like the real benefit is that some “investors” got an investment tax credit on a guaranteed loan. I wonder how those were doled out.

    Everybody involved “wins” by yet another theft from the non-personal public masses.

  5. Atomikrabbit says:

    @Rod

    Thanks for parsing the incredible financial incentives being handed out by federal and state governments to get this shiny environmental travesty built – “It’s all about the Benjamins.”

    We should also mention that it was built on public (not private) land, intentionally near a methane-powered backup plant, and will use fossil fuels as a kickstarter on many cold desert mornings. The consumption of scarce desert water resources for mirror cleaning and feedwater makeup is also not trivial. Those links at KCET have more details.

    As the avian deathtoll mounts (if a true accounting is attempted), I think more genuine environmentalists are going to “see the light” – energy-diffuse tech is always going to be more environmentally impactful than energy-dense ones.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Atomikrabbit

      Thank you for reminding me about the gas backup. That was one of the features to the investment I overlooked in my post. Here is more information – http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/is-ivanpah-the-worlds-most-efficient-solar-plant

    • Eric_G says:

      I’ve been looking all morning, and can’t seem to find how much they are paying the BLM for leasing the land. I ask because here in Colorado gas and oil drillers are the second largest source of income for the state, a very close second to income tax revenue. Much of that revenue comes from a fee/lease revenue sharing program with the BLM.

    • EL says:

      The consumption of scarce desert water resources for mirror cleaning and feedwater makeup is also not trivial.

      @Atomikrabbit

      Secretary Moniz has the following to say about water use: “While the visuals are pretty stunning, you can’t see one of the most remarkable features of this project. Ivanpah is utilizing dry-cooling technology that dramatically reduces water usage. In fact, this entire facility will use roughly the same amount of water as two holes at the nearby golf course.”

      Fact sheet from BrightSource.

      • Atomikrabbit says:

        These environmentalists toured the site and are less sanguine about the water situation (apologize for large c&p):

        “The Ivanpah solar project PSA states that during construction, an average of 99,333 gallons per day for Ivanpah 1 and 2 and 194,000 gallons per day for Ivanpah 3 would be used, with up to an additional 47,000 gallons used during pipeline hydrotesting. This would be about 76 to 149 acre-feet per year.

        During grading of the second and third phases of the project, dust would be generated that may result in the need for more frequent washing of the existing heliostats. This heliostat washing could result in an additional 50 acre-feet per year of groundwater use. After this, as a part of routine operation, the mirrors would be washed with a spray every two weeks. This would amount to about 100 acre-feet per year. The PSA says, “over the next 50 years, the use of the…groundwater is expected to increase and,
        along with that increased use, the overdraft in the sub-basin is expected to become greater. The project’s pumping of groundwater alone would contribute to this overdraft….”

        We believe the project does not justify pumping even more water in an arid region, possibly resulting in the death of deep-rooted shrubs and small wash trees such as Catclaw acacia in the future.”

        http://www.basinandrangewatch.org/IvanpahValley.html

        • EL says:

          @Atomikrabbit

          It’s a pretty odd document that adds up water use “during construction” and translates this into a “per year of groundwater use” for the project.

          Yes … routine operation will result in “100 acre-feet per year” (as has already been established). Construction will result in another 600 acre feet of water (for thee year’s of construction) … at most. And I’d actually like to see a link to the PSA. Over 30 year operating life (using Moniz’s metric), that would be equivalent of 2.4 golf holes in nearby course (rather than just 2).

          If 2 holes is acceptable, 2.4 means the project can’t continue? Maybe if it was 3 golf holes I would entirely understand. We’d surely say the golf course should persist, but the clean energy project has to go. Why not split the difference, make it a 15 hole golf course, and call it a water conservation project.

          • Brian Mays says:

            My tax dollars aren’t being wasted on the golf course.

          • EL says:

            My tax dollars aren’t being wasted on the golf course.

            @Brian Mays

            Can you afford the membership fees to play on a private or semi-private course (“Closest Golf Courses Near Ivanpah, CA“)?

            Public courses bleed money (even in good years).

          • Brian Mays says:

            I don’t play golf. And I don’t live in Utah County.

          • EL says:

            I don’t play golf. And I don’t live in Utah County.

            @Brian Mays

            Are you somehow able to earmark that your federal tax contribution not be be spent by USDA?

          • Brian Mays says:

            Are you trying to say that every golf course in the country is subsidized by the USDA? Every new solar project is subsidized by the US Federal Government, however.

            If this 2-to-3-hole-equivalent bird fryer cost the taxpayer only $10 million (over 10 years), then perhaps I wouldn’t mind.

          • EL says:

            If this 2-to-3-hole-equivalent bird fryer cost the taxpayer only $10 million (over 10 years), then perhaps I wouldn’t mind.

            @Brian Mays.

            You’re going to make money on the loan guarantee. That’s not good enough for you?

            You’re also paying for an investment tax credit, and getting $3 billion in economic benefits in return.

            Not bad for hardly lifting a finger. As far as I can tell, you’re entirely in the black (not in the red).

          • jmdesp says:

            EL, could you read the text from Rod above ?

            He has shown the government is paying for the loan guarantee, no gain at all coming from that, and instead $660 millions will be paid paid in investment tax credit. And the above market price PPA is also something that everybody in the area will be paying for.

            What is an “economic benefits” ? Is paying someone to dig a hole and fill it up an economic benefits ? I.e. I think this counts the money being spent without any concern for how useful the spending has been.
            I’ll just concede it’s at least better to pay a local worker to dig the hole and fill it up than to pay a Chinese to do the same far away.

          • Brian Mays says:

            jmdesp – Obviously, he did not. I also find it highly amusing that EL apparently has no problems with Californians being forced to purchase electricity from this bird-scorcher (at what cost? — they ain’t saying), but he whines incessantly about the “unfairness” of CWIP for nuclear projects.

          • EL says:

            he whines incessantly about the “unfairness” of CWIP for nuclear projects.

            @Brian Mays

            For Ivanpah, consumers are paying cost of energy. They know what they are getting. CWIP is a financing scheme where consumers foot the bill, and get no interest on their investment, and no equity stake in a project. It used to be illegal. Heck, they may even get no product in return (unless they remain in the area for upwards of 5 to 10 years, perhaps longer, or perhaps never).

            I have no problem paying for product, and getting something in return. It’s called commerce. CWIP for nuclear plants is something different … it’s an insult.

            He has shown the government is paying for the loan guarantee, no gain at all coming from that …

            @jmdesp

            Huh? It’s a loan. It gets paid back to the Federal Treasury with interest.

          • Brian Mays says:

            For Ivanpah, consumers are paying cost of energy. They know what they are getting.

            Oh yes, they know what they are getting. That’s why so many of them are grabbing their ankles. California’s “energy policy” is the poster child for BOHICA.

            Here’s what we’re comparing:

            (1) A scheme in which electricity rates are temporarily increased by a little bit for, say, 5 or 6 years to reduce costs in the long run as a result of a substantial reduction in financing costs.

            (2) A scheme in which electricity rates are increased over the next 25 years (or more, pending legislation) to pay for expensive, boutique electricity that could never turn a profit without hundreds of millions of dollars of government tax credits and government-mandated requirements to purchase from such “qualifying sources.”

            It doesn’t take a wise man to see the (1) is the much better deal for the taxpayer and the consumer.

            By the way, an investment tax credit is not a loan and doesn’t have to be paid back.

          • EL says:

            (1) A scheme in which electricity rates are temporarily increased by a little bit for, say, 5 or 6 years to reduce costs in the long run as a result of a substantial reduction in financing costs.

            @Brian Mays

            Indeed … a raw deal (no matter how you look at it). The ratepayer is getting charged twice: 1) advanced cost recovery or zero interest cash grant to the developer, and 2) cost of energy in 6 years (if they are so lucky). And if you’re in Levy County, the developer cancels the project and keeps all your money (bond holders get paid and shareholders pocket the profit). It’s a dumb idea (still illegal in many States), and only people in the most corrupt of states go for it. It’s an act of desperation by an industry that has lost it’s public confidence, and is reaching down deep into an already empty tool box.

            By the way, an investment tax credit is not a loan and doesn’t have to be paid back.

            Exactly as I described. Ivanpah received DOE Loan Guarantee, and Federal ITC. Please read my original comment again if you are still confused.

        • Brian Mays says:

          Trolls (whether paid or not) pick and choose the arguments that they want to address.

          • EL says:

            Trolls (whether paid or not) pick and choose the arguments that they want to address.

            Why change the topic, Brian? Just make your argument, and if you have a specific question, just ask it (and I will respond).

            Ivanpah is expensive, and costs are shared very broadly by a variety of means (federal loans and ITC), so that the costs to the ratepayer are very small. This is very different than CWIP (where the cost to the ratepayer is very high), and risk is high as well (and uncompensated) if anything goes wrong. Ivanpah is a very large FOAK plant. Technology roadmaps are pretty clear CSP costs will come down. PV costs are falling faster. But we have to start somewhere. It’s the same for nuclear, or for anything else where markets are changing and new technologies are introduced. This is why these subsidies exist, to scale this technology, gain experience, and drive down costs.

            The ratepayer isn’t getting hurt by Ivanpah, and the federal taxpayer stands to benefit disproportionately from these very small costs: in revenue returns on the loan, job creation, technology expertise and development, market competitiveness, local tax base, domestic manufacturing, environmental performance (establishment of conservation lands, independent scientific monitoring of threatened species, and carbon pollution), and other benefits.

            If you don’t have a response to these arguments, I suppose that makes sense. But deflecting the discussion is bad taste and poor form. I’ve made my case above. There’s nothing trollish about it. It’s called counterpoint. And in an environment of excessive groupthink (enforced by poor manners), I suppose you think this is a terrible thing.

          • Brian Mays says:

            This is very different than CWIP (where the cost to the ratepayer is very high), and risk is high as well (and uncompensated) if anything goes wrong.

            Nonsense. Finance 101: Paying off a loan sooner rather than later reduces financial risk. This the main reason why short-term bonds have lower interest rates than long-term bonds.

            If you’re talking about something going wrong such as what happened to Shoreham, I should point out that most of the cost of the unused plant was passed on to Long Island residents. Experience has shown that the ratepayer can end up being on the hook, CWIP or no CWIP. CWIP merely reduces the financial risk and the overall cost of the plant.

            The ratepayer isn’t getting hurt by Ivanpah …

            How can you say that when the purchase price contracted by the utilities haven’t been disclosed?

            “Experts have estimated that electricity from giant solar projects will cost at least twice as much as electricity from conventional sources. But neither the utilities that have contracted to buy the power nor state regulators have disclosed what the price will be, only that it will be passed on to electricity customers.” (Source: WSJ article linked to above)

          • EL says:

            If you’re talking about something going wrong such as what happened to Shoreham.

            @Brian Mays

            No. I’m talking about Levy County (and very high consumer cost increases), and a long history of cost overruns and plant cancellations (costing ratepayers hundreds of billions above projected costs).

            Our track record isn’t too certain with this stuff (here): “About half of all reactors ordered of docketed at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have been canceled or abandoned. Of those that were completed and brought online, 13 percent were retired early, 19 percent had extended outages of one to three years, and 6 percent had outages of more than three years” (p. 62).

            Someone has to pay for these risks (here):

            “Reactor projects have been abandoned during construction in large numbers. Between 1972 and 1984, these cancellations cost $40 billion to $50 billion in today’s dollars, largely borne by ratepayers or taxpayers rather than the reactor owners (Schlissel et al. 2009: 11). An additional $150 billion in cost overruns on completed plants also were passed onto ratepayers” (p. 20 – 21).

            “Ratepayers lost hundreds of billions of dollars in the first wave of nuclear reactor construction through canceled nuclear plants or above-market rates driven by plant cost escalation. The expansion of CWIP and other risk-shifting strategies at the state and public utility commission (PUC) levels are planting the seeds for a replay of the rate shock and defaults that plagued the last wave of new reactors” (p. 38).

            CWIP is a pretty sure sign in the collapse of public confidence in the financing for nuclear plants. It will take a fair bit of effort (and a much improved track record) to turn this ship around. Perhaps CWIP can do it (and having the ratepayer backstop investors entirely for free). We’ll have to wait and see … but the cards seemed pretty stacked against it. Levy, Vogtle … it’s not off to a good start.

  6. Eino says:

    So – The Californians and the rest of us spent 2.2 billion (With the big b) to get 377 Megawatts from that good California sunshine. However as a bonus they also got a gas generator to use at night.

    How much would it have cost to fix those bad steam generators at the San Onofre plant?

    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/million-497400-edison-generators.html

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/30/san-onofre-power-plant-costs_n_3188733.html

    I’m not one of those Tea Party guys that thinks everything the government does is stupid, but maybe once in the while they hit the nail on the head.

    My daddy once told me the country is tilted and all the fruits and nuts roll to the West coast.

    • Eric_G says:

      California still sends more money to Washington than it gets back, at least in 2012:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_taxation_and_spending_by_state

      However, it looks like it is trending the other direction, if you look at the second table, which only has data up until 2003. I would imagine most of that comes from the northern part of the state, but there’s still a lot of business in the LA basin.

    • Rod Adams says:

      To be fair, a significant portion of the money will not be paid immediately, but over time as the power purchase agreements make the payments due on the loan. It is, after all, a loan, not a grant.

      Also, it is worthwhile comparing the cost of this project to the CAREM facility planned to be built in Argentina. This one has a total capital cost of roughly $2.2 billion for 377 net megawatts with an advertised CF of 32%.

      CAREM is a government funded prototype with an estimated project cost of $455 million for 25 net megawatts. As a first of a kind, prototype system, I expect that it will achieve a CF of 65% because there will be a lot of testing and training.

      Roughly, the Ivanpah will produce about 7.5 times as electricity each year and it costs approximately 5 times as much. Both projects probably include a fair amount of equipment and tooling costs.

      I’ll be cautious about making sweeping economic comparisons.

    • Paul W Primavera says:

      I am one of those Tea Party guys who thinks our current government is both stupid and evil. You would do well to learn what the Tea Party actually supports:

      http://www.teaparty-platform.com/

      I support nuclear energy. The Democratic Party has been reflexively anti-nuclear for decades and it is the liberal progressives in charge who have made this possible: promoting useless solar and wind that necessitates fossil fuel spinning reserve over viable, safe, clean nuclear energy.

      PS, it was the liberal progressive fruits and nuts – all Democrats – on the left coast who have been aching for years and years to shut San Onofre down. Fill up on the full measure of what you voted for. I am reminded again and again of 1st Samuel chapter 8. The children of Israel wanted a king like that of other nations. So they got a real winner: King Saul. We wanted a president like that of other nations. We got the same: Barack Hussein Obama. I hope the country starts to reverse course this November and takes back the Senate.

      • Dave says:

        @Ioannes v2.0 AKA “Paul”:

        1. Do you comment solely for the purpose of stirring partisan strife?

        2. If not, and you think you’re convincing people, you really aren’t changing anyone’s mind. Most here are your fellow Republicans. The nuclear industry as a whole is to the right of Atilla the Hun and only slightly to the left of Ghengis Khan, and any nukes who appear to be liberal or Democratic are almost certainly putting on an act, so you’re preaching to the choir. Did you know that?

        With those questions asked I shall refrain from further feeding of the troll.

        • Wayne SW says:

          I’m not sure the political aspects are completely monolithic, so we might be better off to avoid painting with broad strokes. In a previous life I was a university professor and quite a few (not a majority, but significant) of my students professed a moderate to liberal political inclination but were generally supportive of nuclear energy. They were so because of environmental concerns. On nuclear issues, I think we should value support no matter which side of the political spectrum it comes from, and leave the other issues for a separate debate.

        • Brian Mays says:

          Do you comment solely for the purpose of stirring partisan strife? … The nuclear industry as a whole is to the right of Atilla the Hun and only slightly to the left of Ghengis Khan, and any nukes who appear to be liberal or Democratic are almost certainly putting on an act, so you’re preaching to the choir.

          Oh man, I love the irony!! Please, please keep it up. This is hilarious!

          Or did you actually intend to be serious?

          • Dave says:

            I base my allegations on observations of pronuclear message boards and pronuclear listservs, it often seems there are simply almost no liberals in a virtual sea of Republicanism, partially of the Tea Party type. Perhaps this is too small a sample size, or liberals in the nuclear industry just don’t participate in online discussion or use computers. Something like that could well be the truth, and thus I could be mistaken.

            However, reading yourcomment, I can smell an underlying sense of discomfort in this topic being brought up. Is my comment getting too close to the truth for comfort?

          • John T Tucker says:

            Here is where the most honest and realistic discussion of energy and the environment occurs IMHO.

            I dont think it has to do with the far left, right, middle or independent as they are all represented here. It has more to do with probably a understanding that politics is not necessary linked with reality. As reason trumps all issues of perspective.

            Tune the politics out and see where it leads you. Most of the time its just bias that makes you look foolish/or incorrect anyway.

        • FermiAged says:

          I was a co-op student working for the NRC in 1980. I always enjoyed watching the protests held on the mall every weekend. One was an anti-nuclear protest that had Pete Seeger singing “Split wood, not atoms”.

          One scruffy guy handed me a flyer berating commercial nuclear power as unsafe in the hands of profit-seeking businesses. At the end, the flyer stated, “Only the Socialist Workers Party can safely operate nuclear power plants for the benefit of all”.

      • PissedOffAmerican says:

        Paul……I’d like to query you about your opinion of Darwin.

        Should you choose to resond, something tells me thats all it would take to put an exclamation mark on what a partisan zealot you are, with some pretty bizarre “scientific” beliefs.

        Frankly, I find people that are rabidly partisan to be some of the more ignorant members of our society. I suppose there are exceptions, but I haven’t met any yet.

      • PissedOffAmerican says:

        “The Democratic Party has been reflexively anti-nuclear for decades and it is the liberal progressives in charge who have made this possible….blahblahblah….”

        http://my.earthlink.net/article/top?guid=20140218/9e8df652-e54f-43b5-ab70-ce9345bb99d8

        Excerpt….

        The Energy Department tentatively approved an $8.3 billion loan guarantee for the project in 2010 as part of President Barack Obama’s pledge to expand nuclear power and other energy sources.

        Obama and other proponents say greater use of nuclear power could cut the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and create energy without producing greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

        • Brian Mays says:

          The Energy Department tentatively approved an $8.3 billion loan guarantee for the project in 2010 as part of President Barack Obama’s pledge to expand nuclear power and other energy sources.

          In case you didn’t notice, my calendar says that it is now 2014. Please get back to us when the project actually accepts this loan guarantee (and agrees to pay the ridiculously high fee charged by the federal government for this “guarantee”).

          As your own link points out, “The company has said federal assistance was not needed to finish the project.”

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            OH, Nooow I get it!

            This loan guarantee actually proves Paul’s point, that the nasty leftists, headed up by the “evil” Obama Adminstration, are anti anti anti nuke energy, in spades and triplefold.

            Yep, its another plot, a conspiracy, a partisan hat trick! That nasty ‘ol Kenyon socialist/commie dictator is out to squish the nuclear energy sector for good. And, by golly, this loan guarantee is just the ticket to accomplish that.

            Uh huh.

  7. EL says:

    The site’s construction was also delayed when the builders discovered that there were more desert tortoises on the site than initially expected.

    Developer says construction wasn’t halted or delayed. There was a stop work order on a part of the site that had not yet been screened for tortoises.

    http://ivanpahsolar.com/desert-tortoise-care-at-the-ivanpah-solar-project

    The Tortoise conservation program may be a success here (in part, because of the active pressure from environmental groups). I’m not sure why the same efforts can’t be taken by oil and gas developers, not only to restore land they have developed, but also to create conservation initiatives and restore land elsewhere to offset their impacts.

    • Atomikrabbit says:

      Again, what the developer says is not always congruent with what independent naturalists believe:

      “Since tortoises cannot co-exist with solar thermal mirror arrays, what usually has to happen is that the tortoises are “cleared.” This involves removing and translocating ALL tortoises from the entire 4,000 acres. All burrows are dug up to try to find animals underground. Often many are missed, so several “clearances” must be carried out. The applicant company has been required to “mitigate” this damage by acquiring desert land somewhere else and translocating all the tortoises found and dug up to the new site. So far the requirement has been to buy land in a 1:1 ratio of land destroyed for the project, but the San Gorgonio chapter of the Sierra Club has sent a letter advising this to be a 5:1 ratio.

      But even with this plan, mortality for translocated desert tortoises has been high. The PSA states that an estimated 15 percent is “normal.” But recent experiences with the Fort Irwin translocation operation suggest that even higher mortality rates are probable. Drought only exacerbates the stress of moving tortoises from their home ranges to unfamiliar new areas, where they have to compete for food and burrows with already present tortoises. Many of the Ft. Irwin translocation tortoises disastrously were predated by coyotes. Walking around the translocation site near Primm, Nevada, where thousands of tortoises were translocated from the Las Vegas Valley boom developments, we see many shells lying on the ground. Mortality rates may be closer to 50%.”

  8. JMAC says:

    I posted a blog entry back in October about this project: the financials on an operating capacity basis, by contrast, make the European EDF projects appear positive outstanding.
    =======================================================================
    No one has seemed to have noticed that the capacity factor is, exceptionally for solar, 38%; so the actualised $/kw installation is considerably more than $7.1m/MW figure.

    - 280MW @ 38% capacity factor
    - 30 MW for plant operation
    - 10-15% transmission losses

    Bringing the average actualised rating to a measly 80-90 MWs or $25m/MW capital costs.
    http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2013/10/solana_10_facts_you_didnt_know.php?print=true

  9. David Walters says:

    The “38% capacity factor” is because there is NG back up.

  10. Eino says:

    @JMAC – Good points but your link describes the Solanah plant in Arizona.

    They use Molten Salt heat storage to extend the operating day. Maybe what they learn about using molten salt can be applied elsewhere some day.

  11. David Walters says:

    Thus, the question is with only solar…what is the CF? Likely 20%.

  12. Eino says:

    “Using the data from here I get 31.4% – but not clear how much is gas::

    In addition, is it combined cycle gas or just another jet engine type? Some of those jet engine plants really lose efficiency in the heat.

  13. Mitch says:

    Gee, all you need is a gang with spray cans and baseball bats raiding a 3,000 acre spread from all corners at night and smashing all those panels like they do jewelry shops over there to bring a whole powerplant off line! Where’s all this wailing about site security now??

    • Atomikrabbit says:

      Their spent fuel can’t be stolen to make atom bombs – but then again, realistically, neither can that of LWRs.

      But all those security perimeters sure make it unlikely my car will be broken into at work!

      • John Chatelle says:

        If I can imagine the plant manager was educated in a North Pakistani Wahabbi Madrassa, then we should damn well have a requirement that protects against it.

        • Engineer-Poet says:

          We should have a requirement that such people not be allowed in the country, but the administration as a whole appears to have high treason as its major goal of policy.

    • Wayne SW says:

      Or, simply go to your local farm supplies store and get a dozen or so sticks of dynamite, wire them together and spread throughout the array, and set them off. The shock wave alone will take out hundreds of mirrors for each stick. Where is all the weeping and wailing about the “vulnerability” of solar power plants?

  14. Keith Pickering says:

    The real unanswered question is the frequency and strength of sandstorms at this location. One good sandblasting will ruin a mirror in very short order. Two or three and the plant may be done for, without large-scale mirror replacement.

  15. John T Tucker says:

    At other sites water birds have mistaken the mirrors for water and injured themselves landing. The sites also may attract insects (and bats and birds to them). Animals don’t always take the exact same migration route. I dont know what has the potential of getting too close not to mention the occasional local fauna and birds of prey that may circle by.

    Im really not a big fan of this project. What were they thinking or hoping to achieve? My guess is a tax credit factory? endangered species barbecue pit? Certainly not a large scale, low impact, dependable energy source.

    As a alternate universe amory lovins might say: “Its a very expensive way of cooking birds.”

  16. Sean McKinnon says:

    What I find incredible is the trivial amount of power generated for taking up 4 square miles of land!!!

    How many typical reactor plants could be built on 4 square miles and generate how much more electricity?

    • Jeff Walther says:

      Five+ square miles. 640 acres to the square mile. 3500 acres / 640 = ~5.5 square miles.

      At best it generates 1/8 of the annual energy that a nuclear reactor would generate, and compared to modern 1.6GW designs, it generates less than a twelfth. So $2.2 billion X 12 = $26.2 billion per reactor equivalent. Of course, it is a FOAK. However, given that a large portion of the construction was placing 5 square miles of mirrors, I suspect that the learning curve has already been milked.

  17. Robert Hargraves says:

    Here’s the interactive daily production report for the All Earth Renewables PV solar farm near Burlington VT.

    http://www.allearthrenewables.com/energy-production-report/detail/316#view=monthly&date=2014-02-01

    2130 kW capacity delivering at most 15,000 kWh per day, or 29% on a good day.

    For the month to date, it’s 14%.

    • EL says:

      Here’s the interactive daily production report for the All Earth Renewables PV solar farm near Burlington VT.

      @Robert Hargraves

      Apparently, enough for a break even point of 18 years. Is there something bad about this that I am missing?

      • Robert Hargraves says:

        Better than 18 years for the investors! They got a 30% federal tax credit, plus a 30% state tax credit, plus production tax credits, plus the rights to sell RECs, plus a mandated feed-in tariff of 30 cents/kWh.

        • Wayne SW says:

          Unbelievable. So here we have an industrial facility whose product is not so much electricity as it is subsidies.

        • EL says:

          They got a 30% federal tax credit, plus a 30% state tax credit, plus production tax credits, plus the rights to sell RECs, plus a mandated feed-in tariff of 30 cents/kWh.

          @Robert Hargraves.

          No they didn’t.

          Vermont doesn’t even have a 30 cents/kWh feed in tariff for solar. Clean Development Fund (and other State incentives) don’t work this way. State tax credits don’t work this way either (or at this level).

          What do you think … people are getting paid equivalent of $2/kWh for solar in Vermont. Please provide some documentation, any, for these costs (and bundling them this way). It doesn’t do anybody any good just to make things up like this.

  18. donb says:

    It would be interesting to do a study: Apply all the same incentives to a nuclear power plant, and see what the resulting plant and power generation costs would be.

  19. mike says:

    This question (for now) is roughly answered by the hinkely point deal. -Still not realy cheap. :-(
    But it’s not all days evening , I still hope, that prices of ABWRs and AP1000 can at least be competitive to the French ones, and that all the vendor may take part on a -more price competitive- second biding round for additional capacities.

  20. Marcel F. Williams says:

    At $2.2 billion for a mere 125 MWe of electricity (32% capacity), this solar facility cost nearly four times as much per kilowatt produced as the Diablo Canyon nuclear facility in today’s dollars. No wonder by bills are so high:-)

    Marcel

  21. Bill Hannahan says:

    Transporting tortoises to areas that have equilibrium sustainable populations means a slow painful death for most. Due to the drought most areas probably already have above sustainable populations.

    It would be more humane to painlessly euthanize all of them, but not politically correct, and that’s what counts.

  22. Bill Hannahan says:

    Perhaps we should start an ‘adopt a solar refuge tortoise’ program.

  23. John Tucker says:

    Here is a document dump from last year on the project – still reading through it:

    Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (Compliance) [ http://docketpublic.energy.ca.gov/PublicDocuments/07-AFC-05C/TN201443_20131217T074835_ISEGS_November_2013_MCR.pdf ]

    • John Tucker says:

      I assume going up a menu on that server is legal as it is labeled “public” and is open. Its mostly incidental ongoing narrative stuff it appears. The bird photos seem to indicate the feather “singe” is more a whole body experience.

  24. John Tucker says:

    And there is this on NG use:

    …Each plant also includes a partial-load natural gas-fired steam boiler, which would be used for thermal input to the turbine during the morning start-up cycle to assist the plant in coming up to operating temperature more quickly. The boiler would also be operated during transient cloudy conditions, in order to maintain the turbine on-line and ready to resume production from solar thermal input, after the clouds pass. After the clouds pass and solar thermal input resumes, the turbine would be returned to full solar production. …

    …Each solar development phase would include:

    a natural gas-fired start-up boiler to provide heat for plant start-up and during temporary cloud cover;…

    ….Natural Gas

    Natural gas supply for ISEGS would connect to the Kern River Gas Transmission Company (KRGT) pipeline about 0.5 miles north of the Ivanpah 3 site….

    ( http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/ivanpah/ )

    So its not only backed up by NG but requires it in daily operation.

  25. John T Tucker says:

    I wonder, despite all these new expensive “renewable” projects and the shuttering of some nuclear capacity if we are not already firmly on the German path to environmental failure:

    Coal Makes A Comeback Despite Natural Gas Abundance

    Electric companies are generating more than 4.5 million megawatt hours a day using coal, the most since 2011 , Bloomberg reported, citing government data. As a result, coal’s share of power production rose to more than 40 percent from 39 percent last year.( http://www.forbes.com/sites/lorensteffy/2014/02/14/coal-makes-a-comeback-despite-natural-gas-abundance/ )

    Coal powers past natural gas to electrify Texas in January

    Coal power made up 38.4 percent while natural gas fell to 35.3 percent. ( http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/news/2014/02/14/coal-powers-past-natural-gas-to-electrify-texas-in.html )

    • Engineer-Poet says:

      Henry hub prices have been running as high as $7+/mmBTU, this should be no surprise.

      • John T Tucker says:

        But it is to me unfortunately. I did not think we would ever (choose or need) to go back EP.

        • Engineer-Poet says:

          But why wouldn’t you think it?  The much-ballyhooed growth of gas-fired generation over coal was very widely noted as being driven by extremely cheap natural gas.  Generators which could get gas and didn’t have contracts requiring them to take coal could switch to whatever was cheaper.  As soon as the price differential reversed, they were just as capable of switching back.  That is what any graduate of an intro economics class would tell you would happen.

          There is also the factor of the cold winter and priority customers.  When residential and commercial gas customers have first dibs on limited gas supplies, utilities with dual-fired boilers will start stoking them with coal again.  They don’t have any choice.

          The glut of natural gas may be abating.  This means that coal is back (unless restricted or prohibited by policy), but also that the AP1000 builds at Vogtle and Summer were timed almost perfectly and the nuclear nay-sayers were wrong.  I also hope that it winds up being a major black eye for the anti-nuclear forces in California, Wisconsin and Vermont.

          • Joris van Dorp says:

            Agree.

            The whole concept of having “natural gas cheaper than coal from now on” in the USA was ridiculous from the outset. Clearly, the low gas prices had to be a major glut of some kind, which would be definition be a temporary situation. (The natgas price touched an unbelievable 1,9 $/mmbtu at one point. Crazy!) The fact that this ridiculous situation was successfully popularized high and low as some kind of paradigm shift made it not so much ridiculous as highly unsettling and creepy (for people taking an interest in energy matters).

          • EL says:

            As soon as the price differential reversed, they were just as capable of switching back.

            -EP

            How do you restart the retirement of 106 coal facilities since 2010, and the prevention of 166 new facilities since 2002 (here)?

            Coal plant retirements are driven by a number of factors (not just one): age of fleet, market elasticities (including low price of gas), clean air regulations, public attention to carbon pollution, energy efficiency, expansion of renewables, recession, nuclear baseload availability, and other factors (here): “generators’ nonfuel variable operating costs, startup/shut down costs, emission rates and allowance costs, electricity grid flow constraints, and reliability constraints” (here). Coal isn’t going away, but it isn’t bouncing back much either (here). Even with a rise in the price of gas.

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            How do you restart the retirement of 106 coal facilities

            Concern Troll is Trollish.  Go away.

          • EL says:

            Concern Troll is Trollish.

            @EP

            No. It’s a legitimate question.

            http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/er/pdf/0383er(2014).pdf

            “Demand for natural gas in the electric power sector increases from 9.3 Tcf in 2012 to 11.2 Tcf in 2040, with a portion of the growth attributable to the retirement of 50 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity by 2021″ (p. 11).

            “Coal-fired power generation over the next few years is slightly higher in AEO2014 than in the AEO2013 Reference case because of higher natural gas prices during that period, as well as pending nuclear retirements that necessitate additional baseload generation. After 2020, generation from coal flattens out and remains lower than projected in AEO2013, because more coal-fired capacity is retired and fewer new coal plants are built” (p.14).

            Do you wish to answer it … or not?

          • John Tucker says:

            Coal plants sit unused for a decade(s) while they decide on the most economic course/sale for the contaminated site, ash and slurry impoundments as it becomes less toxic by COMPLETELY leaching into the environment.

            With decommissioned nuclear sites its balls the the wall pressure to dismantle them and return the site to a completely untouched state. Their waste is recyclable, contained and safer over time.

            Thank you for revealing yet another environmental lie/double standard.

          • John Tucker says:

            I thought new gas capacity was so robust as to always be a better option. (of course gas is expensive now and in short supply – duh.) Vast new swaths of “unreliables”… … ….never mind. Yes I should have seen it coming.

          • EL says:

            With decommissioned nuclear sites its balls the the wall pressure to dismantle them and return the site to a completely untouched state.

            @John T. Tucker

            You can’t be serious! Is this why waste confidence rule was revised? Zion (down the road from me) appears to be going nowhere pretty fast. Crystal River isn’t going to be full decommissioned until 2074. SONGS … perhaps the same. Kewaunee selected SAFSTOR (60 years). Vermont is going for a quick time frame (we’ll see if they can make it happen).

            Do you think people can’t look this stuff up, and examine the track record for themselves?

          • John Tucker says:

            What ? Zion ??? wasn’t recently shout down. That silliness is almost 20 years old. Recent shutdowns – they were on them immediately. They certainly made them unrepairable quickly/ switched them to storage facilities.

            Coal was mothballed more or less as gas replaced it the last few decades. We have been a vast over capacity of FF resources.

            In 2010 22 coal fired units were still under construction, 5 new coal-fired units came on line in just the first 6 months of that year.

            You flap around nuclear issues like a hungry vulture, considering the HORRIFIC DISASTER coal is in your region I would think you could find a more productive use of your environmental time.

          • John Tucker says:

            And Zion should have NEVER EVER been shut down for those reasons. You are a fraud in my book for not opposing that total fiasco.

          • John Tucker says:

            PLEASE NOTE: THE METHYLMERCURY ADVISORY APPLIES TO PREDATORY FISH IN ALL ILLINOIS WATERS. Predator fish include all species of black bass (largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass), striped bass, hybrid striped bass, white bass, walleye, sauger, saugeye, flathead catfish, muskellunge, and northern pike. ( http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/ )

            As a self described fisherman you may want to click on a few of those on that map as you obviously have not been too concerned by it up till now. I did and Id call it a total pollution disaster.

            ALL of that I saw is related to coal.

          • EL says:

            ALL of that I saw is related to coal.

            @John Tucker

            I think I missed something. How do you think I am somehow in favor of coal?

            Zion was shut down in 1998. If someone thought it was viable and competitive, they should have purchased it. Nobody did. It’s rotting on the lakeshore, just like the State Line coal plant (shut down in 2012).

            And yes … I catch Salmon from the Lake (just offshore in the Spring where I live as it turns out). I’m well aware of the food advisories on the fish from Lake Michigan.

          • John T Tucker says:

            It was up for sale? One reactor there had no issues it seams. Why indeed.

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            @EP

            No. It’s a legitimate question.

            It’s irrelevant to the issue of fuel-switching.  Plus, I already mentioned the issue of the prohibition of coal by policy (either directly, or by requiring uneconomic levels of cleanup).  You want to drag this thread into irrelevancies, which is trolling.  Now go away.

          • EL says:

            @EP

            I’m pressing you because your comments are overly simplistic and unsupported by facts. By projections by EIA (and other agencies), and estimates on plant retirements (aging of fleet) and new builds.

            You could revise your statement (or support it) … and we’d be done with this. Personal attacks make no difference whatsoever (and is the definition of trolling and attempts to change the topic).

            The projections are for natural gas to rise to 2040 (prices to rise as well), and coal to stay flat (because the capacity is not there). Figure 3 (p. 2). It’s not a very difficult argument to follow. And now, after much hullabaloo (and perhaps reading links I have provided), you agree that there are non-price factors at work here too (and many of them are significant).

            You can have a reasonable discussion about these things anytime you want. Just make sure that’s what you want to do (and not something else). I’m all ears.

          • EL says:

            As soon as the price differential reversed, they were just as capable of switching back.

            EP still suggests capability of coal is strong (if price differential reverses). But new numbers are coming in on accelerated plant retirements. Even with projected higher price from gas, case for coal is in retreat.

            The Coal Plant an Illinois Town Couldn’t Give Away

            =========

            Selection of quotes:

            “And so Edwards [power plant], confronting a need to meet state and federal rules to clean up and mounting competition from cheaper natural gas, was part of an unusual transaction last year. Owner Ameren Corp. paid Dynegy Inc. to take Edwards and four other Illinois coal plants off its hands, a transaction that perplexed some analysts …

            Ameren’s move is among a series of closures, bankruptcies or fire sales by companies desperate to get out of investments in aging U.S. coal plants. Owners are reacting to abundant electricity from natural gas and wind, flat or declining demand and a slew of new environmental rules meant to clean up the country’s top source of pollution. Also in the mix: efforts by environmentalists targeting individual coal facilities …

            In 2011 and 2012, 14 gigawatts of coal-fired generation was shut, and another 63 gigawatts may disappear by 2017 under existing regulations, according to an analysis by Meredith Annex of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

            Electric utilities have announced the closure of more than 150 coal boilers; another 263 units could follow. Combined, the units account for a quarter of the nation’s coal-fired capacity, Annex said. With rules in development to govern everything from coal ash to water effluent, even more plants could be forced out of business, too.

            Owners of coal plants “were printing money during the mid-2000s, but it’s a very different future,” Sue Tierney, managing principal of the Analysis Group in Boston, said in an interview. “Demand is flat, natural gas is much more flexible, and coal is taking the squeeze.”

            Construction of coal plants has stalled, and most of today’s existing plants were built before 1980. Now, after years of delay, rules are about to kick in requiring all plants to cut mercury emissions in their smokestacks. That means plant owners who avoided installing equipment for years in the absence of universal mandates must now decide to invest, sell or close.

            Still to come: the first-ever rules for greenhouse-gas emissions that the Environmental Protection Agency are scheduled to be issued in June.

            Taking into account the cost of construction, fuel and running the equipment, a modern natural gas plant is cheaper than a coal plant, and in some places onshore wind can be cheaper than coal, too, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.”

            ===========

            In addition, it seems you can’t even give pollution control equipment away to these plants (a gift of approximately $500 million). Coal has lost many of conventional it’s friends.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @EL

            I don’t disagree. Many coal plants are being retired and will thus be unavailable to mitigate the dramatically negative effects that are being set up by continuing to increase our dependence on a single volatile fuel.

            That worries me.

            Though I am “all in” when it comes to lowering our vulnerability to climate change, I am also deeply concerned about the health and prosperity of people who live with few spare resources. For all of its warts, coal has been a hugely beneficial fuel source for mankind for nearly 200 years. It has saved billions of trees and enabled billions of people to live abundant lives with reduced drudgery.

            The war on coal and nuclear will be amazingly profitable for multinational oil and gas companies who will be happy to supply all of the energy we want – until they can’t do it any more.

  26. Bill Woods says:

    “… and the Central Valley Solar Ranch projects …”
    I’m not sure how far upstream the error was made, but it’s the
    California Valley Solar Ranch’.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Valley_Solar_Ranch

  27. Rich Lentz says:

    I have noticed that a few commenters here have Heat Pumps. With the fluctuating cost of gas/oil/propane, it would be wise to determine if you have the best Economic Balance Point for the switchover from electric/HP to backup heat (gas/oil/propane) If you are god a math google “heat pump economic balance point” and you will find a few methods, usually in the instruction for the “Dual Fuel Control.” But there is a App for it also.
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dualfuelhp.ecobalpoint&hl=en
    Most com pre-set at 30 degrees in the south or 20 degrees in the north. You can be burning a lot of cash if set by the “rule of thumb” and it should be checked if you gas has doubled in cost since you installed a HP. And also if it is much cheaper than it was when installed. It is a simple bulb-type thermostat in the control section of the heat pump and will have the temperature indicated on a dial (usually). Open the HP and Furnace circuit breaker before opening the panel.

  28. Eino says:

    EL’s question: 6:51PM

    Do you think people can’t look this stuff up, and examine the track record for themselves?

    http://www.maineyankee.com/

    http://www.nrc.gov/info-finder/decommissioning/power-reactor/big-rock-point.html

    Why hurry? Do it right!

    “PLEASE NOTE: THE METHYLMERCURY ADVISORY APPLIES TO PREDATORY FISH IN ALL ILLINOIS WATERS.”

    How come Asian Carp is not on the list?

    • John Tucker says:

      Yea, Both of those were previously taken offline and quickly rendered inert as well. All these site should be first choice for fast tracked new reactors.

      Most “Asian Carp” are primarily algae eaters I think. They are not widespread (yet) in the region either. I have not followed pollution issues in that area until recently. Its quite staggering.

    • EL says:

      Do you think people can’t look this stuff up, and examine the track record for themselves?

      That’s terrific. So let’s get busy and do the same job elsewhere. Get the stuff off site and into a interim or permanent storage repository. I can think of no more productive focus for a nuclear proponent than this … and working effectively with community, government agencies, local stakeholders, etc., on making sure this work is funded and completed in a timely manner.

      We all know the issues here (and they are long standing). It’s time to actually do something about it.

      • John T Tucker says:

        The “issues” eh?

        Like usable energy, massive chemical pollution, climate change and acidification?

        Or your pathologic low dose radiophobia? – Yea, of course thats the one we all need to be on fire about and concerned with.

        Why would you put a clean energy resource in a long term storage facility? Especially when envro trolls already shuttered such a site for no good reason whatsoever?

        Its too late thankfully for such arguments. Its time to reprocess or re-utilize the material in newer type reactors. So all the long term storage stuff is moot.

  29. Eino says:

    “That’s terrific. So let’s get busy and do the same job elsewhere.”

    No. Many people do not think it is terrific to have productive industrial facilities that provide a needed service to the public closed by the political influence of environmental luddites. Let’s be wise enough to stop a bad history from repeating itself. I for one want to have my hot water, heat and lights. I do not want to pay an exorbitant cost for electricity due to the shutdown of nuclear facilities. I do not want to see my tax dollars paying for some radical boondoggle idea when a ready solution to today’s energy problems is at hand.

  30. John Chatelle says:

    OK… How many therms of Natural Gas have they burnt so far per MWh? (since the 13th). Will they beat a CCGT running in a baseload capacity? What are the odds of ever finding out?

  31. David Walters says:

    This plant is NOT “First of a Kind”. They have been building several molten-salt-gas “Solar” plants for years. And, there is no path to make these cheaper, unlike PV prices where manufacturing techniques can lower prices. Like wind turbines (as unpopular in Vermont as nuclear) the price for CSP is going up, not down.

    As someone noted, the energy equivalent of this plant would be like paying $26,000,000,000 a reactor if the price were applied to nuclear. These are subsidy farms, not solar farms.

    David

    • EL says:

      there is no path to make these cheaper

      @David Walters

      http://prod.sandia.gov/techlib/access-control.cgi/2011/112419.pdf

      “In March 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Sandia National Laboratories hosted a Power Tower Roadmap Workshop that included participation of the power tower industry, the national laboratories, and DOE … further evaluation of the TIOs [Technology Improvement Opportunities] was performed, resulting in a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analysis that identified the potential for a 40% reduction in power tower LCOE by the end of the decade” (p. 7).

      Areas highlighted: tower performance

      - improving plant availability;
      - improving the optical efficiency (including tracking accuracy) of the heliostat field;
      - reducing the thermal losses of the receiver;
      - increasing receiver operating temperature to power higher-efficiency power cycles;
      - increasing thermal storage efficiency; and/or
      - reducing parasitic losses and improving operational efficiency.

      Tower costs:

      - reducing equipment capital cost via reduced material content, lower-cost materials, more efficient design, or less expensive manufacturing and shipping costs;
      - reducing field assembly and installation costs via simpler designs and minimization and/or
      ease of field assembly;
      - lowering operation and maintenance costs through improved automation, reducing need
      (as with more reliable components), and better O&M techniques;
      - building larger systems that provide economies of scale; and/or
      - deploying more systems to benefit from learning-curve effects.

      Collector field (“greatest potential for LCOE cost reduction,” p. 15)

      - Drives and controls …
      - Heliostate support structure …
      - Manufacturing facitlies …
      - Reflectors, coatings, and cleaning techniques …

      And more …

      • Rod Adams says:

        @EL

        I would suspect that at least some of the ideas listed in 2010 for cost reductions might have begun to be incorporated in Ivanpah.

        As is the case for any large construction process, if there is not any follow-on development in a reasonably short period of time, some of the learning curves might have to be reset. People forget or move on, equipment gets repurposed, facilities that improve productivity do not get built, etc.

      • David Walters says:

        I think it’s incremental at best. Not even at the level of breakthrough for the big reductions in nuclear plant builds brought on by standardization. The same can be said for wind turbines yet costs have still gone up as they have plateaued on cost savings. Not it’s all simply better techniques and some material savings.

        Knowing the folks at Sandia they will work on heleostat design, I think the potentially biggest savings but again, nothing to write home about.

        David

  32. Eino says:

    @EL

    Here’s one for you to look up and tell me whether it is impractical. OK – You’ve got 3000 or so mirrors reflecting energy at these big bright towers. How much of that energy is actually reflected? Here’s where I’m going with this. Could the mirrors serve double duty? Could the mirrors be both solar panels and mirrors? This could be your efficiency improvement. Perhaps one of the many links that you find discuss this option.

    That plant whether we think it is the best choice or not serves California. California is where the Sierra Club and similar organizations are very strong. These organizations do not give the impression of being overly open minded towards the expanded use of nuclear energy. Despite being the home of many high tech innovations, Californians certainly oppose nuclear power. Maybe the plant is a good compromise option for the state.

  33. EL says:

    Here’s one for you to look up and tell me whether it is impractical.

    @Eino

    I’m not sure you’d get costs down this way, but this paper explores it.

    I would first bet on breakthroughs in PV panel design and materials that would make better use of available light (particularly in near or infrared range): here, here, here, etc.

  34. Eino says:

    Thanks:

    From paper:

    “The field of parabolic trough concentrators at the Nevada Solar-One CSP has a combined solar capture area of 1.2 square kilometers (Nevada Solar-One, 2007). Total solar insolation at mid-day from this area should be roughly 1,200 MW, giving an efficiency
    figure of approximately 5% at the rated 64 MW nominal output, or 6% efficiency at the peak rated output of 75 MW. If the parabolic mirrors were replaced with a heat-reflecting film equivalent to KIR, and 16% efficient PV panels were installed behind the plastic film to yield output equivalent to the Field Test (retaining 85% of their full-sun energy output after transmission losses through the plastic film), then the nominal CSP output would
    be expected to drop by 40% to 25.6 MW, while the PV output would add 163 MW, for a combined output of 188 MW, an apparent increase of 294%. This potential increase may be substantial enough to warrant studying the economic feasibility of redesigning the plant.”

    Looks like the photo voltaic panels beat the mirror system if used alone.

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