Ivanpah Falls Short of Expectations

November 13, 2014 By Karen Henry

Ivanpah Energy ManageThere’s a problem with the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, Forbes reports. The $2.2 billion, 392 MW plant is located on five square miles in the Mojave Desert, where the sun always shines. It is supposed to produce a billion kWh per year for 25 years. This year, however, Ivanpah will produce less than .4 billion kWh, largely because the sun is not performing as predicted.

Now, Ivanpah’s investors, NRG Energy, Google and BrightSource Energy, want a $539 million federal grant to pay off their $1.6 billion federal loan, which they received under the US Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program, says Forbes.

Ivanpah has other problems in addition to falling short of capacity expectations. Its solar arrays have become a “mega-trap” for birds. The mirrors look like water to birds, and as they approach the array, the birds are killed by its 800-degree solar beams.

Ivanpah uses about 32 million gallons of groundwater each year to keep its boilers full and mirrors clean. Because groundwater is being pumped out faster than it can be naturally replenished, it will eventually run out.

When Ivanpah was conceptualized, the conventional wisdom was that thermal solar arrays would be the best way to make solar feasible on a large scale; however, this may not turn out to be the case. The cost of solar PV has come down considerably and its efficiency has gone up. Because solar PV is so much more flexible and less complicated than its thermal counterpart, it is poised to become the world’s primary source of solar power, the article says.

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