Archive | Solar power

Ivanpah solar power plant generating way less power than expected



The Ivanpah concentrated solar power plant in the California Mojave desert near Primm Nevada is not producing nearly as much electricity as predicted. Natural gas, not the heat of the sun, is being used more than originally projected to power the turbines. CSP works by reflecting the heat of the sun from heliostat mirrors to a central tower to run the turbines. Ivanpah has produced a mere 25% of expected electricity since December 2013 when it began production, a dismal result indeed.

The scale of Ivanpah is much larger than any other CSP plant. The plant operator says the weather wasn’t as sunny as expected. This seems a bogus excuse. Was there really 75% less sunshine than projected?

[Second quarter] sales totaled 133,807 MWh and at an average price of $167.85/MWh that generated $22.46 million in revenue.

That relatively small output, combined with the project’s $2 billion price tag, could no doubt hurt all three Ivanpah owners

Increasingly, CSP is having trouble competing with solar PV. If Ivanpah continues to under-perform, then future CSP plants may not get funded. . Ivanpah was funded by NRG Energy, Google, and BrightSource Energy primarily by using a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee. If Ivanpah continues to falter and the federal government get stuck with the loan, it’ll seriously affect renewable energy funding going forward.

Another sign of the plant’s early operating woes: In March, the owners sought permission (PDF) to use 60 percent more natural gas in auxiliary boilers than was allowed under the plant’s certification, a request that was approved in August.

Using much more natural gas to produce energy rather than using solar heat as planned could, if it continues, might make Ivanpah not able to qualify as being renewable energy under the California plan for 33% in-state renewable energy by 2020. Plus, it’ll make foes of renewable energy chortle with laughter.

Some CSP plants store excess heat in underground molten salt caverns and thus can product energy when the sun isn’t shining. Inexplicably, Ivanpah doesn’t do this, a decision probably made to save money. In retrospect, this seems short-sighted and may imperil the entire project.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power0 Comments

Mandalay Bay in Vegas now has 20 acres of rooftop solar


The Mandalay Bay casino and convention center in Vegas is ginormous. MGM Resorts, who owns it, has installed 21,324 photovoltaic panels on twenty acres of convention center roof. Yes, twenty acres… The 6.4 MW system will provide 20% of power for the center, with an additional 2 MW coming when the convention center is expanded. Well done, MGM.

How big is Mandalay Bay? The main hotel is upscale. Delano, an even-more upscale hotel, is in a separate building. A super-upscale Four Seasons occupies five floors of the main hotel. The casino is 135,000 sq ft, The convention center is 1,000,000 sq ft. An events center has 12,000 seats. There are 30+ restaurants, shopping malls, multiple bars and other venues. Plus, Mandalay Bay connects to Luxor (semi-upscale) and Excalibur (low-end),  which are also owned by MGM.

The project is being done in partnership with NRG Energy. Once it is complete, Mandalay Bay will buy from NRG the solar energy through a Power Purchase Agreement at prices below the peak rates on the traditional NV Energy electrical grid (Based in New Jersey, NRG is also a major partner in the Ivanpah solar plant that opened earlier this year near Primm, Nev.).

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power0 Comments

Hawaii grid can’t handle the demand for solar, slowing installations


There is a huge demand for rooftop solar in Hawaii. However, the grid is barely able to handle the current amount of solar power. The utility has cut way back on new permits and the solar industry is losing workers. The problem, of course, is that solar is variable. When the sun shines, thousands of rooftop systems produce power, and some of it goes back into the grid.

HECO says it is not deliberately trying to hurt the solar industry. Rather, the utility is seeing a growing number of circuits exceeding 100 percent of minimum daytime load during the daytime in residential areas. On the Big Island, HECO says that 10 percent of circuits had reached unstable levels as of February of this year.

“This is a difficult technical issue, and we’re not aware of another utility in the world that has addressed it. There’s no model for us to follow, no resource for us to tap into. We’re really creating new frontiers on this,” said Jay Ignacio, president of the HECO subsidiary HELCO.

Reform is coming, forced on HECO by impatient politicians and homeowners who accuse the utility of being deliberately lethargic. Circuits will be beefed up. Customers will get full net metering rates. However they will pay monthly fees for grid costs.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

Ivanpah planning multiple ways to stop frying birds



Reflected heat from mirrors at the Ivanpah solar thermal plant in California near Primm NV has been killing large numbers of birds. To their credit, site operator BrightSource Energy is creating bird deterrent systems. These include anti-perching devices, sonic deterrents, anti-bird LEDS,  and waste and water containment so birds don’t gather.

As to the efforts currently underway, the waste and water containment is actively being done daily and the heliostat repositioning is complete. The sonic deterrent has been purchased and is in the process of being tested on site. The lighting on the towers are now being turned off at night and bids to replace the current ground level lighting with LED were returned this week and will be purchased and installed.

They also plan to donate $1.8 million to cat trap, neuter, and release organizations as cats kill birds too. Current efforts include a “25 million for our desert tortoise program, and in developing a high quality, scientifically valid, and robust avian plan.”

I don’t quite get the advantage of solar thermal, which reflects heat to a central tower to power turbines, over solar photovoltaic. PV is not nearly as destructive to wildlife and birds and uses practically no water, an important issue in baking deserts. Another problem with Ivanpah is airline pilots report the glare can be blinding.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

California could be 100% renewable energy by 2050, say researchers


A combination of renewable energy from wind, water, and sunlight could power California completely by 2050, say perky researchers from Stanford. In my view they’re a bit too perky as well as overly We Know What Is Best For You.

First off, all those pesky gas and diesel vehicles would need to be completely replaced by electric, they say. No word on how electric semis would be able to haul multi-ton loads up the steep Grapevine outside of Los Angeles. No electric truck to my knowledge has the needed torque and power to do this. Maybe they will one day. But they don’t now.

Then there’s this.

[Wind, water, and sunlight] sources selected “ranked the highest among several proposed energy options for addressing pollution, public health, global warming, and energy security.”

Um, shouldn’t cost be a criteria too? Also, grid technology neccessary to support 100% renewables doesn’t exist yet. Perhaps it will soon. However, making projections based on technology that doesn’t exist yet seems a bit specious.

They claim going to 100% renewables would pay for itself.

“The California air-pollution health plus global climate cost benefits from eliminating California emissions could equal the $1.1 trillion installation cost of 603 GW of new power needed for a 100% all-purpose WWS system within ~7 (4–14) years.”

“Global climate cost benefits”, whatever that might be, do not pay for the project or decrease costs eleswhere and should not be included in cost calculations.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power, Wind turbines

Self-cooling PV cells use layer of silica glass


Stanford researchers have developed a way to keep solar photovoltaic cells cooler, even in baking temperatures. If the cells get too hot, efficiency drops as does the lifetime of the cells. Adding pyramid-shaped layer of silica glass allows the cells to cool on their own, avoiding the need for water or wind for cooling.

“The goal was to lower the operating temperature of the solar cell while maintaining its solar absorption,” Fan said. “We were quite pleased to see that while the flat layer of silica provided some passive cooling, the patterned layer of silica considerably outperforms the 5 mm-thick uniform silica design and has nearly identical performance as the ideal scheme.”

Thus, efficiency and cell lifetimes both increase, hugely improving productivity.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

Ivanpah Solar Thermal Plant in Mojave Desert



The ginormous Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California near Primm NV reflects baking heat from the sun to a central tower where electricity is generated from steam turbines. Some solar thermal plants store excess heat in molten salt to be used later to generate power. Ivanpah doesn’t do this. It doest recycle 100% of the steam, keeping water usage at a minimum. However, the concentrated heat does kill birds and the glare can be an aviation hazard. No source of electricity creation is completely benign. That’s just the way it is.


Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

World’s largest solar-wind hybrid installation


A Jamaica law firm has installed an 80 kw hybrid solar-wind array on the roof of their office. It is expected to save $2 million over its 25 year lifespan and uses small vertical turbines and solar PV.

The installation incorporates 50 of WindStream’s SolarMill devices. The different SolarMill models each comprise one or more solar panels and three or more turbines

Posted in News, Renewable energy, Solar power, Wind turbines

Solar freakin’ roadways would be hugely expensive and won’t work


There are so many things wrong with solar freakin’ roadways; like cost, practicality, and durability, it’s difficult to know where to start. Here’s are some of the major points. Watch the video for more.

Price is a huge issue. Glass panels themselves are expensive. On top of that must be added the price of embedded processors and electronics in the panel, the ginormous cost of connecting the panels to the grid along the roadways, the steep cost of burying power and data lines, and of course, actually building the roads. New electrical infrastructure would need to be build alongside solar panel roads so the power could be sent elsewhere. This inevitably means new, big transmission lines everywhere.

Solar roadways must provide traction, just like regular roads. Will wet or icy glass road panels provide proper traction for braking and turning? Want to bet your life on that during an ice storm when the semi in front of you starts fish-tailing? The raised parts of the glass panels will wear down after prolonged usage, making the surface slippery indeed. Dirt and gravel is stronger and more abrasive than glass and will accelerate the process. Glass will become opaque, cutting down on efficiency of power creation.

Solar roadways cannot melt snow off them in winter during storms because the roads will be covered with snow and thus no power would be created. Plus, melting ice takes large amounts of energy. Snow plows are much more efficient. But would snow plows even be able to be used on solar roadways without damaging the glass due to scraping? I doubt it.

Tiles will inevitably come loose. Water will seep into the road, causing erosion. Asphalt doesn’t have this problem, and is 99% recycled now.

Driving a little bitty tractor on the glass panels as a demo is not sufficient. Try it with hundreds of loaded semis each day for several months, then see what the road looks like.

The Indegogo video shows the inventors shoveling waste colored glass into a wheelbarrow as an example of recycling. However, colored glass is not what is needed for solar panels. The glass needs to be clear. Further, they clearly do not have the facilities needed to turn waste glass into roadway tiles at any kind of scale.

Colored LEDs will be almost impossible to see during bright sunlight. Light pollution at night from thousands of roads with sparkly lights will be severe. Would you want to live on a street that had ever-changing lights all night long? Didn’t think so. And why do roads need lights on them anyway?

Parking lots with solar panels as the pavement seem to be a swell idea until your realize that cars will be parked on top of the panels during the day, thus cutting way down of power generation.

Solar roadways are a wonderful idea. However, they are completely impractical.

Posted in News, Renewable energy, Solar power

Floating solar power on wastewater treatment plant has big advantages


A wastewater treatment plant in Australia will use floating solar photovoltaic panels to decrease evaporation and to increase energy. The water cools the panels, allowing them to last longer and work at greater efficiency. The panels will cover 90% of the water surface, cutting down on evaporation. Wow. A double win. Let’s hope this technology spreads to water treatment panels everywhere and maybe even to reservoirs.

The solar panels are supported by buoyant polyethelene pipe and steel pontoons and construction is not all that different from rooftop solar.


Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power


Bob Morris


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