Ivanpah – A Sad Postscript
Sadly, my worst fears about the Ivanpah’s projects under-performance came true (see the blog “Operational Hiccups at Ivanpah”). The project owners BrightSource, Google, and NRG have requested financial relief from the federal government. After going live in February, the project has accumulated payment deficits of over $400M on its loan repayments.
According to various media reports, the 392MW project has generated only about a quarter of the energy it expected to produce. Miscellaneous reasons have been offered for financial troubles – including delays in processing tax credits and low revenue due to cloudy skies.
It is ridiculous to blame the sun. As my analysis in the previous blog bears out, the concentrated solar facility was underperforming on the very days when the PV energy output in surrounding region was high. The sun is not the culprit – the project design and engineering is.
There is another twist in the tail here. Not all of its energy comes from the sun – it also burns natural gas to supplement power generation. Reportedly a higher portion of the power is coming from natural gas than originally designed. In other words, the true conversion of solar energy to renewable power is even worse than the data suggests.
It remains a mystery – why do smart and committed people make bad decisions, ignore previous learnings from several failed CPV projects, and then try to hide the bad outcomes with ridiculous explanations?