On August 12, The Daily Signal posted an article about Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a taxpayer-subsidized solar power plant in California’s Mojave Desert. Most solar power plants (if not all) are taxpayer-subsidized, so that is not unusual. What is unusual is what the power plant has had to do to compensate for the desert weather conditions.
The article reports:
Ivanpah is different. It uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight for generating steam that then drives turbines. These turbines produce energy in a similar fashion to that of traditional coal, natural gas, or nuclear power plants.
However, Ivanpah has a problem those technologies don’t: intermittency. Meaning the sun doesn’t always shine.
For Ivanpah, this is an even bigger problem than it is for plants that use solar cells, because at night the temperature in the desert falls dramatically and the water cools down.
So, the water must be reheated the next morning before power production can resume. Instead of relying on the sun to reheat the water, the Ivanpah plant burns natural gas.
A true description of Ivanpah, then, is that it is a hybrid solar-natural gas power plant. The electricity is not entirely solar produced, yet it is sold at the higher prices regulators allow for solar power, a benefit worth millions of dollars per year to Ivanpah’s owners.
This is how the solar scam works:
That’s how Ivanpah hits the “bad policy” trifecta that is all too common in today’s heavily subsidized renewable energy markets:
Rich consortium gets huge subsidies from taxpayers to build a plant. Check. Regulators OK a contract that forces consumers to pay four to five times the going rate for its product. Check. And the product actually is nowhere near as “green” as people thought it’d be. Check.
The inconvenient truth is that Ivanpah uses a lot of natural gas to generate “solar” electricity, and neither the California Energy Commission nor the U.S. Department of Energy seems to care enough to come clean about it.
I am not opposed to solar energy. What I am opposed to is government meddling in the free market to the point where healthy competition is prevented from developing a product to generate energy that would be clean, efficient, and cheap enough to use. Since the dawn of science, scientists have been looking for a perpetual motion machine, and I wonder if the search for green energy is going to have the same amount of success. There are laws of physics involved in generating energy that control the process regardless of what the government, the power companies, or the consumers may want. Those rules are not variable and play a major part in our success in creating renewable energy.