Ivanpah solar plant wants to burn more natural gas

Plant West of Las Vegas

In a earlier article, Avian mortality from solar farms, I featured the Ivanpah generating station, in the Mohave Desert southwest of Las Vegas, which uses 173,500 heliostats each with two mirrors to focus sunlight on three towers where water is converted to steam to generate electricity.  This method is called “solar-flux” and it generates very high temperatures. Birds experience traumatic impact with the mirrors, but the larger danger is getting singed by the heat flux which is up to 800 degrees F.

ivanpahBut since the sun doesn’t shine all the time, the plant uses natural gas to keep the water hot. And, apparently, there hasn’t been enough sun to do that.

Bright Source Energy, the company operating the plant, is petitioning the California government, requesting permission to burn more natural gas and to emit 94,749 more tons of carbon dioxide per year. That’s the equivalent of emissions from about 16,500 automobiles. (See full story at the Hockey Schtick)

If the permit is approved, then this “solar” plant will produce about 35 percent of its electricity from fossil fuels.

The Hockey Schtick blog notes:

“The plant cost $2.2 billion and has a ‘gross capacity’ of 392 MW [but may actually perform at a much lower average capacity], thus a minimum cost of $5.64 million per MW capacity.

By comparison, a 650MW gas turbine power plant can be built for around $630 million and run 24/7/365 without requiring fossil-fuel back-up, a cost of $0.97 million per MW or about 6 times less. Since ~35% of the proposed plant output would be from fossil fuels, the solar maximum capacity would be ~255 MW, increasing the cost for the actual solar-derived energy to ~8.6 times higher than a conventional gas turbine power plant [which has much lower greenhouse & particulate emissions than firing boilers in the Ivanpah plant].”

Another problem with the facility is that airline pilots are complaining that they are being blinded by the glare from the mirrors (see, for example this Breitbart story).

As Kermit said, it is hard being green.


  1. It is not even the 800 F air temperature that sets the birds on fire, it is the intensity of the radiation and the insulating property of the feathers. Quite possibly the ignition temperature is higher than the air!

  2. Instead of natural gas, why don’t they just run it on the bovine excrement coming out of the mouths and brains of the people who came up with the idea of the Ivanpah solar plant and the ones who sponsored it.

    I’m sure there’s tons of it and its methane percolating somewhere in some office building.

  3. Just how many times in 30 years does a SOLAR energy plan in the Mojave have to FAIL before people get it????
    The Idiocy of Mojave’s Ivanpah solar scam using Gas while draining the lake has been big news and subject of discussions today in the community…Clearly a Gas/solar hybrid is a very expensive idiocy all on the backs of the taxpayers and the planet loving Californians with a collective pipe dream…AGAIN…

  4. chesapeak is burning the crude oil surface fumes at eagle ford shale wells instead of harvesting or generating power with it. Not cost effective, i guess. these gases could offset or replace a percent of solar panels. what is cost comparison including gas pipeline and compressors to collect fumes?

  5. RE: SilverTones’ comment- Isn’t that exactly the liberal’s argument about any energy production?

    Why are we conservatives or libertarians more concerned about peak oil and what the hell we’re going to do when either the oil runs out or there is a global oil constraint(physical or price induced) and we need alternate sources of energy? Hand crank our Victrolas?

    • Except of course that solar origin “renewables” aren’t really green. And besides, green itself is the colour of light that chlorophyll cannot use. It is waste radiation!

  6. I was in plane that flew adjacent to this field this summer, not over the top, and it was indeed incredibly bright from quite a distance away. Bird-scorching facilities like Ivanpah or bat-exploding, bird-beheading wind power facilities need to be held accountable. A single avian mortality at a mine site can cost hundreds of dollars in natural resource damage fines. The facilities need to mitigate and prevent losses where ever the avian or mammalian fatalities occur.

    • Let’s be serious. We need to add NO MORE carbon dioxide from non-living sources, to the atmosphere. Enough damage has already been done that if fossil fuel burning stopped tomorrow, global warming will continue until the planet’s surface is hot enough that the infrared photons are energetic enough to penetrate the added carbon dioxide.
      We need not expect reductions of carbon dioxide emissions to reduce the global warming immediately, but we must reduce the rate of its acceleration.
      Any “renewable” technology that requires ANY emissions of fossil carbon burning, is quite simply failing to solve the Catastrophic Climat Change problem.
      There is enough nuclear energy in the 5 ppm of uranium in a ton of granite to equal the chemical energy of ten tons of coal.
      The USA has built two kinds of meltdown-immune breeder reactors that can use ALL of the uranium provided to them, not just the 0.7% of uranium that is naturally fissile.

  7. hmmm the not perpetual perpetual motion machine is a shitty shitty bang bang thunk’n burner… oh oh oh yes we have no burners today –

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