The (not so) widely reported truths about the crown jewel of the green-energy movement’s advance, the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, and its proclivity for frying birds mid-flight have begun to seep out. And now in a bit of poetic justice for birds, the behemoth sea of mirrors has been dealt a taste of its own medicine.
The plant has been partially shut down due to part of the facility bursting into flames as a result of misaligned mirrors. The giant mirrors reflect sunlight at scorching temperatures (just ask any passing bird) towards one of three massive “boiler towers.”
Last Thursday one of the towers caught fire. The blaze left metal pipes scorched and melted and is yet another in a long line of “engineering hiccups” to bedevil the controversial facility.
NRG Energy, the company operating the Ivanpah solar plant in southern California, is investigating how the mirrors, or heliostats, failed and torched the boiling tower. Now, the plant which got $1.6 billion from the Obama administration, will only be able to generate electricity from one of its three towers thus lowering its already low production numbers to one third of schedule.
As reported by Gizmodo: The World’s Largest Solar Power Plant Just Torched ItselfA small fire was reported yesterday morning at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) in California, forcing a temporary shutdown of the facility. It’s now running at a third of its capacity (a second tower is down due to scheduled maintenance), and it’s not immediately clear when the damaged tower will restart. It’s also unclear how the incident will impact California’s electricity supply. Putting out the blaze was not easy task, either. Firefighters were forced to climb 300 feet up a boiler tower to get to the scene. Officials said the fire was located about two-thirds up the tower. Workers at the plant actually managed to subdue the flames by the time firefighters reached the spot, and it was officially extinguished about 20 minutes after it started.
Though futuristic to be certain, Ivanpah has been plagued with issues since the day it opened for business in 2014. Critics have constantly howled that Ivanpah’s technology is outdated and too finicky to economically maintain. In addition to dead birds and displaced desert turtles, the plant is a financial loser.
Ivanpah initially struggled to fulfill its electricity contract and would have had to shut down if the California Public Utilities Commission didn’t in essence bail it out in March. Within a year of its opening Ivanpah operators asked the federal government for a $539 million grant to help pay off the $1.6 billion loan it got from the Energy Department, aka: the federal government, aka: U.S. taxpayers, in the first place!
“Ivanpah has been such a mess. If [the fire] knocks them offline, it’s going to further dig them in,” said Adam Schultz, program manager at the UC Davis Energy Institute and former analyst for the CPUC.
With such an odd name, many have wondered what “Ivanpah” means. No, it’s not what Donald Trump’s eldest daughter calls her father. But maybe it’s Cherokee for “great-big-bird-frying-taxpayer-dollar-wasting-environmentally-unfriendly-death-ray-in-desert.”
[Note: This article was written by Derrick Wilburn]