Ivanpah Solar Plant possible shutdown; The $2.2 bln power plant in Mojave performs lower than expected

March 17
5:40 AM 2016

After spending a huge $2.2. billion to build a massive solar plant in Mojave desert, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System has failed to produce enough electricity. Now the solar plant is in the brink of shutting down as its capacity is much lower that expected.

Built in California Mojave Desert, situated 40 miles(64 km) southwest of Las Vegas, the power plant is expected to deliver a gross capacity of 392 megawatts (MW). The plant is equipped with a more than 173,500 heliostat mirrors to focus sunlight on receivers in the 450-feet central solar power towers.

The $2.2 billion facility occupied a 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) area was funded by $1.6 billion loan guarantee from federal government. The power plan, owned by BrightSource Energy Inc., NRG Energy Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google began its operation in 2014.

Nevertheless, environmental group Helping Hand Tools said Ivanpah solar plant is not a renewable energy plant. The plant uses natural gas to heat the boilers which producing steam that run its power turbines. The process emits pollution and does not produce a renewable energy. Moreover, heat from the plan is reported to kill thousands of birds, and many of them are burned to death.

"It's not a renewable energy plant, it's part gas, part solar," said spokesman for the group Robert Sarvey. Furthemore, as Market Watch reported t,he plant has so far failed to produce the expected power. Its main customer, Pacific Gas and Electric Co (PG&E) even had to pay a much higher price for the electricity it produce.

Nasdaq reported that power from the two Ivanpah units that serve PG&E last year fetched about $200 a megawatt-hour on average during summer months. While during the rest of the year it earned about $135 a megawatt-hour on average.

The amount is much higher than average price of $57 a megawatt-hour for solar power according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. While electricity from natural-gas plants is only $35 a megawatt-hour on average in California's wholesale market last year. Office of Ratepayer Advocates in California suggested PG&E to cancel the contract or renew the deal which was negotiated in 2009.

Pacific Gas and Electric has requested permission from the Public Utilities Commission to overlook the shortfall rather than terminating the contract. PG&E said the contract default will force the facility to shut down.

Spokeswoman of PG&E told Wall Street Journal, "Continuing the delivery of [renewable] energy from these innovative energy facilities is in the interest of all parties and furthers important state and federal policy goals." California Public Utilities Commission granted the extension and scheduled the meeting on Thursday.

The unconventional Ivanpah solar plant which has spent $2.2 billion did not deliver electricity as expected. Furthermore, the price it charges for megawatt-hour to PG&E is much higher than average.

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