A Huge Solar Plant Opens, Facing Doubts About Its Future

A Huge Solar Plant Opens, Facing Doubts About Its Future

By DIANE CARDWELL and MATTHEW L. WALD FEB. 13, 2014.  New York Times.

The Ivanpah solar power plant:

  • Cost $2.2 billion dollars to build
  • Can energize 140,000 homes ($15,714 per home). There are at least 12 million homes in California, so you’d need to build at least 86 more plants for almost $190 billion dollars
  • Stretches over more than 5 square miles of the Mojave Desert.
  • 350,000 mirrors the size of garage doors tilt toward the sun
  • The plant, which took almost 4 years and thousands of workers assembling millions of parts to complete, officially opened on Thursday, the first electric generator of its kind.  It could also be the last.
  • solar thermal technology only works at large scale and in certain locations.
  • Ivanpah could stabilize voltage but has little storage,
  • Ivanpah needs to have a natural gas backup.

Since the project began, the price of rival technologies has plummeted, incentives have begun to disappear and the appetite among investors for mammoth solar farms has waned. Although several large, new projects have been coming online in recent months — many in the last quarter of 2013 — experts say fewer are beginning construction and not all of those under development will be completed.

“I don’t think that we’re going to see large-scale solar thermal plants popping up, five at a time, every year in the U.S. in the long-term — it’s just not the way it’s going to work,” said Matthew Feinstein, a senior analyst at Lux Research. Photo Ernest Moniz, the energy secretary, touring the plant, which received a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee.


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