Thursday, January 16, 2014

More on 60 Minutes

More folks are opining on the 60 Minutes Greentech piece.   The discussion is important.   A green reporter who has a spent a lot of time following the industry posted this link on Gigaom

She has many valid points in her blog.  But certainly got the Ivanpah project wrong when she stated:

“Even within the loan program, there were more wins than the 60 Minutes piece let on, like the Ivanpah solar farm that created a lot of jobs outside of Las Vegas. The U.S. government needs to give more support to next-generation energy technologies, not less.

Ivanpah is a concentrated solar thermal project that has turned out to be expensive and has been significantly delayed in startup.  Ivanpah is also battling a problem of killing birds that fly through the concentrated sunlight and get burned.   It is not the next generation in solar electric power it is probably the Betamax of solar electric power.

The Phase 1 of the Ivanpah project sells power to PG&E at approximately 20 cents per kilowatt hour.   PG&E can now purchase power from a similar sized PV farm for half this price without ant dead birds.  We the customers of PG&E are stuck with an above cost long term power purchase agreement.   Of course it is our monthly money that will keep the Ivanpah project solvent and pay back the DOE loans.

Ivanpah is only a “success” because we the people will continue to subsidize an overpriced contract for the purchase of the power.   The DOE will chalk it up as a successful project and folks like Ms. Ferenbacher will extol the virtues of the jobs created.

Let us assume that 30 permanent jobs are associated are associated with Phase 1 that will generate 129 megawatts.  The entire project with three phases will create 86 permanent jobs. Let’s assume the capacity factor is 25%.  Doing the requisite math the extra 10 cents per kwh of overpayment by the customers of PG&E amounts to $28,251,000 per year.  We the customers of PG&E are paying approximately one million dollars a year for the next twenty years for each permanent job the project created.  When folks like Ms. Ferenbacher can actually do arithmetic they should report that the US DOE should never repeat a project like this.  Not only do the birds get burned we the customers of PG&E got really burned


  1. I am not a fan of CSP because it is expensive but that was PG&E’s fault. many folks told the CA utilities not to sign that deal knowing it would be too expensive. The Federal Govt did not pick that project, PG&E did. All the Federal Govt did was say that the PG&E contract, approved by the State PUC was solid enough to loan money to.

    I think you got it wrong here.

  2. Jigar I will blog about how the CPUC dropped the ball and how PG&E just takes their customers' money and they are happy to take more. Ultimately the CPUC is to balme as they had a duty to protect the utility customers. Had we installed a CC gas turbine power could be generated for $70 per mwh and 95% load factor. This boondoggle costs $200 per mwh with 25% load factor. Emissions from CC gas are about 730 pounds CO2 per mwh. The carbon tax is $130 per mwh divide 730 pounds CO2 per mwh times 2200 pounds per metric ton. This is $392 per metric tonne CO2. We could gave bought credits in Europe for $6 a metric ton. The CPUC must be held accountable