Ivanpah solar plant misses the mark

I'm endlessly fascinated when rational well formed questions are censored, within a burgeoning greenwashing climate.

For instance, I recently commented on a CleanTechnica article, questioning the author's assertions, citing reputable sources, only to observe removal of my comment by the site's operators.

The first step in solving a problem, is recognition. If we belittle and censor intelligence, what path have we set ourselves upon? Should we allow egos to rule, or logic, facts and reason?

Missing The Mark

What really intrigues me, is how Ivanpah's designers completely missed an opportunity, and how we're so afraid to face the facts surrounding this power plant, that it's seemingly impossible to critically explore better options.

For instance, the Ivanpah facility was built to, and always will be, dependent upon natural gas fired boilers to produce about 1/4th of its electricity. Right now, Ivanpah's natural gas comes from fracking and other non-sustainable energy sources. But could we do better?

There's an unrealized opportunity here...methane is the primary component of natural gas. While methane doesn’t linger as long as CO2, methane has far more devastating impacts; 25% of manmade climate change is caused by methane emissions. For the first 20 years after release, methane is 84 times more potent than CO2.

So we're better off burning methane, instead of simply releasing it into the atmosphere. Of course combustion produces CO2, but it's a lesser-damaging greenhouse gas. If Ivanpah must burn natural gas (e.g. methane), why not utilize the byproducts of food and sewage decomposition, to manufacture needed boiler fuel onsite. Therefore, Ivanpah could have been built to capture and put to good use a damaging greenhouse gas. Instead, we're so afraid to be honest with this plant's natural gas needs, engineers can't even begin designing, let-alone constructing, an adequately sized biodigester.

Intellectual and Moral Corruption

When we lie to ourselves, when we greenwash. We squander opportunities for intellectual and moral honestly. When we censor rational well formed questions, we censor rational debate and criticism...we stop growing and improving.

Is this the world you want?


Original Comment

My original comment follows, links included.

Your gas consumption estimate seems way off. Plant operators themselves sought out, and obtained approval to eliminate the 5% natural gas consumption cap, with a shift towards 23% total effective plant energy production via natural gas (current).

Until 2018's numbers are here, we can only assume that Ivanpah's newly-revised ~1,525 Mmcf natural gas consumption estimate is necessary to bring the plant up to it's current 60% operational level. After all, the plant consumed ~1,100Mmcf (burning ~1,100Mmcf natural gas produces 46,000 tons of CO2) while transitioning capacity from 40% to 60%, so estimating 1,525Mmcf to maintain 60% isn't exactly a huge leap. Ultimately, the plant is expected to produce 1,079GWh/year when 100% operational, so at 60% we can only conclude its producing 647GWh/year by consuming at or near permitted a natural gas consumption rate of ~1,525 Mmcf/year.

A traditional natural gas plant would produce 99MWh per 1Mmcf. Which means a traditional natural gas plant would produce ~151GWh of electricity from 1,525 Mmcf of natural gas.

Ivanpah produces 647GWh from 1,525 Mmcf of natural gas, meaning that 23% of Ivanpah's gross output is in-effect, from natural gas consumption. That could be considered a huge "efficiency" boost for a traditional natural gas plant...but couldn't we have built far better, less expensive, and longer lasting power plants, by utilizing existing more sustainable designs?

It's also very interesting how actual emissions of Ivanpah's emergency power and fire pumps are effectively twice original estimates, now that those systems are actually in place. Did they not have specs on the equipment they were planning to install?

Overall, 23% is a huge leap from an originally promised "less than 5% natural gas". Combined with wildly inaccurate early numbers elsewhere in this project's plans, the whole project has me questioning many numbers. Including the plant's life cycle GHG emission estimates, power production's cost/benefit per MWh, etc.

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