Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Near Billion Dollar Solar Power Station Fails

The Crescent Dunes solar power plant in Tonopah was begun some 10 years ago and financed in part with a $737 million federal loan guarantee.  The state of Nevada added another $119 million, Crescent Dunes was another Concentrated Solar Power facility, like I've written about before, started with the intent to demonstrate ways to drive down the cost of solar power to be competitive with conventional (fossil fuel or nuclear) power generation technologies.

Crescent Dunes has bellied up.

It was expected to produce in excess of 500,000 MWh (MegaWatt*Hours) per year over 25 years, or 12,500,000 MWh, of fully dispatchable (or sort of) electricity at a cost of 0.08 $ per kWh.  This chart of the resultant power output shows it came close to 420,000 MWh produced spread over four years.

David Boaz at the Cato Institute adds a couple of important numbers.
The plant’s technology was designed to generate enough power night and day to supply a city the size of nearby Sparks, Nev. (population 100,000), but it never came close. Its power cost NV about $135 per megawatt‐​hour, compared with less than $30 per MWh today at a new Nevada photovoltaic solar farm, according to BloombergNEF, which researches fossil fuel alternatives.  [Note: for comparison, costs for electricity will vary around the country, but the utility I have here in east Central Florida gets in the vicinity of $8 to $9 per MWh, less than 30% of the $30 quoted for the new photovoltaic farms]
Say hi to your tax money:

Remind anyone of Solyndra

This morning, J.Kb at Miguel's Gun Free Zone posted a piece called, “Why Bernie Sanders won and the lesson the Republican party needs to learn from it.”  His point was that Bernie is appealing to people who hear about corruption like this plant or Solyndra and are enraged by it; that Bernie is appealing to people who see “banksters” - that combination word of banker and gangster - getting away with sucking all of the money out of corporations like a mutant mosquito sucking all the blood out of an animal.  Bernie is selling to rage.  The problem is the cure is going to be worse than the disease. 

I've said this so many times, I don't know how else to say it: raging against the machine is fine, but they're raging against the wrong machine!!!  The problem isn't the billionaires, the problem isn't the “vulture capitalists,” the problem is the government.  The government is infected with corruption from top to bottom, making the government bigger is feeding the monster.  Obligatory disclaimer that of course it isn't everyone and there are good people trying to unscrew things. 

Everything in our world has been structured to set this up for at least the last hundred years.  It's not capitalism that's causing the problem, it's the lack of capitalism.  We have a system in which a bunch of central bankers issue money that’s worthless, backed by nothing but thin air, and manipulate every single aspect of the economy.  If one “too big to fail” bank – or one “vulture capitalist” – is stupid and gets over extended, instead of facing the consequences of their actions, the central bankers create another few billion bucks out of nothing and bail them out. It’s pure central control – that other word for socialism/communism. We have a revolving table of regulators going to work in the industries they just regulated, and people from those industries going to be the regulators. You think that’s a free economy? That’s what you get when government gets bigger.
The problem is the government is making all of this worse, and putting someone in charge who's going to make the government bigger is going to make all of the problems worse. 


  1. It isn't either/or. It's the vulture/crony "capitalist" banksters AND the government. We are not even human beings to a disturbingly large subset of these people. Greed and paranoid aggression are important motivations for the first bunch; the drive to control plus the sincere belief that they really know what is best for us knuckledraggers motivates the second bunch.

  2. You just have to combine this with the BBQ post below - this is just a combination bird smoker AND power plant.

    That bald eagle, good eatin'!

  3. The politicians created the bankster class and both always place themselves downstream of the taxpayer trough and manage to suffer no loses as they operate on insider information and joint collusion. Perhaps Trump can prune the administrative state by moving it all across the country. Don't want to move then quit and the department shrinks.

  4. "The problem isn't the billionaires, the problem isn't the “vulture capitalists,” the problem is the government. "

    Embrace the healing power of AND. Its the vulture capitalists AND the government, to the extent that those two groups are distinguishable one from the other.

    1. My point in not using AND and placing the blame on the government is that if they were doing their jobs, the vulture capitalists and the central bankers would all be in jail.

      It comes down to what's legal and what's allowed by inaction and not enforcing laws. Look at how many top FBI cronies are in prison over lying to the FISA court and attempting a coup. Look at how many congress critters go into congress relatively middle class and leave as multimillionaires. Look at how they made themselves exempt from insider trading laws, changed that law when everyone was mad about it, and then made themselves exempt again when fewer people were watching. I could go on all day.

  5. Karl Marx predicted that economic forces would drive society to a point where all ownership would be concentrated in the hands of vast monopolies and latifundia, and that workers would be reduced from independence and ownership of their livelihoods to a type of serfdom where there is nothing real that their labor could buy.

    In the times and places that this happens, it's a real problem. I'm not yet convinced that the natural unperturbed dynamics of market shake-out lead to this, but you can see it from here whenever we hit a spot of malaise.

    The problem is that Karl Marx's "solution" to this problem is to ensure that no one gets to own anything, workers especially, even themselves. The only people who own any of the "means of production" (slaves included) are managers of vast government-sanctioned monopolies. The people the commies and socialists hate most bitterly are the independent small businessmen, the "petit-bourgeousie".

    A future where there is a broad distribution of ownership is my desired future. The only place that could possibly happen is in a country with strong respect for and protection for small-scale property rights, non-predatory contracts, and free association. Capitalism isn't a sufficient condition for this, but it is a necessary one.

  6. 39% of the promised performance, best year, and at only 1687 times the promised cost.

    And what a bargain at only $856M.
    I'm sure no one got rich off of that boondoggle.

    Government in action!

    Even Califrutopia impeached its governor over that kind of energy jackassery.
    Nevadans are apparently still waiting for the big lotto payoff.

    - Aesop

  7. How could any team of engineers miss their design output by 70% ? How can they go to their next project with this failure on their resume ? Who would hire them?

    1. The wonderful world of government giveaways! Their excuse is they were doing research and "research is what you're doing when you don't know what you're doing."

      Some bright guy (I'm sure with a mile-long list of academic qualifications) said, "if we spend a billion dollars, we might make this work." Then the question is who's dumb enough to bet a billion dollars? The Fed.gov! They dribble out a billion like a toddler in Pampers dribbles turds out of a diaper. To anyone that doesn't have an infinite checkbook, a billion is world-changing money. To the Feds, it's a rounding error. "Now where did we spend that last billion??"