The Las Vegas newspaper finally got around to printing an AP story about the fact that huge solar thermal power plant just across the border in California is not performing as advertised.
In fact, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is producing half of its expected annual output, the story says, though others have put the output at 30 percent of rated capacity or even one quarter — and that was more than a week ago.
Though the story relates that the $2.2 billion project was built by BrightSource Energy with a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee, it doesn’t bother to mention that the billionaire owners are not paying loan payments and are seeking a $539 million cash grant from the Treasury Department, as reported by The Wall Street Journal on Sept. 23.
Though it has been reported that the plant has applied to use more natural gas to get its boilers operating when the sun fails to do the job, the story details that operators had thought they would need to use natural gas an hour a day, but instead are using gas an average of 4½ hours a day. So how much of the plant’s half-capacity production is from solar and how much from gas? Perhaps that’s were the one quarter figure comes from.
The story also makes no mention of the thousands of birds that have been killed in 800-degree heat of the sun’s rays focused by thousands of mirrors on the plant’s 450-foot tall towers.
Harry Reid was once quoted in a BrightSource press release about the Ivanpah project: “I am very happy to see utility-scale solar projects like this one moving forward with strong Administration support, and I am hopeful that this project will serve as a cornerstone of the clean energy economy in the Southwestern U.S. I look forward to BrightSource and other solar companies putting more Nevadans to work by building major projects like this in Nevada very soon.”
In 2010 Harry held a fundraiser at BrightSource’s headquarters in California, shortly after the firm got the $1.6 billion loan guarantee.
A website called The Party Blog reported on some other cozy relationships. Brightsource reportedly paid $40,000 to R&R Partners, supporters of Reid, to work on stimulus funding matters. BrightSource also had a deal with Harvey Whittemore’s moribund Coyote Springs Land Company — Whittemore was tight with Harry until he went to prison for illegal contributions to Reid — for the lease of some land for further solar projects.