In February, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz trekked to the Mojave Desert to celebrate full commercial operation of the Ivanpah solar energy project. Billed as an engineering marvel, Ivanpah, like most renewables, relies on primitive forms of energy production.
Nearly 350,000 large “garage door-sized” mirrors cover five square miles of desert, some of the most environmentally sensitive land on Earth, focusing sunlight on boilers atop 450-foot towers. Boilers make steam, steam drives turbines, turbines generate electricity: Three steps integral to power generation since the 19th century.
What’s “new” is the stunningly inefficient and scandalously expensive use of sunlight to make steam and the smug self-congratulation amid the ruins of a desert environment that can take centuries to heal itself. Oh, and the fact that the concentrated sunbeams are fatal to wildlife.
The project developed jointly by NRG Energy, BrightSource Energy, and the virtuous greens at Google. Operational personnel admit finding large numbers of smoldering bird carcasses scattered around Ivanpah Solar. They acknowledge that by concentrating solar radiation on the boiler towers, they’re heating the surrounding air to 1,000 degrees, Fahrenheit.
All to fight global warming. Utilities have signed decades-long contracts for power from this mad-science fair project because Democrats have mandated that one-third of California’s electricity must come from “renewables” built by their wealthy donors. The desert gets paved, birds get cooked alive, rich developers get subsidies, consumers get the bill. Ivanpah’s generation won’t even move the needle for solar energy: 0.11 percent of U.S. generation at the end of 2021.
Way to save the planet, Google.