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Google-Backed Solar Plant Catches on Fire (pv-tech.org) 196

An anonymous reader writes:"The world's largest solar plant just torched itself," read the headline at Gizmodo, reporting on a fire Thursday at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. Built on 4,000 acres of public land in the Mojave Desert, the $2.2 billion plant "has nearly 350,000 computer controlled mirrors -- each roughly the size of a garage door," according to the Associated Press, which reports that misaligned mirrors focused the sunlight on electrical cables, causing them to burst into flames, according to the local fire department. The facility was temporarily shut down, and the fire damaged one of the facility's three towers, according to the Associated Press, while another tower is closed for maintenance, "leaving the sprawling facility on the California-Nevada border operating at only a third of its capacity."
The New York Times reported that by 2011 Google had invested $168 in the facility.
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Google-Backed Solar Plant Catches on Fire

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  • by SkunkPussy ( 85271 ) on Sunday May 22, 2016 @08:31AM (#52159385) Journal

    ...I'll throw another $168 their way.

    • Same. Googles turned into a cheapskate.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 22, 2016 @08:39AM (#52159417)

      HOLY FUCK!

      The "invested $168 in the facility" link's URL is fucked up.

      It is currently:

      https://hardware.slashdot.org/story/16/05/21/236254/green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/28/google-pulls-the-plug-on-a-renewable-energy-effort

      When it should obviously be:

      And it's not "$168", for crying out loud. The article clearly states (emphasis added),

      Google still has invested $168 million in the venture

      I don't expect a lot from the editors here, but holy fucking moley, this is just inexcusably bad! Fix the goddamn link URL! Fix the goddamn amount of money!

    • ...I'll throw another $168 their way.

      You may wish to rethink your offer — you and I have already sunk much more into this failed enterprise [dailycaller.com]. The submitter's write-up and TFA both concentrate on Google's puny $168 (million), for which Google would've gotten a solid return, had the project worked, while strangely omitting the $1,600 million, which Obama's DOE gave them in loan-guarantees without any hope of earning a profit.

      Think of what useful things could've been funded with the money, had it been done the fair — Capitalist — way. You know, when the people making investments a) dispense their own monies, rather than those of captive taxpayers; b) face personal losses from failures and rewards from successes...

      • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Sunday May 22, 2016 @11:46AM (#52160091)

        The three idiots replying to you didn't bother to read what you linked to...

        The California regulators may end up forcing the plant to shut down, thus triggering the loan guarantee...

        Worse, even if it keeps running, it is producing power for 6 times the cost of a natural gas fired plant.

        No, wait, it gets better!

        "Interestingly enough, Ivanpah uses natural gas to supplement its solar production."

        You just can't make this stuff up...

        • You forgot that they'll have to sign-up for Cap and Trade under California law, so they can buy carbon offsets, to make their "renewable" energy.

      • which Obama's DOE gave them in loan-guarantees without any hope of earning a profit.

        Except via the increased tax revenue that would have resulted. A lot of the stuff a government does is just to make society better, so it shouldn't even need a profit motive.

        Think of what useful things could've been funded with the money, had it been done the fair â" Capitalist â" way.

        Those DOE loans have a much, much higher success rate than VC or private equity backed ventures.

        Like, a VC firm succeeds 10% of

    • by shanen ( 462549 )

      With 168 comments when I arrived.

      Broke that for you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 22, 2016 @08:59AM (#52159485)

    It's all done with smoke and mirrors.

  • by AndyKron ( 937105 ) on Sunday May 22, 2016 @09:08AM (#52159531)
    Archimedes was right! In your face Archimedes deniers!
  • by ChunderDownunder ( 709234 ) on Sunday May 22, 2016 @09:12AM (#52159547)

    Isn't that the one where Johnny Depp is assassinated and uploads himself?

  • I gotta wear shades. -Status Quo
  • Why mention Google? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Sunday May 22, 2016 @09:29AM (#52159603)

    Google is a minority investor in the project. Why not mention the main investor????

    From Ivanpah Solar Power Facility [wikipedia.org] NRG has invested $300 million, Google $168 million and the US government has provided a $1.6 Billion load guarantee.

    In fact why mention the investors at all? Did they have something to do with the day to day running? Did someone from Google sneak out one night and mis-align the mirrors?

    • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Sunday May 22, 2016 @11:01AM (#52159933)
      The investors are irrelevant, the government support is something worth mentioning, as this is a plant that is woefully underperfoming to start with, has not fulfilled its contractual obligations for power delivery after it was operational, and is at risk of being shut down if the power contract is cancelled. This is just another setback that is going to make it that much harder for the plant to continue.
  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Sunday May 22, 2016 @09:36AM (#52159629)

    Having a fire break out in a concentrator tower is not the plant 'torching itself'. To get a usable Carnot temperature differential.for power generation, the temperature on the heated end of the tower has to be high, so that's where the excessive temperature risk is concentrated. But when journalism is being practiced by scribes who nothing about science, every error condition has to treated as an apocalypse. Welcome to our world, solar developers.

  • Ok has anyone else noticed bugs on the front page?

    I'm getting cases where after an auto-refresh:
    - New articles appear underneath the top text advert and have a big yellow box around them.
    - Clicking titles to article just opens a new Slashdot front page, not the article.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      "I'm getting cases where after an auto-refresh:"

      Whipslash, IIRC, said they had stopped the auto-refreshing bullshit.

      "Clicking titles to article just opens a new Slashdot front page, not the article."

      I guess my public report of this last time went unheeded because of faggot moderators not figuring shit out when they were modding.

      " New articles appear underneath the top text advert and have a big yellow box around them."

      That slashdot is managing to show this same stuff to me, thereby telling me they're active

      • Whipslash, IIRC, said they had stopped the auto-refreshing bullshit.

        You could be right. But this is being caused by whatever mechanism is adding new stories to the front page.

        That slashdot is managing to show this same stuff to me, thereby telling me they're actively circumventing my ad-blocking security measures

        Hardly. The div element is called announcement. It's not an advert in the nasty sense we all hate, but rather a static link without tracking or marketing bullshit and without images that I can see. It just seems there's likely a coding error that results in new stories appearing within that div while it is visible.

    • The big yellow box is to let you know that new articles were added while you were looking at another browser tab/doing something else. Clicking refresh gets rid of the notification. It should have taken you longer to complain about it than to figure it out.
      • The big yellow box is to let you know that new articles were added while you were looking at another browser tab/doing something else. Clicking refresh gets rid of the notification. It should have taken you longer to complain about it than to figure it out.

        Interesting. So why does the big yellow box say: "Leap Towards a Career in Ethical Hacking with 60+ Hours of Prep Toward CISM, CISA, & More Certification Exams at 95% off" and why is it formatted exactly like the advert that appears at the top of the screen regardless if there's a new article or not?

        It should have taken you longer to complain about it than to figure it out.

        Considering the waste of time your comment was it would seem things are still not "figured out".

  • by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Sunday May 22, 2016 @10:02AM (#52159745) Homepage

    I work in a factory and stuff is occasionally installed wrong or fails in such a way that stuff breaks, sometimes by melting or having smoke come out of it. Nobody was injured and the result of the problem didn't cascade and create other problems (at least nothing serious apparently) which means it's not a huge deal. Replace the cables, align the mirrors properly this time, update the process for mirror alignment and verification and get on with life.

    I seriously wonder what kind of sheltered life people must be living to not have experienced stuff breaking down and having to repair it. Have you not owned a car? A washing machine or dishwasher? A computer with a hard drive? I've twice been in the vicinity of electrical transformers that exploded rather spectacularly, both of which due to high winds. They're up on a pole so nobody got hurt. They were fixed within a matter of hours. Seriously, stuff breaks down, usually for quite run-of-the-mill reasons, often due to human error, and it has to be fixed. Why the shock and mock outrage?

  • Who forgot to trun on no disasters?

  • Insurance scam (Score:3, Informative)

    by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Sunday May 22, 2016 @10:39AM (#52159869)
    With the many green companies failing I'm surprised if this would be the first.

    Evergreen Solar
    SpectraWatt
    Solyndra
    Beacon Power
    Nevada Geothermal
    SunPower
    First Solar
    Babcock and Brown
    EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1
    Amonix
    Fisker Automotive
    Abound Solar
    A123 Systems
    Willard and Kelsey Solar Group
    Johnson Controls
    Schneider Electric
    Brightsource
    ECOtality
    Raser Technologies
    Energy Conversion Devices
    Mountain Plaza, Inc.
    Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company
    Range Fuels
    Thompson River Power
    Stirling Energy Systems
    Azure Dynamics
    GreenVolts
    Vestas
    LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power
    Nordic Windpower
    Navistar
    Satcon
    Konarka Technologies Inc.
    Mascoma Corp.
    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      How many succeeded though? If the number of failures is low enough, then it will be a good investment.

    • I don't follow your logic. Most new companies end up failing, this is not news. Do you think that green energy companies are failing at a higher percentage than other types of companies? Maybe they are, or maybe green energy companies failing just gets more press, causing you to become biased.

      Of course none of this is suggestive of insurance fraud.

    • Re:Insurance scam (Score:4, Informative)

      by sl3xd ( 111641 ) on Monday May 23, 2016 @12:19AM (#52162753) Journal

      I question the validity of this list, if only because a few are definitely not green, as well as being decades old multinational corporations.

      Schneider electric, for example- they make circuit breakers and uninterruptible power supplies, servos, and industrial power distribution (ie. wire & transformers), among a great many other things -- plain old normal electrical infrastructure. They even own APC, who is a longtime producer of UPS's for offices & datacenters -- nobody likes downtime.

      Johnson Controls? One of the 800 pound multinational gorillas in the commercial HVAC business? Are you fraking kidding me? The best they can say for being "green" is trying to make a more efficient HVAC system -- you know, R&D for a competitive advantage.

      A123 makes lithium batteries - a product in everything from portable electronics to power tools (seriously - who doesn't have an electric screwdriver or drill?) There are a ton of lithium battery manufacturers, and it's no surprise that one manufacturer will be out-competed by another. They don't even clam to be green. The big thing with A123 batteries is they charge fast, and tolerate abuse without exploding. Is not exploding the new green?

  • ... this isn't the same software that they intend to drive their cars.

  • Non-native speaker here, please excuse my ignorance -- but why does stuff "catch on fire" in English? Or should I ask, what does it catch while on fire? More fire? My sprachgefuhl tells me it either "catches fire" or it "is on fire". Can someone resolve this for me, please?

  • For centuries unscrupulous businessmen and employees have used the cover of a "devastating fire" for to cover up failures of owners/managers and to mask theft by the employees.

    The Ivanpah solar plant was backed not just by Google's ($168 million), but by Obama's Department of Energy ($1600 million — strangely omitted from the write-up) as well. And it proved to be a major failure long ago. Just two months ago it was reported on the very edge of closing down [dailycaller.com] for not producing enough energy:

    The plant only generated 45 percent of expected power in 2014 and only 68 percent in 2015, according to government data.

    And what it did produce, cost $200 per megawatt hour — nearly six times the cost of electricity from natural gas-fired power plants. Worse! It actually used the evil natural gas to supplement the solar-cells' output... (Remember this the next time someone tells you, how we could "power the planet" with only a fraction of the land covered by solar cells — if only the evil oil/nuclear/whatever weren't sabotaging the efforts.)

    This fire may really have been an accident. But a suspicion, that it was deliberate is certainly no less credible, than the FUD-spreading accusation [slashdot.org], some German nuclear plant deliberately released nuclear waste in the air 30 years ago.

    • by taharvey ( 625577 ) on Sunday May 22, 2016 @04:18PM (#52161163)

      You sir don't know how to calculate basic math.

      The plant cost $2.2B and has a gross capacity of 392 megawatts, therefore the build capacity cost were $5.6/W. The DOE EIA shows coal averages $4.4/W but can be as high as $6.6/W for cleaner plants, and nuclear built costs at a similar $5.5/W. So it was built for a very conventional cost.

      But that is just build cost. Then comes the fixed and variable O & M costs for which solar is very low. Half of coal, and a third of nuclear. And that is with coat and nuclear getting all sorts of governmental freebees on the external costs of environmental, health & security impact.

      We describe the combination of capital and O&M as LCOE (levelized cost of energy). For which the plant it is a quoted at a LCOE of $0.146/kWh. NOT $200/kWh. Which is competitive which a number of conventional fuel sources like natural gas (wikipedia). PV still ranks cheaper, but there have been few bigger thermal projects to drive down these costs. You might notice that the DOE only quotes the LCOE of theoretical nuclear projects to be delivered in 10 years or fully capitalized 40 year old plants, because the last nuclear plants to be built in the USA had terrifyingly bad economics, and even then don't include their obvious myriad of externalities.

      And this is (partially) why in the free market, wind, solar, and decentralized gas-turnbines are killing it. In the last 10 years solar+wind have been leading new capacity installation world wide. by the end of this year solar will have reached 321GW of worldwide capacity, Wind 517GW... most of which was installed in the last 10 years period. Whereas worldwide nuclear capacity declined from 375GW to 372GW in the same period.

      • by mi ( 197448 )

        The plant cost $2.2B and has a gross capacity of 392 megawatts

        That may be the theoretical capacity — which it never achieved for whatever reason.

        In the last 10 years solar+wind have been leading new capacity installation world wide

        Yeah, and the regulatory climate — whereby government would sponsor one, but fine the other kinds of energy has nothing to do with it. Sure.

        This very plant we are talking about required 3/4th of its costs to be underwritten by government — use your own $1.6 bln

        • Regulatory climate

          Those are international numbers led by developing countries installed capacity like China and India who could care less about regulation.

          This very plant we are talking about required 3/4th of its costs to be underwritten by government

          You mean like the $100 Billion (time.com) that has gone into every single nuclear pant ever built since the beginning of the DOE? You mean like the current nuclear research, loan guarantees and insurance coverage? All for an industry that collapsed under its

  • A spokesperson for the plant said itâ(TM)s too early to comment on the cause, but it appears that misaligned mirrors are to blame.

    It's to early to comment on the cause, so let's do it anyway.

  • Strange how a lot of submissions about bad things supposedly happening in Nuclear come from mdsolar.

    But something big in Solar power, like a huge facility fire, gets reported by someone else.

    Coincidence?

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