A federally backed, $2.2 billion solar project in the California desert isn’t producing the electricity it is contractually required to deliver to PG&E Corp., which says the solar plant may be forced to shut down if it doesn’t receive a break Thursday from state regulators.
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, owned by BrightSource Energy Inc., NRG Energy Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, uses more than 170,000 mirrors mounted to the ground to reflect sunlight to 450-foot-high towers topped by boilers that heat up to create steam, which in turn is used to generate electricity.
But the unconventional solar-thermal project, financed with $1.5 billion in federal loans, has riled environmentalists by killing thousands of birds, many of which are burned to death—and has so far failed to produce the expected power.
PG&E is asking the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to overlook the shortfall and give Ivanpah another year to sort out its problems, warning that allowing its power contracts to default could force the facility to shut down. The commission’s staff is recommending that it grant the extension Thursday.
“Continuing the delivery of [renewable] energy from these innovative energy facilities is in the interest of all parties and furthers important state and federal policy goals,” a PG&E spokeswoman said.
More than 2,000 wild birds died at the Ivanpah plant between March and August of 2015, according to estimates that biologists hired by the plant owners filed this week and in December with the state Energy Commission.
Roughly half of the dead birds the biologists found had feathers that were singed or burned, most likely from flying through an area of intense heat between the mirrors and the power towers, according to the reports.
To be sure, birds also fall prey to other renewable-energy projects: Wind turbines kill between 140,000 and 328,000 birds in the U.S. every year, according to a 2013 study by researchers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
Read in it’s entirety here . . .