The $2.2 billion Ivanpah solar facility in California, which occupies five square miles, is the world’s largest solar power plant—and Big Green is a fan. But here’s a little secret: This much-touted complex, which opened earlier this year, is only operating at 50% of its expected capacity.
And here’s another: Ivanpah requires natural gas—the scourge of Big Green groups like the Sierra Club and NRDC—in order to operate. The plant works by using solar power to heat water into steam. But since the sun doesn’t always shine, Ivanpah uses natural gas to keep the water hot.
The Associated Press reports that Ivanpah, which was supposed to provide power for 140,000 homes, is only producing at half-capacity due to factors such as a lack of sun, jet contrails, and weather. The AP also notes:
State energy regulators in August approved the plant’s request to increase the natural gas it is allowed to burn by 60 percent.
Additional natural gas could also be needed to operate boilers when clouds thicken or to maintain output at the end of the day and extend the capability for power production, the company said.
Natural gas to run a solar plant? That’s right. And that’s not all. According to National Geographic, solar panels can require coal power to produce. Talk about an “inconvenient truth.”
The situation at Ivanpah is just one more reason the “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign from the Sierra Club and similar efforts from Greenpeace and other radical groups are utterly inane. We can add it to the list of other awkward facts for greenies, such as that a wind farm can take 700 times more land, and a solar site 450 times more land, than a fracking site to produce the same amount of energy.
Big Green activists can daydream in their San Francisco offices, but their “utopia” of shutting down major energy development in the U.S. will bring higher energy costs for families, lost jobs, and lost economic opportunities. Oh, and dead birds.