High-Tech Solar Projects Fail to Deliver

By Cassandra Sweet, The Wall Street Journal

Some costly high-tech solar power projects aren’t living up to promises their backers made about how much electricity they could generate.

Solar-thermal technology, which uses mirrors to capture the sun’s rays, was once heralded as the advance that would overtake old fashioned solar panel farms. But a series of missteps and technical difficulties threatens to make newfangled solar-thermal technology obsolete.

The $2.2 billion Ivanpah solar power project in California’s Mojave Desert is supposed to be generating more than a million megawatt-hours of electricity each year. But 15 months after starting up, the plant is producing just 40% of that, according to data from the U.S. Energy Department.

The sprawling facility uses “power towers”— huge pillars surrounded by more than 170,000 mirrors, each bigger than a king-size bed — to capture the sun’s rays and create steam. That steam is used to generate electricity.

Built by BrightSource Energy Inc. and operated by NRG Energy Inc., Ivanpah has been advertised as more reliable than a traditional solar panel farm, in part, because it more closely resembles conventional power plants that burn coal or natural gas. NRG co-owns the plant with Google Inc. and other investors.

Read full article in the Wall Street Journal

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