The Truth Behind the Solar Tariff Debate
At 392 megawatts, the Ivanpah solar thermal plant will be able to power 140,000 homes the equivalent of all of Newark (averaging two people per household). We covered the project when BrightSource, the main developer behind the project, first put up a stunning 3-D tour of the site. But for all its scale and beauty, in terms of the future of renewables, Ivanpah is already irrelevant. Solar thermal creates electricity by using mirrors to direct intense amounts of heat at a centralized collector, which is used to heat a substance like water to create steam power. Solar photovoltaic, meanwhile, directly converts solar energy into electricity through semiconductors. As the New York Times’ Diane Cardwell and Matt Wald wrote Friday , Ivanpah probably represents an end, not a beginning. “When BrightSource and other companies asked [investor] NRG to invest in a second thermal project, said David Crane, NRGs chief, he responded: ‘Weve got $300 million invested in Ivanpah let me see that work for a few months and then well decide whether we want to be involved in more.’ ” And here’s what Lux Energy analyst Matthew Feinstein told them: I dont think that were going to see large-scale solar thermal plants popping up, five at a time, every year in the U.S. in the long-term its just not the way its going to work…Companies that are supplying these systems have questionable futures. Theres other prospects for renewables and for solar that look a lot better than this particular solution. It’s not that Ivanpah itself won’t be cost-effective. BrightSource locked in a 20-year power purchase agreement with local utilities that includes fixed pricing, and the vast majority of costs were borne up front, according to Shayle Kann, director of GTM Research.
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Click NEXT to read more Image: Heliostats reflect sunlight onto boilers in towers during the grand opening of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert near the California-Nevada border. Photographs: Steve Marcus/Reuters Prev Next The sun heats water inside the towers, creating steam that moves turbines and produces enough emissions-free electricity to power 140,000 homes, or about 392-megawatts. Though Ivanpah is an engineering marvel, experts doubt more plants like it will be built in California. Other solar technologies are now far cheaper than solar thermal, federal guarantees for renewable energy projects have dried up, and natural gas-fired plants are much cheaper to build. From a distance, the mirrors – known as heliostats – look like a pristine lake rising from the desert. Ivanpah, about four times larger than New York City’s Central Park, can even be seen from the International Space Station. Click NEXT to read more Image: Katie Kukulka, an information officer with the California Energy Commission, takes photos during a tour of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert near the California-Nevada. Photographs: Steve Marcus/Reuters Fast-Changing Market The solar market has changed dramatically since Ivanpah was approved by California regulators in 2010. Traditional solar panels, based on photovoltaic technology that uses the sun’s light to generate electricity, have undergone a massive drop in price in the last few years, leaving solar thermal far costlier. Ivanpah developer BrightSource Energy Inc has failed to secure a permit for any other solar thermal projects in California in part due to environmental concerns, including fears that the intense heat and energy around its plants would harm or kill desert birds.
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Engineering marvel: World’s largest solar power plant
But the debate being had in Washington and across the industry is far more nuanced than one input and one output. Let’s take a look at where the debate stands and what the impact on the solar industry will be if further tariffs are put in place. SolarCity workers installing a residential solar system. Image courtesy of SolarCity. What tariffs are being debates? Before we get into the pros and cons of solar tariffs, it’s important to understand what tariffs we’re debating.
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Top 10 Women of Solar Energy
Without a reliable source of electricity, nighttime deliveries were attended in near darkness, cesarean sections were cancelled or conducted by flashlight, and critically ill patients waited hours or days for life-saving procedures. The outcomes were often tragic. Inspired into action, she founded WE CARE Solar with her husband, California solar educator Hal Aronson. Together they have designed and developed off-grid solar electric systems, called Solar Suitcases, for African hospitals, targeting the maternity wards, labor rooms, laboratories, and operating theaters. The WE CARE Solar Suitcase powers overhead LED lighting, charges cell phones, and includes LED headlamps that come with their own rechargeable batteries. To date approximately 300 Solar Suitcases have been assembled and sent to 25 countries around the world, and plans are under way to significantly expand regional programs in Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Malawi. Dr.
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