In January 2018 I wrote about the marvelous solar power station proposed to “Re-power Port Augusta”, replacing the “dirty, ageing coal power station” that had been turned off in 2016.
As time passed, and the citizens of Port Augusta lived with dust storms from the old power station and constant BS from politicians, the project failed to materialise due to financing problems and eventually it was forgotten. There were new things to be excited about, like pumped storage and huge solar farms that were going to save the planet and give us cheap reliable electricity so I was interested to find some articles about the closure of the project in the USA that was the forerunner of the SA project. It is called “Crescent Dunes” and it was constructed in 2014/15 and went into “production” in October 2015. After nearly 4 years of operation the Utility Company who had contracted to buy power from the project cancelled the contract on the basis that the project failed to deliver in both quantity and reliability. It now sits idle in the Nevada desert owing American taxpayers somewhere near $US1 billion. (Wikipedia will give all the details, just look for “Crescent Dunes mothballed”).
The project was a “concentrating solar power” system where a gazillion mirrors focus the sun onto a tower where molten salt is heated and by use of heat exchangers steam is raised to run conventional steam turbine generators. The big selling point was the ability to store the heated salt for use when the sun sets thereby making the power station “dispatchable”. One of the downsides was a tendency for birds to fly into the area where the sun’s rays were focused and be instantly vaporised.
People raised objections to the incineration of the birds but the project went ahead. Apparently lots of birds died each year by “flying into windows and being eaten by cats” so a few more seemed a small price to pay to help “save the planet”. This is the argument used by the wind industry whenever the mincing of birds and bats in turbine blades is ever mentioned.
Out of the 43 months between commissioning and closure the plant ran for 33 and sat idle for 10, in various states of disrepair. The total power generated in those 33 months amounted to 84% of a single years “target” of 500,000 MWh. The chart below tells the story.
So, after burning up around a billion dollars of American taxpayers’ funds and vaporising countless birds the project is without a customer and in danger of being put into bankruptcy. It never got within a bulls roar of the promised performance. 2018 was the only full year of operation and the output was around 39% of the touted performance.
I suppose the takeaway is that we were fortunate that the proposal for Port Augusta never got off the ground, so we were spared this particular useless form of “renewable energy”, That said, the fertile minds are still sprouting ideas like pumped hydro and the other fanciful “solutions” to the non-problem of climate change and it seems that the religion is stronger than ever and we are further from sanity than ever before.