David Bidstrup guest post. All the birds died in vain.

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.

 

This entry was posted in Global warming and climate change policy, Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to David Bidstrup guest post. All the birds died in vain.

  1. Big_Nambas

    it seems that the religion is stronger than ever and we are further from sanity than ever before.

    And that’s the rub. there has been no measurable warming for 20 years but that is meaningless to the church of “Cloimet choinge”

  2. Beachcomber

    it seems that the religion is stronger than ever and we are further from sanity than ever before.

    And this won’t change until the Universities and ABC-SBS are de-funded.

  3. stackja

    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.

    When is a tout more than a tout?

  4. Howard Hill

    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.

    I have Wedge Tailed Eagles and bats fly through my windows every day, don’t you?

  5. MatrixTransform

    I worked on CSP projects in Aust

    as far as I know none of the projects are currently operational and none are more than 20 years old.

    how old are the coal plants?

  6. Chris M

    Fried creatures? Molten salt? Remember Lot’s wife. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah.

  7. notafan

    I’ve heard of crescent dunes.

    Didn’t know it had already keeled over.

    Just like communism.

    This last attempt didn’t work but just wait next time!

  8. jupes

    Thanks David, excellent work as usual.

    I presume you will send this to the Oz letters editor, though I doubt it will be published.

  9. C.L.

    Great post. Thanks, David.
    As Tim Blair always says, nothing green ever works.
    The whole renew-balls ‘industry’ is a fraud but it’s making certain individuals rich beyond their wildest dreams.

  10. currencylad

    Great post. Thanks, David.
    As Tim Blair always says, nothing green ever works.
    The whole [email protected] ‘industry’ is a fraud but it’s making certain individuals rich beyond their wildest dreams.

  11. Nob

    I’ve seen zillions of starlings incinerated by gas flares in the North Sea.
    They fly close for the warmth, then closer.

  12. Herodotus

    Next time a dam is opposed because of some lizard, we can say “but so many are eaten by kookaburras and cats, what’s a few more?”

  13. Next time a dam is opposed because of some lizard, we can say “but so many are eaten by kookaburras and cats, what’s a few more?”

    Excellent point.

  14. struth

    They have built one of those in Pt Uggatta, but it’s only for a farm outside of town growing tomatoes, that does not require constant power.

  15. Tony Tea

    The molten salt idea has been around for years now. It is also used in “parabolic trough” solar plants which heat oil to heat steam with the salt used to maintain the oil temp.

    Not sure about their comparative financials compared to the tower collectors.

  16. W Hogg

    Anyone who believes a solar collector MSR could viably produce power even at Australia’s extraordinary prices is mentally ill and needs to be in a facility where they can get the treatment they need.

    Now just waiting for an explanation of why it’s SloMo’s fault that clean baseload power in the most favourable conditions on earth couldn’t be built.

  17. OldOzzie

    Port Augusta is the ideal place for a Nuclear Power Plant – Ugly Spot at the North of the Spencer Gulf

    273 Km to Olympic Dam Uranium Mine and 880.8 Km to Maralinga site of British Atomic Bomb Testing to dump Nuclear waste

  18. duncanm

    OldOzzie
    #3330228, posted on February 21, 2020 at 7:58 am
    Port Augusta is the ideal place for a Nuclear Power Plant – Ugly Spot at the North of the Spencer Gulf

    273 Km to Olympic Dam Uranium Mine and 880.8 Km to Maralinga site of British Atomic Bomb Testing to dump Nuclear waste

    Don’t forget also – close to Whyalla steel and bulk shipping facilities.

  19. Up The Workers!

    Old Qzzie,

    Agreed!

    Even for the place which gave Australia Sarah Halfwit-Bung, Don Dunstan, Pathologically Wong and Jay Weatherdill, Port Augusta is an exceedingly ugly spot on the very sphincter of the globe.

  20. Shy Ted

    I saw the Port Agutter solar thing on the long drive north. It’s that dusty you just shake your head that someone went ahead with it. Then at Coober Pedy 3 turbines, only 1 working. It’s all being done in secret so we don’t know where the actual dosh goes.

  21. Young Freddy

    Steady on Up The Workers … my Grandfather was born in Port Agutter! He overcame this mighty disadvantage by leaving for the Mighty West in 1895.

  22. Tezza

    Great post, David.

    Crescent Dunes was the centrepiece of the Four Corners program “Power to the People”, broadcast in July 2014, in which Stephen Long claimed it solved the intermittency problem for solar, and was powering Las Vegas by night.

    It was obvious at the time that these claims were preposterous, but of course ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs rejected my complaint, and ACMA subsequently refused to correct the risible ABC internal review.

    I suppose now Stephen Long and Four Corners will return to the topic, for a correction and update. But I’m not holding my breath.

  23. Up The Workers!

    Sorry, Young Fred!

    My apologies as no disrespect was intended to your illustrious Granddad.

    His impeccable good taste and perspicacity speaks for itself, as he evidently fled the joint well before the trogs and zombies took over.

    Snowtown is another notable tourist destination in Jurassic Park – very big on banking and pickling in Snowtown, I hear.

    Usually both at once.

    Cheers!

  24. Arnost

    Hmmm. Mothballed eh? I suppose “mothballed” means that the gate is locked but all the mirrors are still up and merrily burning endangered avians…

  25. Squirrel

    At one stage, Our ABC was promoting hot salt as the latest renewable power miracle.

    A few years later, and in a much more low-key way, they admitted (a mistake they will never make again) it was, at best, a niche solution.

  26. Who said it didn’t go ahead in Port Augusta? Funny thing that all the power plants are equal when they fail regardless of plated capacity.
    Augusta is a great place for nuclear as there is abundant cooling water and the very high voltage transmission lines are still there ready to carry power generated to wherever it went before from the brown coal fired power station of yore.

  27. Fair Shake of the Sauce Bottle

    Surely the Colonel could set up shop near the solar panels and simply stick said cooked birds in herbs and spices and proclaim renewable buckets.

Comments are closed.