Controversial Solar Plant Producing Way Less Power Than Expected

All three of Ivanpah's units generating power on August 7 | Photo: Kevin Baird/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A solar power plant in the Mojave Desert that's attracted negative attention for its injuries to birds is producing a whole lot less power than it's supposed to, according to Energy Department figures.

According to stats from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a number-crunching branch of the U.S. Department of Energy, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in San Bernardino County has produced only about a quarter of the power it's supposed to, with both less than optimal weather and apparent mechanical issues contributing to the shortfall.

ReWire's colleague Pete Danko, who shared the story Wednesday over at Breaking Energy, reports that Ivanpah's three units generated a disappointing 254,263 megawatt-hours of electricity from January through August. Ivanpah's owners had expected the solar plant to produce well over a million megawatt-hours of electrical power in that eight-month period.

Wind Project Pulled From San Bernardino Mountains

Artist's conception, North Peak Wind project | Image: Alliance for Desert Preservation

A proposal that would have placed 71 wind turbines on the north slope of the San Bernardino Mountains has been withdrawn by its owner, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The 126-megawatt North Peak Wind project, which would have occupied about 16 square miles of the Juniper Flats area between Lucerne Valley and Apple Valley in San Bernardino County, was pulled from consideration by the BLM by its Austin-based owner E.ON Climate and Renewables last Friday.

The project had drawn fierce opposition, including from two San Bernardino County supervisors who blasted North Peak Wind's possible impact on wildlife. That opposition was partly responsible for E.ON's putting the project on temporary hold earlier this year, with the final request to pull the project sent to the BLM on Friday.

Your Computer Wastes More Energy Than You Thought

For instance, this is not what is meant by computer sleep mode | Photo: JustMichele/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Computer users generally assume that their hardware's sleep and automatic shutdown functions keep their desktops and laptops from wasting energy. But a pair of studies commissioned by the state of California show that idle computers waste a whole lot more energy than we suspect.

The studies, paid for by the California Energy Commission, showed that users often incorrectly believe their computers have energy saving settings enabled when they do not, and that a large majority of computers are left on for more than 23 hours per day, being shut down only during rebooting.

"The considerable amount of energy that is being consumed by computers that are on, but not in use, shows that a large amount of energy could be saved with improved power management," said California Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister.

Now You Can Find Energy Projects Proposed For Your Neighborhood

Detail of the Claremont Graduate University Energy Maps | Image: Energymaps.org/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Here's an interesting new tool for Californians who want to learn if any power plants, transmission lines, and pipelines are planned for their favorite places, thanks to researchers at Claremont Graduate University.

This interactive map charts out everything from existing oil wells in the San Joaquin Valley to proposed transmission lines in the desert, and it's been compiled as a way to give Californians a handle on what kind of projects might be coming to their neighborhoods.

The Energy Maps project's intent is to give Californians a "heads up" about pending energy projects in their neighborhoods, which can help neighbors wield better input into energy decision making that can affect their lives, their property values, and their health.

California's Renewable Energy Plan Misses the Point on Renewable Energy

The massive, 6,000-plus-page draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan started its journey through the public comment period this week with at least one contentious public meeting.

The plan, commonly referred to as the DRECP, would shape both renewable energy development and some conservation across 22 million acres of the California desert in six counties. Criticism of the document is mounting, over its complexity and the relatively short period in which the public will be allowed to comment on the Plan. As we reported earlier this month, the sheer size of the document inevitably excludes most members of the public from having meaningful input into the process.

But a closer look at the DRECP reveals that behind the arcane language and the bureaucratic jargon lies a document that is woefully out of date, planning for development of renewable energy in the California desert as though the last six years never happened.

Summer Power Stayed on Despite Drought, Fires, Closed Nuke

Power lines in Palo Alto | Photo: Daniel Hoherd/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The agency that operates California's power grid is reporting that this past summer saw no major outages in the state despite frequent heat waves that boosted power consumption during peak periods.

The hot summer was the third in which the state has been deprived of power from the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant, leaving Southern California with about 2,200 fewer megawatts of power generating capacity. According to the California Independent System Operators (CaISO), which operates the power grid in most of California and a portion of southern Nevada, California's record drought cut output from the state's hydroelectric plants by another 1,628 megawatts.

But despite those shortfalls and wildfires that threatened transmission lines near San Diego, California stayed powered up this summer -- and much of the credit goes to the state's increased renewable energy capacity, which set output records this summer.

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