xHgGrtG-show-poster2x3-aXpIxNN.png

Artbound

Start watching
Tending Nature poster 2021

Tending Nature

Start watching
IYhnPQZ-show-poster2x3-Ytk6YwX.png

Southland Sessions

Start watching
RYQ2PZQ-show-poster2x3-OGargou.jpg

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
E5VnHdZ-show-poster2x3-PrXshoo.png

City Rising

Start watching
QraE2nW-show-poster2x3-uY3aHve.jpg

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement and Special Events teams.

Ivanpah Solar Project Apparently Spent January Offline

ivanpah-outages-2-3-14-thumb-600x450-68051
Ivanpah SEGS from 38,000 feet, September 2013 | Photo: Jerry Raia/Flickr/Creative Commons License

On Friday, ReWire reported on a confusing contradiction concerning the world's largest concentrating solar project in the Mojave Desert. Though press reports indicated the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System went online, figures from the state's grid operator showed that California'a solar thermal power plants generated almost no power during the month of January.

Today, we can report that documents from the California Independent System Operator (CaISO,) which runs most of the state's grid, may shed some light on the apparent discrepancy. While the Ivanpah Project was indeed scheduled to go online on December 30, the project spent the entire month of January with at least one of its units going through unplanned downtime every single day.

To sum up daily reports on the state's power plants' operational status filed by CaISO, the Ivanpah project essentially went from planned to unplanned outage status rather than going online.

The daily reports, with the cumbersome title Curtailed and Non-Operational Generating Units in California, are filed each day at 3:15 in the afternoon. They list which of California's 1,000-plus power plants are offline at the time of the report.

It's important to note that listing on the report doesn't necessarily mean the plant in question was down all day: a brief outage running from 2:30 to 4:00 in the afternoon would put a power plant on the list, even though it might have been producing power just fine for the other 22.5 hours that day.

That said, 3:15 p.m. is right in the middle of the potential peak output for a concentrating solar thermal plant like Ivanpah, so even a transitory outage on one day is something operators would likely rather avoid.

And having a string of days with outages during that peak solar time would seem to indicate a serious problem indeed.

Th controversial Ivanpah plant, built over the last three years on about 4,000 acres of public land near the Mojave National Preserve, uses hundreds of thousands of billboard-sized mirrored heliostats to focus solar energy on boilers atop three 450-foot towers. Probably unsurprisingly for new technology, the plant has been plagued by problems ranging from a surprising number of Threatened desert tortoises on the site, to apparent solar flux injury to migrating birds, to a series of small fires that broke out when operators first aimed heliostats at the towers.

Now that the project's completed, with a formal opening ceremony scheduled for the second week in February, the project has almost inadvertently been designated as an experimental solar flux wildlife laboratory. Designer BrightSource Energy has asked the California energy Commission to suspend hearings on its larger Palen Solar Electric Generating System until data on wildlife injuries from Ivanpah can be collected and analyzed.

But if CaISO's outage reports are any indication, that data may be harder to gather than anticipated. According to those reports, there were only two days during the month of January where the project had two of its units apparently online at 3:15 p.m. Unit 1, the first of the project's three units to be completed, was offline at 3:15 every day in January, but on January 12 and 16 it was the only unit going through an unplanned outage. Unit 2 was online at 3:15 on five days in January, and offline on the remaining 26, Unit 3 had the best record for January, with eight days in which it wasn't reportedly offline at 3:15 p.m.

That works out to an effective 79 percent downtime rate for the plant as a whole, as reflected in the CaISO outage reports.

CaISO doesn't gather or provide information to explain any plant's particular outage, and plant operator NRG has still not responded to our information requests. A description of the duration and cause of the reported outages may be forthcoming in the January Monthly Compliance Report for the project, which Ivanpah's operators should be filing with the California Energy Commission sometime in February. Whether that report details routine glitches of the kind you'd expect in a newly built plant, or something deeper, it should prove interesting reading.

Support Provided By
Support Provided By
Read More
un mazo de juez de madera

Justicia retrasada: tribunales abrumados por el atraso de la pandemia

Desde la manutención de los hijos hasta el fraude de seguros, los casos judiciales se retrasan en todo California. Solo la mitad de los casos civiles y penales se resolvieron el verano pasado en comparación con las cifras anteriores a la pandemia. “La justicia no se ha cerrado. La justicia se ha ralentizado”, según un grupo de abogados.
A gavel on a table

Justice Delayed: Courts Overwhelmed by Pandemic Backlog

From child support to insurance fraud, court cases are delayed throughout California. Only half as many civil and criminal cases were resolved last summer compared with pre-pandemic numbers. “Justice has not shut down. Justice has slowed down,” according to an attorneys’ group.
People pull up in their vehicles for Covid-19 vaccines in the parking lot of The Forum in Inglewood, California on January 19, 2021. | FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

L.A. County Expands COVID Vaccines to Residents 65 And Older

L.A. County began scheduling COVID-19 vaccination appointments for those aged 65 and older today, but limited supplies and uncertainty about future allocations has left the inoculation effort shrouded in doubt.