A small fire was reported yesterday morning at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) in California, forcing a temporary shutdown of the facility. It’s now running at a third of its capacity (a second tower is down due to scheduled maintenance), and it’s not immediately clear when the damaged tower will restart. It’s also unclear how the incident will impact California’s electricity supply.
Putting out the blaze was not easy task, either. Firefighters were forced to climb 300 feet up a boiler tower to get to the scene. Officials said the fire was located about two-thirds up the tower. Workers at the plant actually managed to subdue the flames by the time firefighters reached the spot, and it was officially extinguished about 20 minutes after it started.
The problem with solar power on a state wide basis is that it peaks at mid day while “everyone” is at work and no one is doing laundry or cooking dinner or turning on the A/C at the end of a long hot day at work or school.
There is a real risk of overgeneration which means you need to dump electricity somewhere or quickly shutdown any non-solar power you can.
And then kids start coming home from school and then the sun starts to go down and the parents come home and put something in the oven and maybe do a load of laundry and plug in the hybrid car.
And suddenly you need 13,000MW of power to pump into the grid.
And the demand curve looks like a duck.
The surge in intermittent solar power will test the statewide electricity grid because it exacerbates the need for alternative sources such as gas outside of daylight hours. Regulators have warned it’ll make California more vulnerable to price spikes and power disruptions.
In German, the term Dunkelflaute is used to describe the predicament. Dunkel means “dark”; solar is simply not available half the time, and solar power production is significant for only around six hours a day even when the sun is shining. Flaute is “doldrums” – when the wind is not blowing. So the “dark doldrums” are times when solar and wind power is not available in sufficient amounts.
This chart is just wind+solar for March in Germany. Red lines are periods less than 5GW.
Oooops. Germany Forgot About Eclipses and their effect on a power grid with lots of expensive solar.
The German power grid operators are dreading March 20, 2015. On this day Germany will see a partial solar eclipse during the morning. Should there be no clouds in the sky at this time, all solar power generating systems all over the country would be feeding in drastically less power into the grid in just a matter of minutes – and the grids would become dangerously destabilized.”
“LOS ANGELES – A U.S. conversation group has sued the federal government over its approval of a major solar power plant in the California desert, the latest in a string of challenges to the nation’s renewable energy goals from the environmental community.
According to court papers, the non-profit Western Watersheds Project alleged U.S. regulators approved Brightsource Energy’s 370-megawatt Ivanpah solar energy plant without conducting adequate environmental reviews, and asked the court to order the defendants to withdraw their approvals.”
“”In an ill-conceived rush to accommodate massive renewable energy projects … the federal defendants precipitously approved unnecessarily destructive energy development of the California Desert Conservation Area without first conducting adequate environmental reviews.The complaint said the project’s approval process failed to analyze and mitigate the Ivanpah plant’s impact on migratory birds, the desert tortoise, which is a threatened species under federal law, desert bighorn sheep, groundwater resources and rare plants.“”