Sunset Industry: US Taxpayers Liable As Giant Solar-Thermal Power Plant (Crescent Dunes) Goes Bankrupt

Solar Thermal: Big, Shiny White Elephant.


US taxpayers are on the hook for hundreds of $millions following the spectacular financial collapse of the world’s biggest solar-thermal power plant, Crescent Dunes, situated in the Nevada desert, north-west of Las Vegas.

South Australians (victims of their government’s obsession with chaotically intermittent wind and solar) can count themselves lucky that they didn’t end up with a carbon copy of the Crescent Dunes debacle.

Back in August 2017, STT reported on efforts by the Weatherill Labor government to build a solar-thermal plant at Port Augusta with the ‘help’ of the characters behind Crescent Dunes. It was designed with a trivial 150 MW (notional) capacity, but came with an absolutely staggering $1.2bn pricetag: South Australia: Sublime One Day, Ridiculous the Next – Premier Set to Squander $1.2bn on Solar-Thermal Boondoggle

Fortunately for South Australians that big, shiny white elephant never get off the ground and Jay Weatherill’s Labor government was ditched at the election held in March 2018. The solar-thermal plant hasn’t rated a mention since.

A couple of years on, and economic reality has finally caught up with the operators of Crescent Dunes, as Norman Rogers details below.

Another Expensive Solar Scheme Bites the Dust
American Thinker
Norman Rogers
8 January 2020

The purveyors of solar energy are working overtime to spin the now official failure of the Crescent Dunes thermal solar plant in central Nevada.  The contracts to purchase the electricity from the constantly broken plant will be voided.

Bloomberg Businessweek claims that Crescent Dunes was obsoleted by technological advances in the form of photovoltaic based solar plants.  That is nonsense and misses the whole point of the Crescent Dunes project.  It also misses the reality that all utility-scale solar is a failure — not marginal, not growing into being practical, but a total and complete failure.

The scalable forms of renewable energy are wind and solar.  Hydro is severely limited by most state laws that define renewable energy — not because hydro is not renewable, but because it is not politically correct.  Dams are not politically acceptable to the kayakers and big thinkers at the Sierra Club.  Nevada is wind poor but sunshine rich.  So for Nevada, solar is the only route to energy nirvana.

Nevada has a law requiring that 50% of the electricity be from renewable sources by 2030.  That law was passed by the Nevada Legislature.  No doubt they were influenced by the state’s utility, NV Energy, owned by the Warren Buffett organization.  Tom Steyer is a California billionaire and global warming fanatic.  Currently, he is running for president.  Steyer bankrolled an initiative to put a 50% renewable electricity requirement by 2030 into the Nevada state constitution.

The final vote on the constitutional amendment will be in November 2020.  Presumably, renewable energy must be frozen into the constitution so that the investors in solar energy can be protected against the possibility that the Legislature will come to its senses and repeal the renewable energy quota.

Crescent Dunes was a serious project designed to attack the great weakness of solar electricity.  Sunshine is strongest in the middle of the day, but demand for electricity peaks at the end of the day and in the early evening.  This is especially true during the Las Vegas summer, when air-conditioners are running full blast as temperatures soar well past 100 degrees in the late afternoon.

A method of storing plentiful midday solar electricity so it can be utilized in the evening was needed.  Otherwise, solar would hit a ceiling at far less than 50%.  One method is to use batteries.  That is wildly expensive and quite dangerous as the flammable batteries store vast quantities of energy.  That’s not stopping the Gemini project, scheduled for a site north of Las Vegas.

The Gemini solar project will have a $500-million battery system that stores as much energy as 5 million sticks of dynamite (1,400 megawatt-hours).  There have been dozens of fires at similar installations around the world.

The Crescent Dunes project stores energy in the form of molten salts.  During the day, sunshine is concentrated by motorized mirrors aiming beams of sunlight at a central tower, where the liquid salts are heated to a high temperature.  The hot salts are stored in a large tank.  When power is need in the early evening, heat is taken from the tank to make steam and drive a turbine-generator to make electricity.

Crescent Dunes was plagued by leaks in the salt tank, forcing it to close for months at a time.  By contract, the electricity was sold to NV Energy for $135 per megawatt-hour, or about six times as much as it would cost to generate the same amount of electricity in existing natural gas plants.

Crescent Dunes is eligible for the usual government subsidies amounting to around 75% of the construction cost.  It was granted a $700-million government loan guarantee on the ground that it was pioneering, experimental technology, which it was and is.

That problems emerged is not surprising.  That happens to pioneers.  But the not unexpected failures at Crescent Dunes besmirch the propaganda that solar energy is the wave of the future.  Thus, it is necessary to kill Crescent Dunes for the spurious reason that it is obsolete technology.  Like all utility solar, it is useless, but it was an honest attempt to fix the severe problem that solar doesn’t work well late in the day, and not at all after the sun sets.

Solar is useless because it can’t replace the generating infrastructure of the traditional electric grid.  In Nevada, an army of natural gas plants will never be replaced by solar.  They have to remain because they are needed when solar stops working because it is cloudy or because it is night.  All the solar accomplishes is to lower the utilization of these plants, saving some very cheap natural gas fuel.

Without subsidies, using the cheaper photovoltaic plants, it costs about $80 per megawatt-hour to generate solar electricity.  But electricity can be generated in the existing natural gas plants for $20 or $25 per megawatt-hour — the cost of the fuel.  The massive government subsidies for solar make it seem closer to being competitive than it actually is.

The idea that solar energy is a practical solution for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide is strictly a fantasy.  James Hansen, the scientist who virtually created the global warming scare, says renewable energy is a grotesque solution for reducing emissions.  The reason is that it costs about $140 per ton of emissions prevented by using solar energy.  That is too expensive.  Much better methods exist.

Hansen advocates nuclear energy.  The rapidly increasing emissions from China and India dwarf the emissions of the United States, an illustration of the irrelevant nature of the renewable energy enterprise.

The weaknesses of solar energy are well known among the gurus of renewable energy.  But those weaknesses are rarely exposed in a blunt way.  Criticizing the powerful solar industry is dangerous for people who are suspectible to economic or political pressure.  So the problems tend to be downplayed, or it is suggested that the problems will be solved by future improvments.

There is a large contingent of federal legislators who suppport renewable energy and support the climate disaster narrative.  Scientists at the Energy Information Administration or the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are unlikely to pick a fight with congressmen or senators.

The media, with honorable exceptions, are generally unable to understand technical matters and so end up parroting the press releases of the industry.
American Thinker

Gets ’em every time (and it happens every day!!)

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. The good Doctor Lynham is famous for stating that a 400MW solar farm will replace 400MW of coal fired power. You couldn’t write a comedy better than these Queensland Ministers who are so out of their depth when it comes to power generation and transmission. Who ever is pulling their strings must be laughing their heads off at such incompetence.

  2. Name names of all companies, CEO’s and their order following operatives, as well as paid and elected government officials who are responsible for this and for all large scale renewables that cause harm or fail in some way. This information is in the public domain.
    Make visually effective charts with faces and names showing the connections. Publish this information so it can be circulated.
    Put it together for those who need help in realizing the truth so that failures at this scale cannot continue to happen anywhere in the world.
    These people will go down in history as having been complicit in this racket.

    • That all takes a lot of energy. It’s like there’s a hurricane and you are in the middle of it being told to go to the library to do research and compile the last 100 years weather patterns to find out if you can ride this one out.

  3. Son of a goat says:

    SA can thank its lucky stars that solar thermal for Pt Augusta never got financial backing.
    I well remember that silly old crustacean Dr John Hewson pumping solar thermals virtues, never mind he had skin in the game.
    It’s high time the good Dr was wheeled straight into the Jay Weatherill home for the delusional maximum security wing.

    Good to see Angus Taylor and Scott Morrison on Sky news stating despite the bushfires and the daily dose of vile from the zealots, their emission reduction target will stay at its current trajectory.

    Why In response I can almost hear the beating of the war drums from Kooyong. There could be no more fearsome sight than the Messiah, Yoda and those fearsome geriatrics from the Kooyong Lighter footprint climate action group donning the war paint and heading down Glenferrie road on their electric scooters.

    • Bill Quinn says:

      Love your work SOAG. Our Local RE worshipping Energy Minister Dan the Pelican will be devastated. Looks like the powering Port Augusta Brigade will have to look to Alex and his daddy for a bit of comfort. Solar Reserve and Senvion Gone. How Sad. Too Bad. Ha b….y Ha.

  4. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  5. Reblogged this on Climate-

  6. Peter Pronczak says:

    It’s a bit difficult to fathom 226 wind turbines in the middle of a pine plantation in a state forest when first announced as a $2billion windfall in December 2019 under the heading of Working for greener Queensland. It’s claimed it will generate aprox 1200Mw ‘at capacity’. The proposal according to the local media has taken a “grassroots” approach to sharing information because the companies, Forest Wind Holdings, a joint venture between CleanSight (whoever they are) and Siemens Financial Services announced with the backing of Queensland’s Minister for Natural Resources and Energy, Dr Anthony Lynham who also said the government is working toward 50% renewables by 2030, so it sounds more like a preplanned government-private hand holding propaganda exercise.

    The new grassroots approach includes three public meetings where Jane Daniels as Forest Wind Holding’s head of stakeholder engagement, was quoted as saying people should not feel like they couldn’t ask questions like job and business opportunities.
    The forest in the middle of nowhere, will double the legislated 1.5km turbine distance from homes – very considerate of them – but why isn’t mentioned.

    The plantation, between Gympie and Maryborough, is said to support our forestry industry according to State Development Minister Cameron Dick. It may be a leftover from the failed pine plantations that investors lost $millions over because of the short usable lifespan of northern hemisphere pines – somewhat apt considering turbine generator’s small production window.

    It’s certainly a step by step orchestrated production since the Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH-NOIA go ahead for a NATO integrated munitions factory in Maryborough exploded in an argument as to whether sufficient grid capacity and electricity supply was available to power the factory. Also, even before any official approval has been ticked off for the wind farm, it was announced by Lynham that eastern seaboard QLD has the lowest electricity prices, and revised submissions to the Australian Energy Regulator by Energy Qld Ltd, for the network companies Ergon and Energex, will ensure residents will have reliable supply especially during natural disasters such as cyclones and bushfires. How that would be achieved is anyone’s guess as it didn’t happen in NSW.
    Everybody’s Christmas came at once with the State Government announcing cheaper “guaranteed” 18hrs/day of electricity to charge electric vehicles. The local Maryborough ‘green energy guru’, director of ACE EV is gleefully rubbing his hands.

    Generally, this region is the Wide Bay/Fraser Coast and Federal Hinkler electorate with the highest unemployment in QLD, and was chosen as a site to roll out the cashless debit card for welfare recipients to control their spending. So there’s been a lot of hammering the public’s outlook into shape. With it even being said that having the turbines in a pine plantation, that doesn’t attract pollinating insects, won’t contribute to the international concerns over declining insect numbers noted in a University of New England report. The pine trees don’t do anything for other declining native species that have taken such devastation recently either.
    Forest Wind Holdings is also eager to work with the Butchulla people (it’s unknown if they are the native title holders of the State forest) and discuss land use and heritage issues. Who knows, like Fraser Island (K’gari) it may all end up being a money making tourist attraction.

    So even though it all seems a bit crazy and mixed up, on the surface its all one big happy family. That is until taxpayers wake up to the fact there’s a lot of pie in the sky and they get to foot the bill. But hey, 440 temporary construction jobs is better than nothing. Isn’t it?. Or is it not just turbines that are bent, twisted and suffer from logistical separation.

    Let’s see; 226, 160 metre tall turbines multiplied by level ground for 4 erecting cranes each, access roads, erosion mitigation, incidentals such as delivery trucks falling over, turbines spontaneously combusting, throw in the odd lightning strike and cyclone; doesn’t seem like much of the pine plantation or the rest of the forest has more than a snowball’s chance in hell of survival.
    Where’s Harry and Meghan when you need them?

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