History Repeats: Taxpayers Fork Out Another $Billion on Another Giant Solar White Elephant

One giant white elephant deserves another…


When Crescent Dunes, the world’s biggest solar-thermal power plant went bankrupt, US taxpayers were left to pick up the tab, with their liability running into hundreds of $millions.

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 did 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.

The Crescent Dunes plant is situated in the Nevada desert, north-west of Las Vegas and featured in Mike Moore’s Planet of the Humans. After its spectacular financial collapse earlier this year, you’d think that American policymakers might have got the message.

Notwithstanding that the dust has barely settled on one of the largest crony-capitalist corporate financial collapses in US history, it looks like a case of déjà vu (all over again) in the American desert, with American taxpayers forking out another lazy $billion dollars on another an enormous white elephant.

A billion dollar solar boondoggle in Vegas
Jay Lehr
13 May 2020

On May 12 the Interior Department gave approval for the largest solar power project in the U.S. to be built by Warren Buffett’s NV Energy company on 7100 acres of Federal lands in the Mohave Desert.

At a cost of one billion dollars, it pales into insignificance on the days we read of the trillions of dollars being spent battling the corona virus economic destruction. But a boondoggle by any other name remains a boondoggle.

The plan for this three year project is very specific and quite ambitious and will never fulfill even close to its targets of 690 megawatts that are said will power 260,000 homes, provide 900 jobs, with a massive battery backup to replace the solar system at night, and emit no carbon dioxide.

Had the government seen Michael Moore’s brilliant new movie Planet of the Humans before approving the project they may not have approved it. The film illustrates on the ground at various sites, how and why every major solar project in the country has failed miserably.

In just a few sentences we can explain the futility of this mammoth project that will blight this great desert forever, while pulling the curtain down on the futility of attempting to obtain dependable power from the sun unless it is on your roof top. We have been lying to ourselves about this potential for over three decades.

In a new book light-heartedly titled The Hitchhikers Journey Through Climate Change one discovers that the renewable energy debate can be summed up with a simple Rule of Thumb which states “in every communities electric grid, an excess amount of fossil fuel or nuclear power must be available at the ready to go on line in seconds, that is equal to the potential output of all intermittent solar energy considered a portion of the grid’s electric capacity”.

No batteries exist on earth that could take up the load when the sun is not shining. If they could it would likely only be for a single night for how would then recharge them. This is a fairy tale of absurdity being sold to Las Vegas just as the snake oil salesmen of the old west plied their trade.

When you digest this simple rule, you will wonder that the pro/con arguments over solar energy have gone on for so long without facing the only reality that can ever allow solar energy to be an important part of our energy portfolio.

It must have 100% back up with fossil fuel or nuclear power to insure that the communities electric grid can not let them down. Las Vegas of all places can not afford a blackout. Thinking that some special new battery is going to maintain as much power as the absent sun, has been and will be an impossibility for the foreseeable future.

The mandatory back up fossil fuel must stand by running near full out and emitting carbon dioxide and producing no electricity until the sun can not fill the bill and it must step in. The excess cost for the excess backup power will show up in the electric bills of the residents of Las Vegas as sure as night shall follow day.

About stopthesethings

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


  1. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  2. Jeff Walther says:

    Gotta wonder what payoffs are happening to Nevada politicians to get these things approved/encouraged, while simultaneously blocking the Yucca Mountain spent fuel repository.

  3. I have much respect for the “Sage of Omaha” when it comes to his wisdom in investment management and his philanthropy. But I find it difficult to reconcile this with his apparent willingness to benefit from the exploitation of ordinary American power consumers by accepting ill gotten gains based on taxes these people must pay in support of boondoggles like wind and solar.
    On wind farms he once commented “I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate. For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

    Also it is clear Buffett doesn’t buy the hype surrounding “climate change” when it comes to assessing insurance risk. Of climate related risk he points out that it hasn’t meant “more frequent nor more costly hurricanes nor other weather-related events covered by insurance.” Wise management has made Berkshire’s insurance business a stand-out success over many decades.

    So Buffett’s willingness to be involved with this giant, subsidy dependent, boondoggle in the Mohave Desert is not a total surprise. One thing we can be pretty sure of, when it goes belly up, as inevitably it will, it won’t be Warren Buffett that loses his shirt.

  4. Reblogged this on uwerolandgross.

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