Amonix 7700 CPV Power Plant at Hatch New Mexico *
Power Companies are of great interest to me, for the most part, they attempt to take as much risk out of the future as possible by making the most prudent and responsible investments in energy production. They do it on behalf of the most important group they know.. their Customers and Stake Holders. It’s not always easy, as there are many entities demanding that they be part of the decision making, Investors, State and Federal entities, environmental groups and more.
El Paso Electric is a Company I’d consider investing in, they have more than a pretty Website, the more layers I look at, the more substance I find, or at least that’s how I feel at the moment.
EPE like many other Power Companies is forced to buy or produce a certain amount of renewable energy, it’s as simple as that, they don’t need waste time with the merits of renewable energy, it’s a necessity. One of the agreements EPE has forged is with NextEra who owns the Five Mega Watt Power Plant in Hatch New Mexico. EPE gets their fair share of calls about Solar Energy Power Production, and they decided to allow their Customers direct access to a meter that measures power production out of the Hatch Power Plant that is comprised of about 672,000 Multi Junction Solar Cells sitting on 84 Gigantic dual axis trackers. Instead of taking the calls, why not put the information customers are looking for on line? What a great idea EPE!
Above is EPE’s link to provide this information, and apparently the meter and software is at NextEra’s site, EPE has little control of how it tallies and reports at the moment, but there should be no reason why this power production couldn’t be put into a spread sheet where we can all watch this power plant and others.
Just how is this Contract between NextEra and EPE written up? I don’t suggest I know the details, but we do know that EPE is required to produce a certain amount of renewable energy, and many like EPE choose to buy that energy from those who specialize in the business of renewable energy production, (Like NextEra)
Checking out NextEra’s online info, Solar Energy makes up the minor part of their investments at one percent or less of their holdings. Their largest holdings are in Wind Energy (52%) and they have hydro, and even an investment in Nuke power production.
I did talk to a person in EPE who was able to share that there had been a few calls about the meter, and those curious as to why a power plant rated at 5WM wasn’t producing near that at this peak time of year. (last half of May)
My own comparisons of other Solar PV power plants like Mono crystalline Flat Panels shows they are at their rated output, and in one case, the owner says his panels have an obvious yellow color due to a layer of pollen, and still they are making full rated output.
If we believe the power production figures, we might assume the plant is making about 70 percent of it’s Advertised rated capacity of 5040KW and if this is because the equipment has degraded in the field, that’s a 30% loss over the first year. Since we know that Amonix put into service one or more of the 7700 trackers to power their production facility in Las Vegas, we know their engineers had the opportunity to test the actual performance of the design, and adjust expectations and share same with the customers. I think it is reasonable to assume the difference in advertised output and what we see if is related to problems that have developed in the tracker systems since they were installed.
People who are technically interested in this type of power plant have kicked around the probable causes, and I think we all believe the degraded performance is centered around the Multi Junction Cells, and their ability to stay cool enough to survive. It appears there are three states these Multi Junctions can be found in, performing well, in some state of failing, or totally burned up. There are other conditions we’d expect, and anytime we have trackers, it’s reasonable to expect failures here that further degrade capacity.
Sure thing, we’d have to know the exact cause of the failures to accurately (guess) at how this power plant might continue to perform. But I’m sure willing to take a stab at it, and I think you should too. I see the Hatch environment far different than what Amonix and a few other so called Green Energy sites suggest it be, they ‘advertise’ it’s idea for CPV, I see it as a hostile environment ready to torture most any piece of equipment left outside. High winds, blowing sand and dust, ice, boiling heat. Higher UV due to the elevation, and more.
I’m not sure how a tracker with this much ‘sail area’ survives in Hatch, and maybe they don’t? tricks t measure wind speed and park the trackers horizontal are not likely to protect from the wind gusts that destroy other equipment. Other components look to be equally challenged by the elements here. With all this considered, My guess is the power plant will degrade on pretty much a straight line on a graph and I would expect an additional 750 and 1500 KW to be lost in the next year without intensive maintenance and repair efforts. And there lies the big question, will it be economical to rehabilitate the power plant, and maintain it in order to meet the power production firgures promised by NextEra?
Here’s a page at the NREL worth studying: http://www.nrel.gov/news/features/feature_detail.cfm/feature_id=1491
I guess what I find odd, it the NREL has not shared any interest in following up on >their< research and development of the Multi Junction Solar Cell. For you ‘hands on folks’, whether you’re a Technician, experienced Mechanic, or Professional Engineer, Is it possible you could help to give birth to such a device and NOT follow the performance of your device into the field to see how it was performing? No doubt, our community of ‘hands on types’ could add several pages of questions about the Multi Junction Solar Cells, how they were manufactured, what efforts were made to assure the thermal connections between the MJCs and their heat sinks were maintained, and more.
We see that the NREL shares information that an Employee of the NREL left to join Aminox, and work on the development of the 7700 Tracker system. We do find a lot of disclaimers on the NREL website, but if you spent all you time in an office, you might be convinced that the Amonix 7700 was going to be a trouble free, fully tested power plant. If you were paid to market the product, you’d likely consider the articles published by the NREL as a huge leg up in marketing. In my opinion, the vast majority of ALL the Articles I have read about the Amonix 7700s have a lot in common, it’s as if they were forged by one marketing firm, and spread across the Web.
What I find curious, is WEsites that attempt to pass themselves off as having some interest in covering the technical merits of the product, if you make any effort to read them, you are left to think that the same WEBsmiths that wrote the marketing hype created the Website!
One wordsmith ‘Chris Meehan’ writes an article here.
You can click to find out more about chris, but I think he’s far more likely to be a paid marketing type, and I’d bet he doesn’t make much time to ask questions about a technology.
We might note that the DOE is again making loan guarentees to Congentrix! And.. Congentrix owns the field full of Amonix 7700 trackers, a 30MW power plant, that’s six times as large as the Hatch power plant that we see performing far below expectations according to the power meter!
Isn’t it time to see if we can find anyone who really had a vested interest in making a quality product here? Will we find even one Professional Engineer who was responsible for quality control during the production of the 7700 trackers in Las vegas, We note that Flex Tronics is given credit for the assembly, why is that, and who assured the QC?
The more telling story may be who stands to lose money IF the Amonix 7700 under performs? How was the contract written up, and what amount of money was withheld in the payment from NextEra to Amonix? We might assume there was a performance clause in the contract, and that Amonix had to prove the performance of the Hatch power plant, before final payment was made, but is that information available to the public?
If the DOE is underwriting a loan with the tax payers money, shouldn’t we expect the details of the loan to be public, and did the DOE (NREL) take even the most basic precautions to assure this loan was going towards a proven product built under standard QC measures?
It does appear to be a fact that nearly all the Media outlets are fightign for their lives, they will quickly cover stories handed to them, but seldom is there anyone in there organizations that can do more than screw in a light bulb. They may be given technical stories to cover, but I find that most in the media normally have little interest in technology. The exception may be in the Automotive world, I find that those who are truly interested in Autos and gears have much higher expectations, and they will quickly feed author to the wolves if he attempt to pass off marketing hype as his own work. At this moment, I believe that those who believe by faith alone are soon outed in the Auto world, but it may be a fact that the majority who support the gifts that the DOE makes on our behalf have absolutely no interest in whether these loans are made based on merit.
I think the Las Vegas Sun stands as a testament to the Media and their lack of interest in stories that require any level of Critical Thinking. All those huge trackers that left Las Vegas, did they ever plant them in the field, and how are they doing? After all, the entire world likely visited the Sun with the story of the plant closure, and not a single reporter thought it news worthy to follow up on the story?
Do your own searches on Amonix, and see if the coverage doesn’t look liek it was crafted by the same hand!
If the power plant at Hatch and Alamosa 35 Mega Watts doesn’t perform, who are the big losers? who made the money, and who is holding the bag?
It’s all too easy to visit the Las Vegas Sun and find the number to call
Now just imagine.. If the NREL had hyped the 7700 Amonix Car, if millions of dollars worth of finished cars had been delivered to customers, would they dare not at least ask.. “So… do those cars run?”
And now we end with some entertainment value.. Just WTF is real anymore?
All the best,