CPV Solar, The Real Numbers

Easter Island 7700


Solar PV Energy is little different from rain in some ways, it’s not how much that falls from the sky, but how much we can channel into our bucket and make use of.

That might be a major problem with the Hatch New Mexico power plant that the Department of Energy helped to development and put in place. Let’s keep the issue simple, look at the following graph taken today from EPEs website at 1650 hours..

Amonix 5-30-2012- 1650 hours

Amonix 5-30-2012- 1650 hours

As you can see, the trackers were able to capture a little energy during the 0700 hours, and the power plant never seemed to generate even half of it’s rated 5.040 mega watt output durign any hour of the day. It’s likely the wind came up again today, but at no time this year.. even with blue skys and no wind forecast, I see far less solar energy captured and going through the meter into El Pasco Electric’s grid than the DOE’s advertised output.  This likely means a much larger cost per KWH of energy production, and suggests we need re-visit the argument that CPV is viable as a commercial power plant at this time.

The Solar PV world is full of stories about Concentrated Photo Voltaic Power Plants.  Some suggest it may be the future as per Solar PV, and no doubt the US DOE has altered the game … for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer.

What I find mind boggling, is the total lack of interest in real power production numbers for CPV power plants, and at first I thought it could be some kind of organized effort to suppress them and re-direct the conversation back to the advertised Marketeer’s predictions.

The reality of the situation might be far too simple for most technical people to grasp! We need study who most of the reporters are, and what their back grounds are.  A little effort on your part might find that the Author of the last CPV article you read is a ‘Word Smith’, a person with about 100 times or more experience than yourself as per WEB Development and related skills, but may have zero interest, and zero personal knowledge of mechanical and electrical devices, he only writes about the topic because it’s his job to write!

The Word Smith’s Focus is often increasing viewership, this is often the way they get paid.  This AM, I received an automated email praising one of my posts about CPV, and asking me to visit ‘PV Insider’, a UK site. Wow, and Impressive name.. sounds just like something a marketeer would come up with.  A quick look, and I note the same pattern as I find here in North America, A WEBsite than looks as if it’s automated, a collection of articles written by people in the Industry that have a vested interest in the outcome of a product, should we expect them to measure according to our rule?

Where do we go to get an un-biased opinion? I think the first step is to recognize what the prime mission of the Author is.  Some are fully focused on creating WEB content that will attract visitors, this will allow them to sell advertisements and produce revenue.  If you do a little research, you might find that the company that owns the WEB site you are reading, has several Websites that are designed to attract a certain audience, and you then  note that ‘Joe Smith’ wrote an article in the morning about the care and feeding of Spider Monkeys, and in the afternoon, he wrote an overview of developments in CPV solar.

A lot of this activity is done by cut and paste, and Web Tools that search the internet for stories that a website can repost to add to their web content to help generate traffic.

Where do you go to get the facts? How do you measure the value of CPV? In order to answer that you need access ‘preceived value’ and real value.  You will be amazed how differently people process the value question. It reminds me of the School Teacher that told me she didn’t care if solar made a return on investment for anyone or not, she wanted to do the right thing, and wanted it installed on her roof right away.  The Technician wihtin us all immediately asks….. should we offer her the fake solar panels at a fraction of the cost?

I made a recent visit to the DOE’s Website, and looked over the NREL’s coverage of CPV, it’s little different than the blogs and other sites that appear dedicated to solar PV and alternative energy. The CPV section seems to ignore the reality that we have real CPV power plants on line to study and now making power.  Why not make an assessment of the real numbers, do they meet the predictions?  Does the DOE ignore the facts?  But that’s my question, and perhaps it doesn’t even enter into the mind of Joe Smith the word smith who is fully focused on the RELAY of information, and building an inventory of words that others might search for. do not expect him to have the same passion as you do for the topic, nor should you expect him to have the same values..

A trip to the DOE’s website might cause you to praise their efforts, you may be one of those persons that believes in that analogy that if you give enough monkeys access to word processors, great works will be created. Others might have noted that the infusion of money destroys about as many companies and it helps build.

I do know if they were trying to please me, they’d be focused on the real power production numbers, and they would be carefully weighing those numbers against the installed cost of the power plant, monthly fees, land taxes, the cost of repairs and maintenance. Without this effort, we really know nothing other than the fact that a great deal of money was spent. At the very least, we can learn what went right, and what went wrong..  Fact is, there’s a large following of people who operate on faith alone, and that helps create the playing field for all kinds of games.

Who Has An Interest In The Real Numbers?

For an answer to that question, I guess we need to analyze who will be impacted by reality?  That study will be more technical in nature, fairy dust, word count, how a WEB crawler measures the value has little bearing on the outcome.

Will we look to the volunteer blogger at the Huffington Post for the Story or might we zero in on the POWER COMPANY who is forced to confront reality? Yes, it’s a fact that the power company is mostly focused on serving it’s customers, and making at least enough money to continue doing so.  Perhaps we can make use of this fact to help us access the reality of CPV?

A Public Utility is far more transparent than many entities, and since there’s a Comission looking over their shoulder most times, they are very prudent investors out of necessity. It may be a State law that forces their investment in AE, it may be that they think it a prudent idea if they have areas with plenty of wind or Sun energy, but they generally see themselves as playing with real money, and betting their futures on making good decisions.

With the above in mind, I think it’s time we get our information from the more reliable source.  The Power Company MUST have the highest standards in measuring Energy into their grid. Those who have an interest in the facts should note that El Paso Electric has a meter up for the Amonix 5MW Power Plant owned by Next Era.  Unlike the other entities we might consult, the Power Company normally employs folks with Technical backgrounds, and they use them to address technical issues.

While others look to those who only pass along Marketing hype a year or two old, we should think about getting the facts from the Power Company, they are forced to operate in the world of facts, and they only survive by understanding the realities of generating electrical energy, serving  their customers, and providing some kind of value for their share holders. why would you go elsewhere for the story?




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One Response to CPV Solar, The Real Numbers

  1. Lee Rathbun says:

    As it becomes more complicated to rely on others for accurate information about energy efficiency; I have concluded that allowing the free market to work is ultimately better. Natural gas for vehicles comes to mind. Natural gas is a wonderful fuel. Whether it is better at its current price, I don’t know and may never know since I no longer can keep score. With subsidies to customers for the truck and to the fueling stations and reductions in fuel taxes; who can tell what the real cost or benefit is? If solar or any other product of service requires a subsidy to be successful, it is a mistake. Ethanol is a prime example. All but the farmers believe is was a mistake, but we still have it. Congress is so busy handing out preferred treatment for green companies, they don’t have time to repeal ethanol and other mistakes of the past.
    “I am not a spammer.”

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