December 13, 2020

GREEN GRAFT: Another Green Subsidy Bust: An Obama-era solar failure could cost taxpayers $510 million.

Move over, Solyndra. Another green boondoggle from the Obama era has failed, and taxpayers are out as much as $510 million. Late last week Judge Karen Owens approved a Chapter 11 plan of reorganization by Tonopah Solar Energy. Tonopah operated the Crescent Dunes solar plant in Nevada that received $737 million in guaranteed loans from the Obama Administration.

The plan includes a settlement with the Department of Energy that leaves taxpayers liable for as much as $234.68 million in outstanding debt, but the total public cost is even higher. Crescent Dunes also received an investment-tax credit, and the 2009 stimulus legislation allowed it to receive a cash payment in lieu of credit. In 2017 the plant received more than $275.6 million from Treasury under the Section 1603 program, which it used to service its outstanding liabilities. So taxpayers already gave Crescent Dunes cash to pay off its taxpayer-backed loans.

This is one more cautionary tale in climate subsidies. The sun doesn’t deliver power when it’s cloudy or dark. Crescent Dunes promised to solve this problem by using molten salt to retain the heat from the sun and produce steam, so the plant would generate power 24/7. . . .

DOE expected Crescent Dunes to produce up to 482,000 megawatt hours every year, but the plant hasn’t produced that much energy in its lifetime. In 2019 Crescent Dunes’s hot salt tanks suffered what partial owner SolarReserve described as “a catastrophic failure” that has left the plant inoperable.

The feds called Crescent Dunes a success until forced to admit it was a failure. As late as April 2017—when the plant was in the throes of a months-long shutdown—DOE pronounced it a “milestone for the country’s energy future” and a “success story” taken from “mirage to reality.” But in August spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes admitted that “this project has consistently faced technical failures that have proven difficult to overcome.”

New tech always has teething problems, but this kind of thing keeps happening with massive solar boondoggles.

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