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California Valley Solar Ranch Update

November 10, 2013
California Valley Solar Ranch

California Valley Solar Ranch

As a follow-up to my prior article on this subject, an update an re-write appeared on


In the commentary on it was pointed out that my assertion of a 1 acre 250 MW combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) facility was overly optimistic.

I had previously seen layouts of larger 400-600 MW CCGT facilities which indicated the generation plant could be situated on an area slightly larger than 6000 square meters (1.5 acres).  I had assumed an approximate 1.0 acre size for a 250 MW plant by extrapolating down.

Prompted by the comment on I have researched this a bit more; and I find that I was, in fact, overly optimistic and incorrect that a 250 MW CCGT facility could be placed on only 1 acre.  I was only considering the main power generation facility itself, and not considering other required elements such as the operations building, cooling towers, fuel storage, etc.

Based on a layout of a typical 400 MW Power Plant SCC5-4000F 1SCCGT from Siemens, it is more likely that a complete 250 MW CCGT facility would require slightly less than 10 acres.

Despite this correction, however, I think that my point regarding the relative sizes of the CVSR facility and a comparable CCGT facility is still quite valid.  The CCGT facility is vastly more compact and provides far better conservation of space.  I have attached a facility size comparison which illustrates this with a scaled overlay of a comparable CCGT plant on top of the CVSR facility.

Overlay CCGT on CVSR

  1. All development of solar energy installations should be immediately halted as they are obviously a complete waste of money. This is, of course, because all solar power will cease to function in 2017 at the end of Barak Obama’s term in office and all the light in the world will be extinguished.

    /Sarc off

    Seriously, when the subsidy faucet is turned off how many of these factories for turning gold into straw can stand on their own.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting.

      It’s all about energy density. I have nothing against solar panels and wind turbines; I wish they would work as advertised, but they just don’t. The energy is far too diffuse (not dense) and they do not make enough continuous reliable electricity to support our needs. I also have no personal love or hate for natural gas, except that I see it as our best short term bet to provide electricity with the density and reliability we need, until nuclear resources can be better developed and expanded. Natural gas is also relatively clean and goes a long way to reduce atmospheric pollution emissions (including CO2 if you choose to worry about it).

      With regard to solar and wind, or other energy sources, I also support reasonable and legitimate R&D activity. If a university or other private entity has a legitimate R&D proposal that has promise to improve the efficiency and reliability of solar panels or wind turbines, then I have no problem supporting this. However, throwing huge amounts of taxpayer money at implementation of the current demonstrably ineffective technology is not R&D…………it is wasting taxpayer money and lining the pockets of politically connected and favored people and companies.

      • I was sitting here doodling, with a side trip to Wiki, and guesstimated that to fulfill the Obama’s administration wish to replace all US coal plants with wind or solar would cost (at these prices, and one assumes that the latest solar plant to go online is of the highest possible cost efficiencies) about 11 trillion dollars, 33 trillion to match the average utilization figures for coal.

        Now I’m trying to figure out how much my tax bill would need to go up to cover that. It’s not looking good.

        As a (forcibly) retired telecom engineer, I’ve worked with backup power, batteries, generators and even solar panels for remote locations. My experience is that solar degrades fast. It’s just not worth the money. And wind, forget it. Let’s put expensive power generating, rectifying and monitoring equipment in a tiny little nacelle and then stick it up on top of natural lightning rod.

        Frustrating, isn’t it?

  2. Jerry,

    Great article. Question: Did the project buy the land or was it donated for free by the state?

    • Steve – Thank you for reading and commenting. You have asked a good question. I don’t know the answer. I will try to find out something regarding how the land for CVSR was procured. If you (or any other readers) can help direct me to this information, please let me know

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. US Taxpayer Backed California Valley Solar Ranch Now at Full Power | Jerry Graf - Energy Strategy
  2. What happened to 5.36 giga-dollars in CA? | Jerry Graf - Energy Strategy

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