The World’s Largest Solar Plant Just Torched Itself

Posted: May 20, 2016 by tallbloke in Energy, flames, innovation, Temperature, Thermodynamics

From Gizmodo. H/T Richard Cowley

Misaligned mirrors are being blamed for a fire that broke out yesterday at the world’s largest solar power plant, leaving the high-tech facility crippled for the time being. It sounds like the plant’s workers suffered through a real hellscape, too.

Damaged steam ducts and water pipes. (Image: San Bernardino County Fire Department via AP)

A small fire was reported yesterday morning at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) in California, forcing a temporary shutdown of the facility. It’s now running at a third of its capacity (a second tower is down due to scheduled maintenance), and it’s not immediately clear when the damaged tower will restart. It’s also unclear how the incident will impact California’s electricity supply.

Putting out the blaze was not easy task, either. Firefighters were forced to climb 300 feet up a boiler tower to get to the scene. Officials said the fire was located about two-thirds up the tower. Workers at the plant actually managed to subdue the flames by the time firefighters reached the spot, and it was officially extinguished about 20 minutes after it started.

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  1. oldbrew says:

    Their insurance charges will go up 😦

  2. Hifast says:

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections and commented:

  3. rishrac says:

    Were they steamed? Like you steam buns?

  4. jccarlton says:

    Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    It’s a good thing that this was a small fire and that none of the heat pipes were breached. This could have been very bad if there were liquid sodium leaks.

  5. tallbloke says:

  6. oldbrew says:

    Report: ‘The plant, the largest of its kind in the world, features a gross capacity of 392 megawatts, enough to power 140,000 homes.’

    At its maximum that is. No solar input at night, and it needs lots of gas power to get itself operating in the morning. Also, airline pilots complained about the glare from the mirrors.

    There were reports recently it might have to close altogether due to falling short of its contracted power output.
    Its output is far more expensive than ‘conventional’ sources [see report below for figures]. Even roof-top solar is a lot cheaper.

    Ivanpah Solar Plant May Be Forced to Shut Down

  7. ivan says:

    How convenient in the light of it not working as the green blob hoped it would as oldbrew has pointed out above.

  8. Graeme No.3 says:

    Was it heavily insured recently?
    OLD joke: 2 men meet at an expensive resort:
    First man: I couldn’t come here but I recently got a $100,000 Insurance payout for a fire.
    Second man: Me too, except it was $200,000 for flood damage.
    First man: How do you start a flood?

  9. Australia’s first solar plant and only solar thermal was installed at White Cliffs (an Opal mining field) NSW in 1983. It had an array of tracking parabolic mirrors to create steam which drove a 3 cyl steam engine and a generator. There was a battery bank to supply power at night. Back up was from a fuel fired boiler and a diesel generator set. There were problems, mainly mechanical, from the start. There was steam leakage at parabolic mirrors because of the large temperature changes. Within a couple of years corrosion became a problem. They decided to abandon the direct steam production and installed a thermal oil circulation and heat exchanger.system Leakage of the thermal oil was a problem and a concern for fires. The additional boiler was abandoned because of control problems The batteries gave out after a few years. They tended to run the auxiliary diesel most of the time. but power was unreliable. The local motel installed their own diesel generator. In 1989 a power line was run from Broken Hill and the plant shut down. In the mid 1990’s it was resurrected with the mirrors converted to photovoltaic. This only lasted a few years because of maintenance and control problems. The town was connected to the NSW electricity grid and the plant abandoned.
    Both solar thermal and photovoltaic are expensive in capital and operation (maintenance)

  10. It seems from the photo that the insulation was burning inside the ducting. That would mean the cheapest insulation they could get, possibly that cellulose fibre that some people have blown into their roofs. They should have used at least glass wool or ceramic fibre. The damage could be more extensive than apparent. Also it seems the ducts are mild steel. I wonder, in the long term ,how it will go with corrosion if they use ground water which is not desalinated.
    If the company is close to going broke maybe there will be another fire to claim insurance money.

  11. oldbrew says:

    ‘Firefighters were forced to climb 300 feet up a boiler tower to get to the scene.’

    Must be worth some extra danger money.

  12. Paul Bunion says:

    Skynet having a bad day?

  13. Bitter&twisted says:

    Solarfried, or Schadenfreude?

  14. Curious George says:

    I wonder if it was a mechanical problem, or a software problem. Maybe they got hacked.