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A Huge Solar Plant Opens, Facing Doubts About Its Future

Publication Date: 
February 13, 2014
The New York Times
Diane Cardwell and Matthew L. Wald

Professor Dan Reicher comments on the market and policy changes that have led to decreased investment in solar energy for The New York Times. 

The Ivanpah solar power plant stretches over more than five square miles of the Mojave Desert. Almost 350,000 mirrors the size of garage doors tilt toward the sun with an ability to energize 140,000 homes. The plant, which took almost four years and thousands of workers assembling millions of parts to complete, officially opened on Thursday, the first electric generator of its kind.

It could also be the last.

Since the project began, the price of rival technologies has plummeted, incentives have begun to disappear and the appetite among investors for mammoth solar farms has waned. Although several large, new projects have been coming online in recent months — many in the last quarter of 2013 — experts say fewer are beginning construction and not all of those under development will be completed.


“There have been some big changes in both the market and policy dynamics since we made our investment that, I think, on balance, are not terribly positive for BrightSource,” said Dan Reicher, executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford. Mr. Reicher oversaw an early investment in BrightSource in 2008 when he was director of climate and energy initiatives at Google. (The company went on to invest $168 million in Ivanpah.)

“Clean tech investing is way off,” he said.