Even as the Obama administration announces another $120 million in grants to boost solar energy, new reports indicate a centerpiece of the administration's green-energy effort is actually a carbon polluter.
Located in Southern California's Mojave Desert, the $2.2 billion Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System benefited from a $1.6 billion Energy Department loan guarantee, and a $539 million Treasury Department stimulus grant to help pay off the loan.
Yet it is producing carbon emissions at nearly twice the amount that compels power plants and companies to participate in the state's cap-and-trade program.
That's because the plant relies on natural gas as a supplementary fuel.
According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the plant burned enough natural gas in 2014 to emit 46,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. But Ivanpah, while in the cap-and-trade program, is still considered a renewable energy source because it technically produces most its energy from solar.
Built by BrightSource Energy Inc. and operated by NRG Energy, the Ivanpah project has been mired in controversy from the start.
Taxpayer advocates object to the federal support. Environmentalists say it would hurt the endangered desert tortoise and lament that 3,500 birds were "fried" by the heat produced by the plant in its first year.
But the natural gas factor raises the fundamental question of whether this plant -- and others -- are undercutting their own green energy gains by emitting carbon pollution in the process, while not producing anywhere near the level of electricity of a regular power plant.
"This is a prime example of when good intentions go bad," said H. Sterling Burnett, a research fellow at the Heartland Institute.
Tired of the federal government wasting your money on failing, politically-motivated projects? An Article V Convention of States can force Congress to live within its means. When they have to balance their budget every year, will projects like this make the cut? We don't think so.