Sunday, April 15, 2012

BrightSource Energy IPO results in an alternative reality world, plus a few words to BrightSource Energy employees and others.

A world where the carbonmentalists didn’t control the whole process from
siting the solar and wind farms to setting the terms of the power agreements.

I realize this is an exercise in fantasy, but here goes.

In this alternate reality, there would be no carbonmentalists setting the rules,
so the environmentalists or preservationists would be acting as honest stewards
on behalf of the planet and future generations after us
, and would have tried
to lead the government and the renewable energy proponents to think along
environmentally responsible lines; in other words to site these “farms” in areas
closer to the users of the power, and on rooftops, or degraded or used up land.

By following this strategy, the BrightSource’s and the First Solar’s of the world
would not have to worry at all about displacing or killing endangered plants or animals, and would avoid all mitigation expenses, which run into the millions as
we all now aware.

And of course, the environmental groups would have avoided conflict with their
most fervent members, their base of local members concerned with the future
preservation status of their beloved desert wilderness.

Having said all of the above, in my opinion, the BrightSource Energy IPO would
still have been withdrawn, due to lack of investor interest. You see, the company has put all its eggs in one basket, betting it all on the concentrated
solar power generation bandwagon. This strategy has now been gussied up
with the storage option, the Holy Grail for concentrated solar.

In a perfect world, that last addition to their strategy might have seemed like a
master stroke, putting them in the lead, leaving their competition way back in the dust, far out of sight.

Instead, what the IPO withdrawal showed, was a company mired in the technology of the past, and a corporate strategy wed with the needs and wishes of activist state and federal government regulators, with the big utilities
playing along with- after all they need the power, and they wouldn’t be paying anyway for all the infrastructure needed, so why not go along?

The market, the Wall Street crowd, finally showed up and as I have been saying all along here, having no skin in this game so far, showed even the most
die hard BrightSource Energy executive, the Wall Street reality, they don’t want to get any skin in the game, at least not by playing it the BrightSource way!

This is what I think really has happened over the last few months. In my opinion, Wall Street was willing to go along, as long as they could be playing with other people’s money, in this case, the taxpayers. As some of my more sophisticated readers are aware, the feds ended the loan guarantee program
recently, so the Street knew no more billions of easy money were coming. The
Solyndra debacle was the end of the easy money, and Wall Street knew it.

In addition, while concentrated solar prices have steadied, the costs of photo-
voltaic solar panels have plummeted, to the point where there is virtual parity
with fossil fuel plant costs.
This is all thanks to Walmart’s main supplier, the
People’s Republic of China, which is not beholden to our carbonmentalist
here and being a sovereign nation with a long history of civilization,
does what it wants, when it wants, and doesn’t feel any need to ask our corrupt
government for permission, and has been the driver behind the huge price drops in photovoltaic panels, bringing Walmart like efficiency to a market, which I am sure will please the average consumer, if not our government.

Somehow all this market reality never made an impression on the folks putting
that IPO together, maybe the thoughts of the millions of dollars to be made, got
the better of them, took over their brains, and common sense ideas like these,
never got through to them, and the rest was history as they say.

But don’t cry for the BrightSource Energy executives, America, per the S-1 form
they filed with the regulators for the IPO, it appears that the execs haven’t been missing too many “three martini” lunches, judging by their fat compensation packages! They better grab that money now while they can get it, because as we have already seen, the era of the easy “OBAMA BUCKS”is over, now they are going to have to make their loot the oldfashioned way, “earn it!”

Let me pull out my crystal ball and make a prediction. As demonstrated above,
the era of easy loans is over for BrightSource Energy. Now they say financing
is in place for their Hidden Hills and Rio Mesa proposed solar farms. Their
proposed “Siberia” project out by the Route 66 area, is probably a dead duck
now, at least this blogger fervently hopes so. And I am not so sure that I believe
that financing for the others is really locked in, now that the market reality has
been so perfectly illuminated for all to see, with the IPO withdrawal this week.

So these are truly interesting times for BrightSource executives and for this
blogger. These folks had the chance to do this right from the beginning- there
was no “arm twisting” involved with their siting decision for Ivanpah SEGS, and
when reasonable compromises and alternative locations were offered for their
consideration, they were rebuffed. Here is what I am saying, admittedly in hindsight which we know is 20-20, if they had proposed this plant on a different
location, one not rich with endangered plant and animal species, there would have been no controversy, the plant would have been built quicker, and they
could have floated their IPO a year ago and for more money, and it would have
flown to the moon!

Now that is something for those hotshots to mull over in the days and nights
ahead, as this project plods on to its completion, and for the more nimble
and soon to be more formidable competitors to mull over as well.

In closing, I would like to point out something to employees and contract workers for BrightSource and other solar and wind companies that are putting up one of these “farms” out in the California desert wilderness. I have a feature at the top left of this page requesting information, that only you can provide.

I have been hearing rumors about some of these projects, disturbing rumors of cost cutting measures, and other things which may end up reducing
the efficiency of these units, and may very well be damaging to the long term
structural integrity of some of the equipment, among other things.

  • So I am going to list a few questions that I believe you and only you can answer.

    Specifically, has a change of equipment suppliers resulted in less reliability
    and quality of components in your opinion? If so, which supplier and what
    part or parts. How does it damage the overall integrity of the unit? For example, a parabolic trough manufacturer has changed the glass supplier-
    have you noticed any problems with the new glass, such as cracks or breaks, etc?
  • It is my understanding, I may be wrong in this, that to receive the federal
    stimulus, the “OBAMA BUCKS” that the contractor must buy MADE IN
    AMERICA components. Now it could be that it might be okay to say
    ASSEMBLED IN AMERICA, regardless, have you seen components coming
    in labeled from other countries and this is very important, has the contractor had laborers removing “Made in x country" labels, that
    country not being America?
  • Have you seen or heard of anything involving the collection and search for
    endangered species that appears out of the ordinary at any of the sites going up now in the desert? You are aware as employees out at these sites
    of the procedures to be followed when coming across a desert tortoise for example, have you personally witnessed or heard of any mistreatment or
    killing of an endangered species animal, by unauthorized personnel?
    This last is very important as the contractor’s have all pledged to implement
    humane methods designed to keep these animals alive if possible, and to
    relocate them if possible.

I am sure there are many more questions to be asked of you, but first I need to
caution you and to make you aware of a very important fact at play. Before you
send me any information, you have to protect yourself. I will tell you that now is
not a good time to be a whistleblower for various reasons. But on the other hand, the fact that you are reading this says a lot about you and your beliefs.
Most people don’t waste their time reading a blog that they detest. I believe you
can be a good employee and still point out wrongdoing, even in these difficult times. You need to provide more than allegations of wrongdoing, if possible. Photographs, recordings, documents are all good, but could lead to you. Most likely, if caught, you will be fired, no questions asked. You may not be able to draw unemployment.

If after reading all this, you still feel the need to right a wrong, or to point out
wrongdoing, you can send the information to me. My priority is not to
get you in trouble, but to expose the wrongdoer’s, getting them in trouble. No matter what, they will say that the information is from a disgruntled employee, and they will employ the usual character assassination techniques, the de rigueur nowadays for big corporations trying to get away with their crimes, anything to discredit you and what you said. Expect it!

Finally, I am not a journalist. I am a blogger. The shield laws are for journalists,
and do not apply to bloggers. I could be compelled by a judge to name you.
Rest assured though, I do have contacts who are journalists, and who have an eye for a real story, and would happily talk to you, in confidence. You just need
to create an email and send me your contact information and I will send you a
name of a journalist who would be interested in your information, no need to tell me anything, unless you feel you can trust me and that I could help, despite my previous warnings. It is up to you.

So having said all this and having done my best to discourage you, if you have
seen wrongdoing happening or know of it, out at these new solar and wind “farms” going up out in the desert wilderness, and it is stuck in your craw
and you would like something done about it, then let me know. I think by now you guys have figured out that I care for this area, and would like to stop further
industrialization of the area- you can really help in that effort.

One last thing and I should have said this long ago. Just because I have blogged relentlessly against BrightSource at Ivanpah, doesn’t mean that I am anti-BrightSource employee. I am not. I am a worker just like you. I drive big buses for my living. I have talked to a few of you, and have taken your measure.
So far, everyone I talked to from BrightSource has been just like me and other
workers, just wants to do a good job and go home to their families, to live and let live. My problem from the beginning has been with the bosses running things, and with the government and environmental leadership, that has played along with them. I just want to help in the struggle to make Ivanpah SEGS the last one, along with Blythe, to be so poorly sited and built out. That’s it. Together we need to try to do what we can to prevent further destruction of the desert

Thanks to all for reading this far. Come back again to the backporch anytime
you feel like it, and tell a friend.



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