In the search for better renewable energy, we’ve come a long way. Technology has increased significantly in the past decade, and the use of solar energy to create useable electricity occurs much more than it used to. But there’s one major problem with solar energy—one that is simultaneously obvious yet somehow unexpected.

What happens when the sun just doesn’t shine enough?

This is the exact problem a major solar power plant is currently experiencing; due to the fact that the sun just isn’t shining enough over it, it’s producing half the amount of energy as was expected of it. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, located in the desert bordering California and Nevada, is actually the largest facility of its kind in the world, and was built to produce enough power for 140,000 homes.

Built using innovative solar-thermal technology that works through 350,000 computer-controlled mirrors, the $2.2 billion project was supposed to be a breakthrough in alternative energy. However,“irregular weather patterns,” lack of sunlight, and “equipment challenges”* have posed problems for the ambitious project.

The problem is, as much potential as the sun has in terms of energy, it’s one thing that is beyond our control; we simply can’t alter the weather. Without enough sunlight, not enough power is generated, and it creates additional problems, including damaged equipment and even unsafe conditions.

While those involved in Ivanpah’s operation remain confident in the project, and the potential for its future success is still great, it does serve as a reminder that there are still some things that are out of our control, and that the most reliable forms of energy are still the ones we’ve been relying on for a very long time.

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