Free Markets, Free People

The old “bait and switch” of solar energy

Solar energy has been touted by those who support its wide use as a completely “clean” way of producing electricity.

But reality gives lie to that claim.  Take the Ivanpah plant in the Mojave Desert for example. It sits on 5.6 square miles of mostly undisturbed public land that was home to desert tortoises, a species threatened with extinction, among other wildlife.  It fries birds in flight regularly.  Environmentalists concerns were ignored.

Why?  Because it was an Obama administration priority, whether it is important to anyone else or not.

Said Obama when it opened:

“With projects like this one, and others across this country, we are staking our claim to continued leadership in the new global economy. And we’re putting Americans to work producing clean, home-grown American energy that will help lower our reliance on foreign oil and protect our planet for future generations.”

Except it not only doesn’t lower our “reliance on … oil”, it is a large user of fossil fuel.  Yes, that’s right – it has a huge carbon footprint.

Data from the California Energy Commission show that the plant burned enough natural gas in 2014 – its first year of operation – to emit more than 46,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

That’s nearly twice the pollution threshold for power plants or factories in California to be required to participate in the state’s cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions.

The plant, the recipient of $1.6 billion in federal loan guarantees as well as $600 million in tax credits, uses natural gas to preheat water for steam.  It is only after the water is preheated that the solar energy is applied to finally produce the steam to turn the generators.  And on cloudy days?  Yes, all natural gas and nothing but natural gas.

And the enviros?  Well, David Lamfrom, desert project manager of the National Parks Conservation Association, is pretty sure this isn’t what they signed up for.  He points out that this isn’t a solar project but instead a hybrid project which uses both solar and fossil fuel to generate electricity.

“It feels like a bait and switch,” Lamfrom said. “This project was held up as a model of innovation. We didn’t sign up for greener energy. We signed up for green energy.”

The Obama administration lied about the project?  My goodness – the next thing you’ll tell us is “if we like our health insurance we won’t be able to keep it”.

Oh, wait.


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17 Responses to The old “bait and switch” of solar energy

  • Mr. Lanfrom needs to spend a year or so studying thermodynamics, mechanical and electrical engineering. “Bait and Switch?” Imbecile, you have no idea about reality. “Oh wow dude like the sun is cosmic and clean dude far out it’s all free and clean and green and no more icky fossil fuels, oh wow dude!” And these people are permitted to vote?

  • Why are there any projects that still use “carbon” when it’s so “EVIL” ?

    It’s projects like this one that show that Global Warming is just BS to scare people like a “cheap TV preacher’ when they know they won’t take “Peak Oil” seriously.

  • Given the general ignorance of environmentalists I am a bit surprised they caught on.

  • What’s high-larry-ous about this plant is that it’s essentially a one-off boondoggle. Why it was ever built in the first place is a cypher, since…yeh…you can concentrate enough solar energy in the FLUCKING desert to make steam. We all kinda knew that.

    It is a vast waste of resources, one being money. I doubt very, very much that you’ll ever see another of its type built with private investment.

    • Rich man’s hobby project.

      Someone got to play with cool marginally useful technology at everyone elses expense.

      Sorta like if I wanted the government to subsidize my desire to start building Wells Fargo style stage coaches.
      You can carry people and things around in em, even use em for public transportation!
      Green and environment friendly (well, except for the methane produced by the engines).
      We might have to alter ’em, uh….slightly…. if you need em to travel far, fast, but we can probably get approval for that after the initial $1.6 billion dollar loan is spent.

  • Solar is anything but “clean.” Semiconductor manufacturing generates a lot of toxic waste. Now, that’s one thing if you’re making an Xbox that has about as much waferage as a couple postage stamps, but entirely different when you’re using wafers by the square foot. If they’re made in China, then the US watermelons can pretend that that toxic waste doesn’t exist. Of course, cheap Chinese wafers will only last about 20 years before degrading into uselessness. Wafers made in the US can last a good 40 years, but then we have to process the waste. Regardless, the tech is basically useless for anything but local generation — giant solar plants will never be economically competitive. Percentage of energy generated from solar will always be down in the noise.

    • Yawn…eye roll…

      You’re an idiot. There isn’t enough rare earth in the world to power more than a small fraction of US energy demands.

      What a boob…!!!

    • Well, that’s just wierd. That response was to assoNY. I agree with you, although this particular installation was not photovoltaic.

  • And they’ve been using at least 60% more NatGas than the plant was originally approved for now for almost a year.
    Other than that, I’m sure it’s all going as planned.

  • The more efficient the technology, the more expensive and dangerous it is to manufacture and operate and the longer it takes to realize your ROI.
    The simplest being the hot water collector servicing a hot water heater. The initial investment is relatively cheap, very little to break down, simple to repair, very quick ROI.
    On the other end is Gallium arsenide (GaAs) Toxic chemicals are involved in it’s manufacture and disposal (the fire department will NOT approach your house if these are involved in a fire because of the very real hazard of poison gas emissions). Lots of complex parts, nothing cheap or easy to repair. High up-front costs, long ROI.
    There is the problem of snow removal, the panels won’t work when covered in snow. How do you service the roof when it starts to leak? (all roofs leak eventually).

    For people with as much money as guilt, buy into your solar projects, so long as you don’t dip into my wallet to do it.

    • ‘so long as you don’t dip into my wallet to do it.”

      And therein is the problem with tree hugging projects.

  • Yawn, the future belongs to solar photovoltaic and not solar thermal anyway.

    • Yawn…eye roll…

      You’re an idiot. There isn’t enough rare earth in the world to power more than a small fraction of US energy demands.

      What a boob…!!!

    • Yawn – yeah, what’s a couple billion dollars pissed away on a hobby project.

    • Yeah, those grapes were probably sour, anyway…

    • It’s true! My perfessers told me so in college in the 70’s! The cost per watt generated was dropping fast (just look at the graph and project the line!), and it would be competitive with conventional generation methods in 20 years! And fusion, too!