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.
“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”.
It just gets better and better:
President Obama will tout investments in “renewable” energy Wednesday at the local Copper Mountain Solar 1 plant, although the plant has only five full-time employees.
The plant, owned by San Diego-based energy company Sempra, was built in late 2010 at a cost of $141 million. Funding included $42 million in federal-government tax credits and $12 million in tax-rebate commitments from the state of Nevada.
Construction of the plant involved over 300 part-time jobs, but currently only five full-time employees operate the plant, a Sempra spokeswoman confirmed. That comes out to $10.8 million in tax-dollar subsidies per employee.
Nationally, solar energy is unlikely to help the president achieve his goal of lower energy costs. Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, the free-market think tank that publishes Nevada Journal, noted in his Solutions 2013 report that, even according to the U.S. Department of Energy, solar-PV energy will cost three and a half times more than energy from traditional sources such as coal.
“President Obama’s visit to the Solar 1 Facility in Boulder City is the perfect illustration of why the president’s economic policies are such a failure," said Andy Matthews, president of NPRI. “The government has spent over $50 million to ‘create’ five permanent jobs and build a plant producing a product — expensive solar energy — that no one would purchase without a government mandate.
“That’s not a path to a vibrant economy; it’s the road to serfdom. This mindset — of government attempting to pick winners and losers in the economy through subsidies and regulation — is a major reason why the national unemployment rate is at 8.3 percent, Nevada’s unemployment rate is 12.7 percent and the national debt is over $15.5 trillion.”
But hey, here we are “winning” the Charlie Sheen way.
Again, does anyone wonder anymore why, despite their rhetoric, Obama and Secretary Chu are just fine with gas prices going up?
Funny how some projects attract the EPA like flies to, well, you know and others? Meh. The LA Times reports:
Construction cranes rise like storks 40 stories above the Mojave Desert. In their midst, the "power tower" emerges, wrapped in scaffolding and looking like a multistage rocket.
Clustered nearby are hangar-sized assembly buildings, looming berms of sand and a chain mail of fencing that will enclose more than 3,500 acres of public land. Moorings for 173,500 mirrors — each the size of a garage door — are spiked into the desert floor. Before the end of the year, they will become six square miles of gleaming reflectors, sweeping from Interstate 15 to the Clark Mountains along California’s eastern border.
BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah solar power project will soon be a humming city with 24-hour lighting, a wastewater processing facility and a gas-fired power plant. To make room, BrightSource has mowed down a swath of desert plants, displaced dozens of animal species and relocated scores of imperiled desert tortoises, a move that some experts say could kill up to a third of them.
Despite its behemoth footprint, the Ivanpah project has slipped easily into place, unencumbered by lasting legal opposition or public outcry from California’s boisterous environmental community.
Interesting. No EPA interference. The Enviro crowd rolls over. The project has all of the things which in normal circumstances (i.e. if it was a petro-chemical project) would have it tied up for years both in red tape and court cases.
But for this?
Endangered species? Fuggitaboutit. This is important ideological agenda stuff for the “enviro” crowd.
Away from public scrutiny, they crafted a united front in favor of utility-scale solar development, often making difficult compromises.
Compromises? It is full-scale capitulation. It is abject hypocrisy. It is an example of why the environmental community is seen by many as more ideologically driven than environmentally driven. It explains why their motives are suspect.
Take a look at this page in which you’ll see a conception of the finished project, the impact it has on the desert and the number of projects being developed in California and then just ask yourself what that same environmental community would be doing if the name of the developer was Exxon-Mobil instead of BrightSource.
"The scale of impacts that we are facing, collectively across the desert, is phenomenal," said Dennis Schramm, former superintendent at neighboring Mojave National Preserve. "The reality of the Ivanpah project is that what it will look like on the ground is worse than any of the analyses predicted."
In the fight against climate change, the Mojave Desert is about to take one for the team.
Yet barely a whimper raised by environmentalists over the scale and impact of these projects on what they claim to hold most sacred.
More alarmist myths bite the dust. The claim that rain forests would be damaged by warming:
The threat to tropical rainforests from climate change may have been exaggerated by environmentalists, according to a new study. Researchers have shown that the world’s tropical forests thrived in the far distant past when temperatures were 3 to 5C warmer than today. They believe that a wetter, warmer future may actually boost plants and animals living the tropics.
There are many climactic models today suggesting that … if the temperature increases in the tropics by a couple of degrees, most of the forest is going to be extinct. What we found was the opposite to what we were expecting: we didn’t find any extinction event [in plants] associated with the increase in temperature, we didn’t find that the precipitation decreased.
Or the claim that melting glaciers would threaten 2 billion people:
The spectre of imminent thirst and/or starvation for billions by 2035 from melting glaciers would appear to have been confirmed as the worst kind of alarmist scaremongering.
Sea level increases and more violent hurricanes?
First, there is still no proof the Earth is experiencing “dangerous” warming. Temperatures have levelled off since 1998. Many measuring locations are also located in unsuitable areas. Furthermore, the methodologies of averaging temperature are inconsistent and full of problems. This is why “Global Warming” was replaced as a slogan by “Climate Change” (nobody denies that climate changes), and more recently by “Climate Disruption” (which is impossible define or prove).
Second, the increased temperature is supposed to increase sea level mainly by melting the ice-caps, which is impossible. Thermal expansion of the oceans seems to be of little consequence at present because the satellite measurements show the oceans are cooling. Le Mesurier gilds his picture with a few asides on “extreme climatic events” in general and hurricanes in particular. Recent studies, however, show no increase in hurricane activity in the last 40 years.
But remember, the "science is settled".
Then there’s the drive for “green jobs” , “green technologies” and how that’s faring:
MORE than $1 billion of taxpayers’ money was wasted on subsidies for household solar roof panels that favoured the rich and did little to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, a scathing review has found.
Despite a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government, Solyndra, a maker of solar panels in the southeast San Francisco Bay Area city of Fremont, will close one of its manufacturing plants, lay off 40 permanent and 150 contract workers, delay expansion plans of a new plant largely financed with the government-guaranteed loan and scale back production capacity more than 50 percent. Despite the hype and tax money, Solyndra seems unable to compete with Chinese manufacturers, whose prices are lower. This is the latest bad news for the company touted by Mr. Schwarzenegger and President Barack Obama as one of the green industry’s supposed shining lights.
Because, you know, government’s do this stuff so much better than private markets.
Thought you’d want to know.
It won’t be. There’s nothing “sacred” about wind and solar, certainly nothing which is going to see environmentalists back off of their opposition to anything with despoils the vision they hold of how mother earth should be:
As David Myers scans the rocky slopes of this desert canyon, looking vainly past clumps of brittlebush for bighorn sheep, he imagines an enemy advancing across the crags.
That specter is of an army of mirrors, generators and transmission towers transforming Mojave Desert vistas like this one. While Whitewater Canyon is privately owned and protected, others that Mr. Myers, as head of the Wildlands Conservancy, has fought to preserve are not.
To his chagrin, some of Mr. Myers’s fellow environmentalists are helping power companies pinpoint the best sites for solar-power technology. The goal of his former allies is to combat climate change by harnessing the desert’s solar-rich terrain, reducing the region’s reliance on carbon-emitting fuels.
Mr. Myers is indignant. “How can you say you’re going to blade off hundreds of thousands of acres of earth to preserve the Earth?” he said.
As I’ve said before, if you think that these groups are going to let anyone carpet the Mojave Desert with solar panels and endanger its eco system, you haven’t been paying attention to what has been going on here for the last 50 years.
Terry Frewin, a local Sierra Club representative, said he had tough questions for state regulators. “Deserts don’t need to be sacrificed so that people in L.A. can keep heating their swimming pools,” Mr. Frewin said.
But that’s precisely what it will take for solar to make any appreciable difference, given the technology available today. The ironic thing is the movement to plus up solar is being driven by a Democratic administration and putting it into direct conflict with one of its more loyal constituencies.
It is also causing dissent within environmental organizations as well:
“It’s not enough to say no to things anymore,” said Carl Zichella, a Sierra Club expert on renewable power. “We have to say yes to the right thing.”
We’ll see who wins in the end and what the eventual political cost will be – but you can rest assured, there’ll be nothing easy about implementing solar and wind if environmentalists have any say.