Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

Wall Street Journal article about “Bird-Scorching” – solar #9

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(photo by James Ulvog)

As The $2.2 Billion Bird-Scorching Solar Project hosted an open house yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran an article with that title.  The article is summarized in the article’s subtitle, At California’s Ivanpah Plant, Mirrors Produce Heat and Electricity—And Kill Wildlife.

The article is above the fold on the front page of the second section.  There are two great photos of the facility. My photo of the plant is above.

Good introduction

If you are just tuning in to the environmental damage caused by solar farms, the above article would be a great place to start. 

If you’ve been reading the series of posts on this blog, the first several paragraphs will be old news.

I will mention a few pieces of info that are new or pertinent to my ongoing discussions.

Expensive power

The article says the Ivanpah plant cost four times as much to build as a gas-fired plant yet produces much less electricity.

The overall price differential is estimated to be about twice that from other sources. The exact price that will be paid by utilities, and thus feed into my electricity bill, has not been disclosed.

The electricity will be bought by PG&E and SCE on 25 year contracts, according to the article.

Subsidies

Solar plants get tons of subsidies. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the article says the plant received a $1.6B loan guarantee.

It benefited from substantial investment tax credits, which the article says will expire in 2016.

Demand for the plant’s output is completely artificial, created by legislative fiat.  California-based utilities “want” electricity from the Ivanpah plant and others because they are required by the state legislature to obtain 1/3 of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Bird-scorching

That’s the phrase used in the headline. My nomination of wing-toasters  as the name of solar power plants is still open for consideration.

The article touches gently on the apparent damage to some of the dead birds from having their feathers singed or burned. Reports filed with regulators have information on the damage. Articles I’ve mentioned earlier say the plant owners’ had the files sealed.

Reasons for birds dying at solar plants are unknown. Seriously. I’m not being sarcastic.  No one knows why there are so many dead birds on the site.

Now I’ll turn on the sarcasm. Do you suppose it would be a good idea to know how many birds will be killed by a $2B solar farm that will operate for two or four decades? Do you suppose it might be a good idea for somebody to figure out why protected migratory birds are dying? Do you suppose it might be a good idea to get a clue before turning on three 1,000 degree wing-toasters all day, every day?

Other solar plants are on hold

The article says the project’s owner has, or had, four projects in mind. The first, Ivanpah, is in operation.

There’s another project east of Palm Springs that I’ve mentioned before. The towers for that plant will be 750 feet tall. State regulators are having second thoughts about that plant. 

A third project is on indefinite hold, according to the article, which also says plans for a fourth plant have been abandoned.

The article at the WSJ site also has a 4 minute video report from Cassandra Sweet, who wrote the article.

Coverage from other writers  

Chris Clarke at ReWire discussed the grand opening:  Milestone: Ivanpah Solar Plant Formally Opens.  Great primer if you are new to the issue. Superb summary. Much of the info there I’ve covered and the biggest news in the article, which he has discussed before, I plan to describe in an upcoming post.

You really ought to check out the photo in the article. You can see the reflections from the mirrors on an airplane 40 miles away and 4 miles up. Very bright. Illustrates one idea why so many migratory birds are getting offed at solar plants. The field of mirrors is really bright and might attract birds who are thinking “water.”

Mr. Clarke isn’t sure why he didn’t get an invitation to the big opening festivities. Perhaps it got lost in the mail.

Million Dollar Way covered this article yesterday. Just gotta’ quote the article’s title:  Slicers And Dicers? KFC-CA? Tortoise Scorchers are Now Toasting Birds; Beer Can Chicken, Anyone? Costs Four Times Conventional-Sourced Electricity; Peking Duck, Perhaps.

Another side effects he mentions:  No dual-use of the 5 square miles covered by the solar farm, to include no space for desert tortoise burrows.

Comments welcome

What do you think?

Am I being too hard on wing-toasters? Have a better suggestions for what we should call solar farms?

Just so we all know how this will work, I will approve all comments that maintain a minimal level of professionalism. The cutoff for “minimal” will be unilaterally determined by me.

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