Update on solar and wind power, 3-24-14 – solar #17

Here’s a few articles on the environmental and economic issues with solar and wind energy.

Since the uncontained, unresearched, unquantified environmental damage from slice-and-dicers and wing-toasters is not particularly good, I can’t call this series more good stuff. So here are a few updates on opportunity cost, the views of wind power hardware will last forever, more solar farms approved, and regressiveness of solar subsidies.

Opportunity cost

One of many problems with massive subsidies for wind and solar energy is doing so diverts attention and effort from developing new technologies. Some amazing things not yet invented could possibly some day actually be efficient, competitive, environmentally friendly, and not kill off lots of protected birds, non-protected birds, endangered animals and threatened plants.

Walter Russell Mead makes that point on 3/23: Chinese Firm Races to the Bottom of Global Solar Market.

Wind power, the view until your children retire

Rolled this forward from post on 3/3 to get it into the energy updates. Million Dollar Way introduced his discussion of the following article with this comment:

For folks who like the prospect of seeing and hearing slicers and dicers for the rest of eternity on the Great Plains, this should be a welcome story and a welcome site (see photo at linked story).

3/2 – Dickinson Press – Southwest ND wind development grows: Hettinger wind farm to boost MDU’s wind energy portfolio – Same info as mentioned before. MDU is buying 105MW from the Thunder Spirit Wind project near Hettinger ND on a 25 year contract. Five projects are underway in the state. After federal tax credits expired, North Dakota created its own tax incentives to build wind farms.

A Ducks Unlimited project banded 200 female Mallards. In two years it confirmed one was sliced-and-diced by a turbine. That’s half a percent in two years of very few turbines turning. No indication of how many birds took a glancing blow but were able to fly a while before dying thus not counting as a turbine strike.

Density of wind towers – Check out the accompanying aerial photo of a wind farm. The towers are closer together than I thought. The distance between them appears to be about twice the height of a tower. How would you like to have that view out the window for the next 30 or 40 years?

Solar Power

 3/6 – KCET/ReWire – Group Sues to Block New Desert Solar Projects Over Threat to Tortoises – The environmental group Defenders of Wildlife has filed suit over the approval of two solar projects in the Mojave Desert. The group claims the Stateline and Silver State South projects would severely harm the desert tortoises in the area who are listed as Threatened. The Federal approval of the projects estimates that 2,115 tortoises would be relocated, disrupted, or killed from the two projects.

In addition to that damage, the group claims the federal studies did not consider the compounding effect of both projects together. For example, the two projects would block a key area that connects two large areas where the tortoises roam. This would reduce genetic diversity since the tortoises could not reach the other side of the projects. In other words, the boy tortoises from the south side wouldn’t be able to get frisky with the girl tortoises on the north side.

That would result in inbreeding. The suit asks the federal government to start over on the EIS. Might not be a bad idea to figure out the impact on the species before construction begins on projects that will be in place for several decades. Will the tortoises even survive to the end of useful life of the projects?

3/12 – ReWire – Riverside County Approves Large Desert Solar Project – The McCoy Solar Energy Project will cover 4,096 acres of land (6.4 square miles) near Blythe, California.

I will start accumulating some info. The project was approved by Riverside County. NextEra Energy Resources owns the project. If fully built, it is rated to generate 750MW. Of that, only 250MW has currently been sold, and that to SCE. McCoy will pay Riverside County a land use fee of $150 per acre per year for the 30 years of the project. That would be $614K a year at full build-out.

Environmental issues include dead birds, compounded by the project only being a few miles from the Colorado river, which is a major migratory route; all according to the article.

Other issues are the disturbed soil, which might cause respiratory issues for people near the project. In addition, there is apparently valley fever in the soil, which can get into the air when the dirt is disturbed.

3/17 – ReWire – National Park Service Slams Solar Project Near Mojave Preserve– The Park Service outlined a long list of concerns about the environmental impact of the proposed Soda Mountain Solar Project. That would be a 4,200 acre project with potential capacity of 350 MW.

Amongst the list of concerns is a big “I don’t know.” The proposed project would draw 60 acre feet of water a year from an underground aquifer to wash solar panels. (acre foot = 325,851 gallons, times 60, equals 19.55 million gallons, enough to drill 4 or 5 wells in the Bakken). At issue is the scientists don’t quite know the geological structure of the aquifer which means they don’t know how much water is in it. That is an issue because an endangered fish (Mohave tui chub) lives in a pond fed by that aquifer.

Thus, what is the impact on the endangered fish from drawing 60 acre-feet a year?

Nobody knows.

An unknown amount of environmental damage is a recurring issue visible in most articles read as I learn more about solar and wind power.

3-21 – See three updates to my post Unintended consequences of solar power keep coming into view – Next, reflection off panels as a threat to airplanes – solar #15 – I’ve seen multiple media sources talking about the danger solar farms are to flying planes as well as flying birds.

Energy surcharges = regressive taxes

3/23 – The Feed (previously Via Meadia) – Lessons Learned From Germany’s Great Green Catastrophe Germany has an aggressive policy to subsidize renewable energy. The subsidies work their way through to consumers, which is acting as a regressive tax. Oops. Another unintended consequence.

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