Update on solar and wind power – 7/2 – solar #21

Here are a few articles on the environmental damage from solar and wind energy.

Oh. And I expect to never hear another word about the horrid amount of water used to drill an unconventional oil well. The Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Project in Riverside County will initially use as much water as it takes to drill 1,369 fracked wells and in addition for each year for 50 years will draw water sufficient to drill 130 wells.

Wing-toasters, or unknown numbers of streamers

6/17 – ReWire – Bird Deaths Continue Through May at Ivanpah Solar – Number of dead birds at the Ivanpah toasting facility dropped slightly in May to 80 birds and 2 bats.  Scorching, singeing or melting feathers was visible on 44 of the birds. Several had burns on their bodies. Severe impact of not covering the whole facility when looking for birds is described in the article as follows:

As only about 20 percent of the facility is covered by the carcass surveys, it’s reasonable to assume the actual month’s death toll is upward of 300 or so.

Furthermore, there are five active dens of desert kit foxes with pups at home. Those critters would be great at finding dead birds in the weeks between the actual searches. You tell me how many birds a family of kit foxes can eat and I’ll calculate how many dozens or hundreds of birds the 5 little families might find in a month that the biologists didn’t find, since they search with their eyes closed.

That count would be on top of the 300 mentioned above.

Mr. Clarke quotes several descriptions in the monthly report of fatalities. Here’s just one:

…a mourning dove found on May 9: “Large amount of flight and body feathers found in a ~20 ft diameter scattered all around a heliostat.”

We now know the colloquial word federal employees use to describe that is a “streamer.”

With feathers in a 20’ diameter, perhaps it was an explosion instead of a streamer.

If a streamer is similar to a WWII bomber that took an anti-aircraft round with two engines on fire that is spiraling towards the ground, then the damage to this mourning dove is more like a direct hit on a plane that blew up.


6/1 – Sinosphere at New York Times – China’s Solar Panel Production Comes at a Dirty Cost  and The Feed –  How “Green” Are China’s Solar Panels– Solar panels made in China use more energy than panels produced elsewhere and the energy is far dirtier. As a result, the article cites a study that says the carbon impact of those panels is twice that of panels made elsewhere.

How green are 60% of the panels being made today? Not very.

I expect that when the experts look at the whole life cycle of a variety of green technologies, we will find they aren’t a fraction as green as advertised. That expensive car you bought may get +/-50% better mileage than my car, but what happens to the footprint calculation when we consider mining, refining, and eventually disposing of all the lead and other heavy metals in the batteries? Oh, and where does the electricity come from to recharge the battery when it is plugged in? Maybe a coal-fired power plant?

6/20 – ReWire – Fed Agency OKs Controversial Power Storage Project Near Joshua Tree NP – One of the challenges of solar and wind power is how to get electricity when the sun isn’t shining and the random times when wind isn’t blowing. The proposed Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Project in Riverside County would take an old Kaiser mine and build two reservoirs at different elevations. Fill them with water. During the day, use solar-generated electricity to pump water from the lower reservoir to the higher one. At night let the water drain from the upper to lower through turbines, thus generating hydroelectric power after dark. Pump the water back uphill during the day and repeat. Project would draw initial 21,000 acre-feet of water from the local aquifer (in the desert!). Would draw additional 2,000 acre-feet of water each year for 50 years to replace the loss from evaporation.

The project has been cleared by FERC. More approvals still needed.

Can you say unintended consequences? The merest starting point for the list is providing a large source of water to ravens and coyotes, who are major predators in the desert. The concern in the article is the impact on desert tortoises. I would suggest there could be adverse effect on any of the food sources for predators, endangered or not.

The 21K acre-feet of water would be in an old mine. With fractured rock all around due to blasting. With tailings spread around in the bottom. Risk would be water seeping through the sides and bottom of mine draining to the aquifer, taking unknown bad minerals and chemicals into the aquifer.

Estimated cost is $1.5 billion plus a new transmission line plus operating costs to shift solar power from day to night.

Let’s look at the water use:

  • One acre foot is 325,853 gallons.
  • A well in Bakken takes around 5M gallons of water.

So, the setup of the project will take:

  • 21,000 acre feet
  • 6,842,913,000 gallons (21k x 325853)

which at 5M gallons per well, is enough water to drill

  • 1,369 (6,842M / 5M) wells in Bakken, or around two-thirds of the wells drilled in a year in North Dakota

Each year the project will consume:

  • 2,000 acre feet
  • 651,706,000 gallons of water (2K x 325K) , which is enough to drill
  • 130 wells in Bakken (651M / 5M)

So I trust the horrible, excessive, wasteful use of water in fracking will no longer be an issue.

Economics of Slice-and-dicers

2/19 – The Guardian – Migrating birds halt expansion of London Array – Publicly stated reason to halt construction on the London Array at 630 MW instead of going to 1,000 MW is migratory birds. A variety of contractual arrangement (leases, connection contracts) have been terminated since it would take another 5 years to sort out the impact of the wind farm on the red-throated divers. There are 175 turbines located in 40 square miles of the Thames Estuary. That means the turbines average a theoretical capacity of 3.6MW each. There are an average of 4.4 per square mile, or one per 146 acres. This is one of several projects for off-shore wind power that have been scaled back in Britain.

One commentator said he thinks it is an economic issue. He thinks the wind farms will need a price higher than the current £150/MWh. No source provided for that info. That would be US$218.66 per megawatt. That is $0.219, or about 22 cents per kilowatt. Ouch. That is astoundingly expensive. But that’s okay. Pay the farm more than 22 cents to motivate them to build out, add on transmission costs, and the British consumers will be happy to cover a huge increase in their monthly electric bill.

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