More news on the environmental and ecological damage caused by unreliable renewables.

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FWS proposes to allow 4,200 incidental takings (that means killing them) of the above bird each year. Photo courtesy of

The bad news just keeps rolling in on how much damage is caused by wind and solar power. An update on the proposal to allow wind projects to kill off a bunch of eagles, more followup on an Ivanpah tower starting itself on fire, and negative electricity prices in Germany.

5/15 – Robert Bryce at Wall Street Journal – An Ill Wind: Open Season on Bald Eagles / Sacrificing 4,200 of the birds a year for green energy sounds fine to regulators.

Proposed rule will extend to 30 years from 5 years the amount of time that wind farm operators are allowed to kill eagles. This will allow taking out up to 4,200 bald eagles a year out of the estimated 72,400 living in the US today.

Article points to a 2013 study estimated that 888,000 bats plus another 573,000 birds were killed by slice-and-dicers in 2012. That count includes an estimated 83,000 raptors.

Article says that since the study of 2012 casualties, wind capacity is increased by about one-fourth, meaning the number of fatalities would likely be up by one-fourth as well. Capacity could triple in the next 14 years.

To illustrate the utter hypocrisy of the Fish and Wildlife Service, in 2011 they talked the DoJ into filing criminal charges, not civil but criminal, against three North Dakota oil drillers for killing six ducks plus one phoebe.

Let’s use the technical words: accidental takings of seven migratory birds by three companies in 2011 warrants criminal prosecution but accidental takings of up to 4,200 bald eagles by the entire industry each and every year warrants an official 30-year waiver.

Let’s look at that again:

  • 7 birds one time (6 of which are hunted in season)  – criminal prosecution
  • 4,200 bald eagles annually – official waiver from criminal and civil prosecution

Can someone with more brain power than me explain why that is considered to be moral?

Mr. Bryce describes a federal agency that is doing everything in its power to give an industry what it wants a prime example of regulatory capture and crony capitalism.

Regulatory capture – the situation when those regulated have massive influence over the regulations produced by their regulators.

Crony capitalism – official government favors go to those who have the ability to be buddies with the government, typically resulting in massive subsidies and big regulatory favors.

5/23 – Wired – A huge solar plant caught on fire, and that’s the least of its problems – Another follow-up on the Ivanpah solar tower starting itself on fire.

Self-combustion isn’t the worst problem.

Not producing enough electricity to meet its contractual requirement, thus giving the customers an option to terminate the contract, is a bit more serious.

Even more serious is the matter of basic economics.

Article explains when the project was proposed, the expected cost from concentrated solar power was about the same as photovoltaic solar panels. Since then the cost of photovoltaic has dropped to around $0.06 per kWh while concentrated solar power is in the range of $0.15 to $0.20 per kWh.  That puts the wholesale price for concentrated solar power in the range of what retail prices should be.

Another serious disadvantage is complexity.

Ivanpah has 173,500 movable mirrors, each the size of a garage door, each of which is moved by a motor, each of which is controlled by a computer which calculates the exact position for each specific mirror based on where the sun is at that moment. The towers are complex with lots of wiring and ductwork carrying large amounts of superheated steam. Then there’s the steam generators. Then there’s the backup natural gas power turbine run for a few hours each morning to get the water heated before the sun comes up.

That all adds up to a highly complex system, any one part of which can break down knocking out production. Witness the self-immolation of last week and the inability to meet contractual production requirements.

Article doesn’t even mention the problem of torching an intentionally uncounted number of birds, an unknown portion of which are legally protected.

5/10- Quartz – Germany had so much renewable energy on Sunday that it had to pay people to use electricity – A bright day with the correct amount of wind (not too little and not too much) pushed renewable power output to such a high level that electricity prices went negative for several hours. That means the power companies were paying customers to take electricity.

To compound the damage to  power companies, it isn’t possible to take coal and nuclear powered plants off-line quickly, so the baseline production continued. Natural gas plants were shut down, but then there is the inefficiency of powering them back up.

Thus the power companies paid their customers in order to dump the power and still incurred the cost to operate all their coal and nuclear plants.

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