Searchlight Wind Project before and after: Why it’s still good to have a certain kind of power

Take a close look at the two maps below. One shows the original plan to erect 161-electricity generating windmills surrounding Searchlight. The second shows an updated plan with only 87 of the 425-foot-tall windmills largely to the east and south of Searchlight and none to the west.

The original plan by Searchlight Wind Project, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Duke Energy, was to produce 300 megawatts of power, but the project has been trimmed to 200 megawatts. Robert Charlebois, managing director of the project for Duke, told me at a Bureau of Land Management meeting in Searchlight this past week that the plan was altered in response to objections from the town’s residents.

He did not deign to mention that one of those residents who just happens to live west of beautiful downtown Searchlight would have had a clear view of many of those windmills from the picture window in his living room, the one that looks out on his solar panels — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Harry’s fingerprints are nowhere to be found on the changed plans but he is said to be a friend of Jim Rogers, the chairman, president and CEO of Duke Energy, who contributed the max to Reid’s 2010 re-election campaign.

While CSI-type evidence may be lacking, one of the opponents of the wind project provided me with a copy of a letter Harry sent to the Searchlight Town Board back in 2001 when an Oklahoma-based company sought approval for a natural gas-fired power plant near the town.

The letter claimed the power would not serve Nevada customers but would flow to California. It concluded:

“I was born in Searchlight. My parents, grandparents, brother and other relatives are buried in the Searchlight cemetery. I graduated, as did my three brothers, from Searchlight Elementary. My Nevada home is in Searchlight. I expect to retire in Searchlight. I love to come home and breath the fresh air and see the vistas from my home. This proposed power plant would forever foul the air and ruin the beautiful views of the mountains I love, not only for me, but everyone that lives in Searchlight.

“I would hope for the residents of Searchlight and basic fairness, you would recommend against this monstrosity.”

Signed simply “Harry.”

There’s been no similar objection to the windmills from Harry so far as I’ve heard — now that they’ll all be in someone else’s picture window.

Charlebois admitted the project, which is nearing the end of the BLM environmental impact review process, has no signed contract — in Nevada or California — for any power it might eventually produce. Without such a contract it will not be built. The deadline for comments to the BLM is April 18.

All of the speakers at the BLM hearing in Searchlight — there were also hearings in Laughlin and Boulder City — opposed the project, saying it would harm tourism, wildlife and views, while creating traffic and not many jobs.

Another potential obstacle to this and any other wind project is the scheduled demise of the production tax credit for windmills at the end of the year. The credit amounts to 2.1 cents per kilowatt-hour in reduced corporate income tax for 10 years. In some parts of the country the tax credit is almost equal to the wholesale price of electricity. There have been times wind farms have paid utilities to take unneeded power so the wind farm could qualify for the tax credit.

Some of the opponents to the Searchlight project have started a campaign encouraging people to contact their congressional representatives and oppose the renewal of the tax credit. There is an effort to attach the tax credit extension to a transportation bill.

Several people who have called Reid’s office reported they were treated rudely and the person answering the phone seemed disinterested in taking the caller’s name and information.

Harry puts on a renewable energy dog and pony show every year in Las Vegas.

The original plans:

Original plan

 

The current plan:

24 comments on “Searchlight Wind Project before and after: Why it’s still good to have a certain kind of power

  1. Steve says:

    Harry likes wind power, just not when he has to look at it or hear it. Maybe it will take the windmills away from the rest of the people in Searchlight too.

  2. Nah, he doesn’t care about the little people on the other side of the highway.

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  3. Steve says:

    Yeah thats why I used the word maybe, if it moves the windmills away from some of those people it is probably an accident.

  4. Athos says:

    It’s GOOD to be King, eh Harry (you CROOK!)?

  5. That was almost the headline.

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  6. Jim Sallee says:

    Despite billions in taxpayer subsidies pumped into the so-called “green-energy” industry, almost 15,000 windmills — maybe more — have been left to rot across America. And while the turbines have been abandoned over a period of decades, the growing amount of “green junk” littering the American landscape is back in the headlines again this week.

    Across the country, subsidized wind farms are meeting increasing resistance — and not just from taxpayers and electricity consumers forced to foot the bill. “If wind power made sense, why would it need a government subsidy in the first place?” wondered Heritage Foundation policy analyst Ben Lieberman, who deals with energy and environmental issues. “It’s a bubble which bursts as soon as the government subsidies end.”

  7. Spot on, Jim.

    Sent from my iPad

  8. I think the photo of the original plans is upside down.

  9. I’ll be darned, El Rucio, you’re right. Not sure how that happened. Thanks.

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  10. It is fixed now.

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  11. Joy Mohr says:

    I live in Ohio, I read this stuff. I live in a rural community that is currently “heating up” w/this wind farm issue as we are slated to be the 1st rural community to have an enourmous number of turbines (+400 TALL!) erected amoung us. We stand to lose & have destroyed, all that we now know of our country living to be. Our health, our sanity, our property values, our wildlife & our evironment as a whole. No one here in this state “benefits” from this. Oh, unless you follow the money – this is… Wind companies say; “Few must sacrifice for the good of many.” (100’s will “sacrifice” here!!!) I ask myself; “Define “good” & why Mr. wind companies!” THIS dear, fellow tax paying Americans, is WHY Washington is in such a state as it currently is. It’s called, corruption. I am thinking of a five letter word that begins with a “G” & it has nothing to do w/the color of money. It’s called: “G-R-E-E-D”! I cannot believe that in America, that for all of us who’ve “followed” the rules, lived our lives, paying taxes, planning for our futures & working towards retirement, etc. can have so few make such arbirtriary decisions that nullify us & our lives. Where is the justice in all of this my fellow Americans? WHO has our backs on this?? WHO really cares about us??? This “Green” stuff is a bunch of money making bunk being shoved down the tax payers throats & at our expense – literally. “Wind Makes America Strong!” has been one of the biggest lies ever told to the American tax paying public. Here’s the “kicker” folks, it’s all legal. Washington wants to embed these bills inside other bills (“I’ll scratch your back if your scratch mine!”) to get stuff like this passed & now, look where we are at today fellow Americans. WAKE UP AMERICA & take back our Country! I always thought this was to be a “By the People, for the People” Country?! It’s not a “red” & “blue” issue but a Red, WHITE & blue!!!! I’m mad & I am not going to take this lying down…who’s with me? Come the Fall, fire them all! Your only “right” left in “issues” such as this is to get involved, pay attention & VOTE! We still have that “right”, right?!?! Help to expose this stuff fellow Americans!!!!!!! I for one, have YOUR back…

  12. Eleanor Shook says:

    I spoke that night in Searchlight too, but I doubt if they, Duke Energy or BLM, were there to really listen to the people of Searchlight..I think they were just pretending to care what we thought. I and many others have lived with this project for the last 3 or 4 years, knowing that our efforts were falling on deaf ears, but we kept trying. I myself wrote to Senator Reid 2 or 3 times but never received a reply.
    Thank you for your artical,
    Sincerly,
    Eleanor Shook
    member of the Searchlight Town Board for 3 terms

  13. Thank you, Ms. Shook.

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  14. It is good to see a few people realize the problem, Ms. Mohr.

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  15. Robert Moran says:

    Sound Bites: Wind Quotations from Jon Boone
    “Environmental history is the chronicle of how adverse consequences flowed from the uninformed decisions of the well intentioned. When perception is wrong, reality will ultimately impose itself as itself, often with rude effect.”

    “Industrial wind is almost the perfect enterprise for our era, as it produces no meaningful product or service but is subsidized up to 80 percent by rate and tax payers. Like many “celebrities,” it is famous for being famous, not for its actual performance.”

    “We need more wind projects like a prom queen needs acne.”

    “Many engineers find gainful, if not useful, employment enabling Rube Goldberg schemes.”

    “What if the boss demoted his company’s most reliable, responsive, productive employee in order to hire his unreliable, unresponsive, unproductive nephew, while insisting that the rest of his employees work harder to cover for the kid’s indolent, hapless ways? Most reasonable people, particularly those who believe in the importance of self-reliance and personal responsibility, would be appalled. But this is precisely what happens when subprime wind energy is forced on the grid.”

    “Wind is not David to coal’s Goliath; they are step siblings, related because the same companies that own most of the nation’s wind plants also own and control the majority of the nation’s coal operations.”

    “Faith-based initiatives like wind energy symbolize the imaginative lacuna now at the heart of our national energy policy.”

    “There is little that is cognitively more dissonant than supporting the concept of minimizing the human footprint on the earth while cheerleading for the rude intrusiveness of massive wind projects.”

    “The slap and tickle of wind propaganda flatters the gullible, exploits the well intentioned, and nurtures the craven. It is made possible because there’s no penalty for lying in the energy marketplace.”

    “Pretending that zero capacity wind technology is an answer to building a responsive supply to meet new demand is, energy-wise, incredibly stupid.”

    “All commercial-scale energy sources are subsidized; but all conventional sources of power provide capacity value. Wind provides no capacity value–specified power on demand. It only provides the grid with sporadic bursts of energy, not energy commensurate with modern power expectations. Modern power vastly improves productivity. Wind reduces it. Trading wind for nuclear, or coal, or natural gas, or hydro is akin to trading Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Sandy Koufax, and Willy Mays for a third string high school first baseman who made the team because of his father’s contributions to the alumni fund.”

    “Wind energy is a sideshow technology with great potential for mainline environmental harm.”

    “The challenge for the grid is how to reconcile the square peg of firm reliability with the round hole of wind’s fluttering caprice. As it skitters unbidden on and off the grid, like sandpipers at the beach, wind is indistinguishable from demand fluctuations: when it appears, it’s equivalent to people turning off their appliances; when it departs, it’s like people turning the lights back on. Its perturbations increase the grid’s instability, for the additional wind flux is even greater than demand flux—and much less predictable.”

    “Throughout my experience [as an intervenor in MSPSC wind hearings], I could not substantiate a single claim developers made for industrial wind energy, including the one justifying its existence: that massive wind installations would meaningfully reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.”

    “For five years, I’ve studied the claims of wind industry developers, their trade organization, the American Wind Energy Association, and the National Renewable Energy Lab, an agency of the US Department of Energy, with staff whose jobs are dependent upon the success of renewable technologies. I’ve concluded that industrial wind energy exemplifies American business at its worst, promising to save the environment while wreaking havoc on it. Spawned, then supported, by government welfare measures at considerable public expense, it produces no meaningful product or service yet provides enormous profit to a few wealthy investors, primarily multinational energy companies in search of increased bottom lines. It’s an environmental plunderer, with its hirelings and parasites using a few truths, many half-truths, and the politics of wishful thinking to frame a house of lies. It’s all a bill of goods. Not a single claim made for industrial wind energy is true.”

    “One can concur with concerns about how our culture’s fossil fuel combustion practices help accelerate the process of global warming— without uncritically agreeing that the intrusive nature of wind technology is even a partial solution to the problem.”

    “Siting criteria for massive industrial wind plants are akin to making larger closets for the emperor with no clothes. It’s much like giving a second story burglary ring both a ladder and an alibi.”

    “No one should believe that a highly fluctuating, unresponsive source of energy, which provides no capacity value, can replace highly responsive, steady sources of power that do provide capacity value. What a Faustian bargain this would be!”

    “It’s untrue that people in Appalachia merely find wind plants “unsightly.” We also view them as the latest energy bunco scheme and we resent the pillage of our mountains, the destruction of our wildlife, and the devaluation of our property to support an industry that is a poster boy for irresponsible development.”

    “We have arrived at a point in our legal culture where no negative consequences seem to exist for making false or misleading claims to sell energy. There is a range of wind plant- generated nuisances verified across three continents. The failure of many local governments to provide appropriate leadership on this issue is appalling. After-the-fact lawsuits brought because of predictable nuisances are difficult, expensive, and time consuming. These massive wind plants precipitate incivility, pitting neighbor against neighbor. A major duty of government is to anticipate, then eliminate or mitigate this kind of incivility. Those who endorse or profit from placing such industrial complexes near the homes of others evidently don’t have a clue about how to foster civil society.”

    “Modern society exists on a foundation built upon productivity that comes from reliable, controllable, interdependent high-powered machine systems. All conventional units that provide electricity must pass rigorous tests of reliability and performance; they must produce their rated capacities, or a desired fraction, as expected whenever asked–or be removed from the grid. Some are like refrigerators, doing heavy-duty long-term work; others are like our toasters or irons, not working all the time but responsive when called upon to do so. This ability to perform as expected on demand is known as a machine’s capacity value. Conventional power generators have a capacity value of 99.999%. Using them for 97% of our electricity, the country achieves high reliability and security at affordable cost. Wind provides no capacity value and can pass no test for reliability; one can never be sure how much energy it will produce for any future time. Generating units that don’t provide capacity value cannot be reasonably compared with those that do.

    Here’s a practical way to think about this concept. You don’t drive your car all the time, with the result that its capacity factor–the percentage of your car’s potential that you actually use–is probably 15-20%, if that. But when you do wish to drive it, the car works virtually all of the time, getting you from pillar to post in line with your own schedule. This is its capacity value. Ditto with your chain saw–or television, or any modern appliance we all take for granted because it works when we want it to work. Appliances that don’t do this are quickly discarded, although this wasn’t the case for much of our history (look at the early days of television or radio or even the automobile). Only in the last hundred years or so have we in the West come to rely on machines with this standard. In fact, it’s the basis of our modernity and it underlies contemporary systems of economic growth and wealth creation.”

    “The percentage of time that an energy source performs a specified amount of work on demand as expected is known as its capacity value; the higher the percentage, the greater the value. This is the proper way to evaluate the true worth of generating units performing in situations where high reliability, affordability, and system security are given premium values. With this in mind, imagine that all gas pumps were wind “powered.” How sure would you be that the amount of gas you wanted would be there? How long might it take to fill your tank? How long would the lines be awaiting service? As you parse this situation, think of the loss in productivity that would result.”

    “Physicists define energy as the ability to do work, while power is the rate at which work is done. Huge turbines can convert wind energy into electrical power. But they do so with the same capacity standards that powered sailing craft and water pumps in the early nineteenth century.”

    “Wind technology is a lot of dumb and ugly in service to ignorance and greed. Because it produces no capacity value, is inimical to demand cycles, provides only early nineteenth century power productivity, in the process destabilizing the match between supply and demand and making everything and everyone around it work harder, it cannot shutter any conventional plants or reduce meaningful levels of CO2. Massive wind technology will, however, damage much of what many knowledgeable environmentalists hold dear, not least intrusively increasing our footprint on the land in ways that will decrease other (often more vulnerable) species and valuable habitat while furthering the cause of civil discord.”

    “Wind energy is impotent.”

    “Retrofitting modern technology to meet the needs of ancient wind flutter is monumentally backasswards, a sure sign that pundits and politicians, not scientists, are now in charge. It would take more than a smart grid to incorporate such a dumb idea successfully.”

    “As a system, wind represents nonsense in and a whole lot of dumb and ugly out.”

    “The Sierra Club has become a real whack job, for there is little that is cognitively more dissonant than supporting the concept of minimizing the human footprint on the earth while cheerleading for the rude intrusiveness of massive wind projects–and their related sprawling transmission systems.”

    “By the industry’s own admission, wind is “not a capacity resource.” How, and at what cost, can a grid provide a correlative for the instability that wind volatility imposes upon the grid–a volatility beyond the destabilizations caused by demand flux? This business is actually quite absurd. The whole point of modern power systems, for more than a hundred years, has been to move beyond the flickering flutter of variable energy sources. Prostituting modern power performance to enable subprime, lazy energy schemes on behalf of half- baked science is immoral. As is implementing highly regressive “incentives” to make it appear that pigs can fly.”

  16. Robert Moran says:

    http://www.masterresource.org/2012/02/wind-spin/ A must read about wind scam companies.

  17. And don’t forget that the principle purpose of wind farms — to reduce carbon output — is a fraud:

    http://www.elynews.com/opinion/article_43ebd4b4-4dfd-11e1-a7c0-001871e3ce6c.html

  18. Carpetbaggers from New York have secured permission to site over 120 492′ turbines in our area. Why don’t voters have the opportunity to weigh in on this issue? This area will change and not for the better. Neighbor is against neighbor now and groups are uniting to fight this project. If the local and state politicians are not behind our efforts, however, what chance do we have? I say that there has to be something illegal about private companies coming into an area promising profit for a few and injuring the general population who have no voice in the project. Our health and our property values will be affected forever. Our only salvation lies in the integrity of those we elect to represent us. We can show our approval or disapproval at the polls. I urge all voters out there to become aware of the issues in your areas and vote for those representatives who have their constituents’ welfare as their goal and not that of those that would plunder their homesites and walk away with their pockets full of federal, state, and local money. To vote for those representatives would seem to be an easy task. Unfortunately, many of them do not air their true feelings and many change their views as soon as they get in office. All I can say is don’t give up the fight!!! MJP

  19. nyp10025 says:

    “Carpetbaggers from New York”? What does that mean?

  20. Steve says:

    Well nyp we all know the south considered these people as ready to steal and plunder the south after the civil war. Read the rest of her post and you get the idea and I get your confusion. She seems to be lamenting private companies entering an area and hurting the residents. I think she may mean these companies are entering an area with the express help of the politically connected and in a lot of cases politicians direct assistance, since she states we need to show our approval or disaproval at the polls.

    Perhaps instead of the question “what does that mean?” you should ask “what do you mean by that?”

  21. Nick Stroede says:

    Even though wind energy projects may not require as much earth disturbance as solar energy services, the spinning blades have been demonstrated to kill rare bat species, golden eagles, vultures, and other birds. The Searchlight Undertaking, near the city of Searchlight, would put up to 160 giant wind turbines on up to 14 square miles of public property. A minimum of 40 miles of new streets will scar the region to attain each turbine.

  22. They have cut the number of windmills to 87, Mr. Stroede, and removed any from near Harry Reid’s home west of town. They are all now nearer the recreation are.

  23. […] Searchlight Wind Project before and after: Why it’s still good to have a certain kind of power […]

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