Editorial: Be cautious in approving another renewable energy project

Crescent Dunes thermal solar power plant in Nye County.

Crescent Dunes thermal solar power plant in Nye County.

Nevada continues to be ground zero for all manner of grand schemes to construct ever more grandiose renewable energy projects — egged on by Sen. Harry Reid and the global warming Chicken Littles in the Democratic Party, who are more than willing to spend other people’s money on grants, loan guarantees, tax breaks and give away federal public land to be paved over with solar panels, mirrors and windmills.

The latest announcement comes from SolarReserve, which says it plans to build the world’s largest solar thermal power generating facility — 1,500 to 2,000 megawatts of electricity —somewhere on public land in Nye County in the next few years.

The company has been operating the $1 billion, 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes solar thermal plant near Tonopah for about a year. Built with nearly three-quarters of its funding coming from a federal loan guarantee, Crescent Dunes generates power by using mirrors to concentrate sunlight on towers where salt is heated to a molten state. The molten salt then turns water into to steam to drive turbines.

But unlike the solar thermal plant in Ivanpah across the border in California that directly turns water to steam, the molten salt stays heated longer and allows the plant to operate even after sunset.

SolarReserve’s proposed $5 billion Sandstone facility would employ 100,000 mirrors and 10 towers, using the technology developed at Crescent Dunes. There is no indication yet how much federal backing would be needed, but the Crescent Dunes plant sells power to NV Energy at a wholesale rate of 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is two to four times the cost from a gas-fired plant, a cost passed on to consumers.

According to press accounts, the company estimates construction could create 3,000 jobs for seven years.

While we are reticent to back projects that require too many tax dollars to pencil out, far be it from us to turn Luddite and reject out of hand potential job-creating technology and innovation, but we do suggest that caution and a thorough analysis be used before plowing ahead with the SolarReserve proposal, which would require about 16,000 acres of public land, or about 10 times the footprint of Crescent Dunes.

Though Crescent Dunes claims its concentrated solar rays kill only 60 birds a year compared to 6,000 at Ivanpah, the environmental impact should be carefully weighed, because federal land bureaucrats are too often willing to slack off when it comes to approving renewable energy projects of which their bosses are so enamored.

Take for example the wind turbine project proposed for Searchlight in southern Clark County, which was recently in the news when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to set aside a federal judge’s decision to halt the project until a more accurate and thorough environmental analysis can be conducted.

The Bureau of Land Management had approved the construction of 87 400-foot-tall wind turbines by Apex Clean Energy, but the federal judge ruled the environmental analysis by the BLM and the Fish and Wildlife Service was inadequate because its data failed to accurately reflect the impact of the project on desert tortoises and bats, as well as golden and bald eagles. Existing wind turbines already kill more than 100,000 birds a year.

The BLM claimed there were only three golden eagle nests within 10 miles of the project, but the Nevada Division of Wildlife reported there were 28 nests.

The SolarReserve project should be honestly reviewed for its environmental impact, as well as its feasibility to provide an adequate return on the taxpayer investment in both money and land.

Simulation of what windmills might look like east of Searchlight and near Lake Mohave, home to bald and golden eagle.

Simulation of what windmills might look like east of Searchlight and near Lake Mohave, home to bald and golden eagle.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

31 comments on “Editorial: Be cautious in approving another renewable energy project

  1. Reziac says:

    Windmills may kill some birds (tho that can be mitigated with newer blade designs), but mirror-based solar creates a heat column that alters climate for miles around. I lived downwind of one in SoCal, and even five miles away it raised our average temperature by ten degrees, altered wind patterns so we no longer got afternoon cooling, and caused a dust bowl we’d never had before. Mirror-based solar is scorched-earth, and does far more damage than any equivalent in other types of generation.

  2. deleted says:

    “Mirror-based solar is scorched-earth, and does far more damage than any equivalent in other types of generation.”

    Huh? Other than you saying so, any evidence of this at all?

  3. Vernon Clayson says:

    Sounds like Reziac was a witness, isn’t that worth something as evidence? How about the primary consideration being need for the power, it’s not like we are the moon or Mars, we have long established sources for power and delivering it, let’s refine that to the nth degree and how about a nuclear plant that would provide more power than covering the state with mirrors and windmills? We could call it the Harry Reid Nuclear Plant in honor of his pursuit of bringing energy to his home away from home.

  4. deleted says:

    Vernon it does sound lke he was a witness to what happened to him.

    What he said though went way beyond that. I mean seriously. Everyone (see) makes overly broad statements but in the world we live in, someone is usually there to call you on it. And here I am.

    What he said was…unsupported at beat, and really silly at worst.

  5. Steve says:

    It’s simple physics.
    We already know cities warm their surroundings by holding day heat overnight.

    This study failed to test for the effects on cooling breezes claiming the heat cannot be measured as little as 100 feet from the areas tested. Walk your dog in the summer at night and you can easily feel the temperature change from pavement to grassy areas. If it’s breezy you can feel the warmth coming off the parking lots.

    This is the first study to counter claims that solar plants actually cool the areas they occupy.
    http://phys.org/news/2016-11-solar-island-effect-large-scale-power.html

  6. Rincon says:

    One scientist does one very limited study and you buy it hook, line and sinker, but let thousands of climatologists do thousands of studies, and Conservatives call them unreliable, flawed, a conspiracy or who knows what.

    The researcher provides no hypothesis as to how this “heat island effect” is possible, which is important as it seems to violate the laws of physics, although I readily agree with the possibility that it actually does exist as stated. I would just call for a lot more evidence before I’ll buy it.

    My question is where does this excess heat come from? Any energy that is reflected by the mirrors would have been absorbed by the ground anyway. As a matter of fact, the mirrors are likely to reflect more energy back into space as evidenced by the brightness of these facilities when viewed from a plane. In addition, much of the incoming heat energy is converted into electricity and sent far away. The amount of heat removed is substantial – essentially the same as would be produced by electric heaters of the same wattage as the entire power plant. One would also expect the hot tower to create an updraft that would carry much of the heat skyward, drawing in cooler air from the surroundings.

  7. He used a strange new device called thermometer.

  8. Steve says:

    Obviously, Rincon suffers from reading comprehension.
    He conveniently missed “and colleagues from the University of Arizona, University of Madison-Wisconsin, and the Nevada Center of Excellence”

    In fact, it appears Rincon stopped reading anything after his “one scientist” snark.

    But, when you cannot dispute the findings, attack the messenger.

    Try reading the whole thing, slowly and with deliberation.

  9. Rincon says:

    Try to think, boys. While Steve”s obsessing about his nits, did either of you even think that just maybe a fossil fuel powered plant creates its own heat island effect? They make a huge amount of heat – and it’s heat that isn’t naturally in the area as it is with solar. It’s ADDITIONAL heat. Who cares if a solar plant creates this effect if the only alternative is perhaps a bigger effect from the combustion of fossil fuels? I know, I know. Fossil fuels can’t do anything bad…

    I also have to wonder about the funding for this study. Who would fund a study looking for excess heat from a plant that literally pumps heat OUT of its local area, and not for another kind of plant that ADDS vast amounts of heat? Just asking…

    My point is completely unscathed by Steve’s nitpicking, but it has not been addressed. For the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a rational explanation for these findings. Shouldn’t that make one pause?

    As for the crack about the thermometer, I seem to recall skepticism years ago claiming that climatologists were not taking the heat island effect into account when they used a “strange new device called a thermometer”. The claim at the time was that there was no planet-wide warming at all, just improper measurements and that the studies should not be believed. Now, suddenly, it seems that any study using a thermometer should be gospel. Which Conservative should I believe?

    BTW, your claim that global warming is over seems to have been without basis. I can’t even pick it out on the latest graph of the Earth’s temperature. Maybe your eyes are better. Can you find it? http://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/ Sounds a bit like Mark Twain’s quip, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Unfortunately, so it is with global warming.

  10. Steve says:

    Rincon.

    Patrick claimed nothing showed Reziac had a valid claim.

    I posted a link to a brand new study proving Patrick full of bullshit, as usual. Reziak may well have real life experience that study and the ones to follow will prove.

    You overreacted thinking to make some crap of the deal.

    As I clearly stated in the post, this is the first and only study of its kind to date.

    The TEAM of scientists in those THREE institutions are going to do more of them.

    Now, I COULD have posted the abstract; but considering you won’t even READ the the DIGEST version, what would be the point?

    You seem to believe theory and modeling somehow “trump” observation and experimentation.

    Go ahead and continue creating fake arguments for everyone else and fight them all you like, call it mental self “stimulation” if that makes you feel good.

  11. Rincon says:

    Picking nits obsessively while ignoring the thrust of a conversation is the mark of a man with nothing to say.

  12. Steve says:

    You are “thrusting” it!

    I was replying.

    Nevertheless, the study is not “one Scientist” and is not a model or a theory. It is experiment and observation.

    It appears you are the one who wishes others have nothing to say.

  13. Rincon says:

    Let’s see. Fossil fuel plants likely produce a greater heat island effect than solar facilities. Steve has no response. The finding appears to violate the laws of physics and there is no hypothesized mechanism by which the observations can be explained. Steve has no response. It’s one scientist and two “colleagues”. Steve’s all over it. Keep picking those nits, buddy.

    I might also mention that our grand scientific investigation was conducted with a sample size of one, One solar plant compared with one desert ecosystem and one “ecosystem” consisting of parking lots surrounded by buildings. Perhaps you think the FDA should approve drugs based on a patient sample of one as well? Think of all the money we could save!

    For anyone that isn’t familiar with science, studies with a sample size of one are generally termed preliminary or exploratory. Scientists assiduously avoid making sweeping conclusions based on a single sample by itself. Ideologues, not so much.

  14. Steve says:

    Of course I have no response for that. It wasn’t what I was replying to.

    The study most certainly does describe the likely cause for the warming effect of changing the landscape with solar panels.

    Once again you are trying to hold onto theory in the face of ongoing, just begun, observation.

    Nice “open mindedness” for a liberal!

  15. Rincon says:

    Closed minded is ignoring the fact that a fossil fuel plant produces far more heat than a solar field.

  16. Steve says:

    No, close minded is not reading the study before panning it as “one scientist”, then claiming stuff for others those others never said.

    In case you forgot, I was abundantly clear this is the first study of its kind. There are more planned.
    It does show Reziak is very likely correct in his statement and theory/models remain exactly that, theory/models unproven by experimentation/observation.

    Close minded is claiming theory trumps observation and models trump experiments.

    Close minded is insisting solar panels do not and cannot warm the environment where they are placed when ever single building, every single parking lot, every single structure all do that same thing everywhere they are placed.

  17. Rincon says:

    Sorry, when I have the choice between believing Isaac Newton or some scientist (and his two “colleagues”) paid by unknown benefactors, I believe Isaac.

  18. Steve says:

    yeah, cuz ol’ Isaac is THE ULTIMATE authority on grid scale solar plants!

    laugh, yu funny

  19. Rincon says:

    Since his three laws of thermodynamics have never been shown to be wrong, I have a tendency to believe them. A conservative zealot though, may dismiss them in a heartbeat if they conflict with his political beliefs.

  20. Steve says:

    From that perspective, every construction project is destined to produce a warming effect on its immediate environment…..even solar panels!

    yu double funny!

  21. Rincon says:

    According to the second law of thermodynamics, solar panels should cool the surrounding area. But don’t worry. You don’t have to believe it.

  22. Steve says:

    Theory is fine until proven with experiments. If theory does not match observed phenomena, then theory is not complete or is being incorrectly applied in models. If observations obtained by experimentation show something counter to theory, theory must be adjusted to reflect the reality shown in observation. Yet you keep on going with, theory over observation and modeling over experimentation.

    I would post a link to the abstract listed in the IPCC, it is several pages long and uses lots of big words that would probably turn you off since you wont even give the digest version a proper read.

    Get a freaking clue!

  23. Rincon says:

    Your insults are as unwelcome as they are childish.

    You miss the most important caveat. The experiment must be designed and done properly. Any omission or mistake can completely invalidate it. When you insist on changing a theory to accommodate an experiment, the new theory has to accommodate the new experiment AND all preexisting experiments, not just the new one. Your new theory merely discards the second law of thermodynamics. I insist that any explanation must accommodate this law. At this moment, there is no such explanation.

    Unlike you, I don’t claim certainty at this time. There could be a heat island effect – or not. But our discussion is strictly academic. I’ll give you a pass on this one as long as you agree that, until more data is available, it makes no sense to presume that a fossil fuel plant would perform better in this regard.

  24. Steve says:

    ” The experiment must be designed and done properly.”
    It was.

    The theory you so love is improperly applied in this case.

    I never claimed any certainty, unless you insist on claiming it wasn’t you who posted (https://4thst8.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/editorial-be-cautious-in-approving-another-renewable-energy-project/#comment-68743)
    “One scientist does one very limited study and you buy it hook, line and sinker”…

    Which I did not.

  25. Rincon says:

    So you don’t buy it hook, line and sinker? You might have saved us the trouble. We are in at least partial agreement.

  26. Steve says:

    I made clear the study is the first of its kind. The article made it clear too. They also made it clear, more are on the way.
    Patrick claimed Reziak had nothing to back his description of the temperature effects coming off grid scale solar plant near him. I posted this to show Patrick was wrong, as usual.
    You made it what it became.

  27. deleted says:

    ““Mirror-based solar is scorched-earth, and does far more damage than any equivalent in other types of generation.”

    Huh? Other than you saying so, any evidence of this at all?”

    “Patrick claimed Reziak had nothing to back his description of the temperature effects coming off grid scale solar plant near him.”

    Steve, you are a fuking idiot.

  28. Steve says:

    Patrick, you again show how much you are wrong by cherry picking and then, admitting your error. (in your own special way as usual)

    “I lived downwind of one in SoCal, and even five miles away it raised our average temperature by ten degrees, altered wind patterns so we no longer got afternoon cooling, and caused a dust bowl we’d never had before.”

    https://4thst8.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/editorial-be-cautious-in-approving-another-renewable-energy-project/#comment-68734

  29. Steve says:

    As for “scorched earth” Patrick, of anyone, should know about reductio ad absurdum.

    After all, Patrick uses that all the time.

  30. Rincon says:

    Nice to see you agreeing with “deleted”, Steve. I’m sure you’re aware that reductio ad absurdum is generally a valid use of logic.

  31. Steve says:

    Under certain conditions, such as Reziak used it, yes.

    I have agreed with Patrick on numerous occasions. Probably pisses him off.

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