Editorial: Don’t despoil public lands with wind and solar power

Nevada Democratic U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen recently announced she is co-sponsoring a piece of legislation titled the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act of 2019, which is touted as bipartisan legislation to promote the development of renewable energy on public lands — which is the vast majority of the land in Nevada.

“Nevada’s public lands are a source of pride and natural beauty in our state, but they also represent a potential home for clean, renewable power that will benefit Nevada and our country,” the senator is quoted in a press release put out by her office. “At a time when we’re facing the real, dangerous effects of climate change, we must find policy solutions to embrace clean energy alternatives to curb harmful carbon emissions. This bipartisan legislation would help to identify and advance additional renewable energy projects in wind, solar, and geothermal on federal lands, which make up nearly 80 percent of our state. I will continue to support forward-thinking policies that put us on a pathway towards a clean energy future.”

The bill would create another federal bureaucracy called the Renewable Energy Coordination Office, which would be tasked with streamlining the permitting of renewable energy development. The bill would set aside a small portion of the leasing revenue for state and local governments.

The trouble with renewable energy generating facilities — especially wind and solar — is that they are not cheap, are not really all that clean and constitute an incredible eyesore on the pristine landscape — witness the massive wind farm near Ely, the photovoltaic solar panels near Boulder City and the thermal solar mirror installations near Ivanpah and Tonopah.

“Not withstanding the romantic view of wind and solar power held by many, they are not cost-competitive, they are very far from clean, and they would do remarkably little to limit greenhouse-gas emissions and anthropogenic climate change, the ‘crisis view of which is unsupported by the evidence,” writes Benjamin Zycher of the American Enterprise Institute in an October edition of the National Review. “Several available analyses show that a major expansion of wind and solar power would increase the emissions of such conventional pollutants as carbon monoxide.”

Zycher cites Institute for Energy Research estimates that wind power is about twice as expensive as conventional gas-fired power and that solar power is almost three times as expensive. Those costs are passed on to the residential and business power customers or the taxpayers via subsidies. “The ubiquitous claims that wind and solar power now are cost-competitive ignore substantial costs for backup power and much longer transmission lines, and the effects of massive subsidies and guaranteed market shares,” Zycher explains.

And they gobble land. Zycher says that to achieve the renewable energy goals of the Green New Deal would require a land mass 15 percent larger than the entire state of California.

As for preventing global warming, the author says the renewable energy goals of the Green New Deal, even under highly favorable assumptions, would reduce temperatures by the year 2100 by about 0.173 degrees Celsius. He also notes that research suggests that of the 1.5 degree Celsius increase in temperatures since 1850 that mankind is responsible for only about half a degree.

Never mind the number of migratory birds killed every year by wind and solar power plants.

Meanwhile, Mark Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writing in The Wall Street Journal, points out that one wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of nonrecyclable plastic, while solar power requires even more cement, steel, glass and other metals, which require massive earth moving by fossil-fuel powered heavy equipment.

Is this really what we should be doing with our public lands?

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.

(Reuters pix via National Review)

5 comments on “Editorial: Don’t despoil public lands with wind and solar power

  1. Anonymous says:

    I trust the next democratic president will do whatever it is that most angers the right.

    And on that promise alone, they will secure my vote.

    As we all know, THIS has become acceptable political action by the right and rather than fight it, we as democrats must embrace it.

    Owning cons.

  2. John Garrett says:

    (I can’t tell if this comment posted the first time, so I’m reposting.)

    I appreciate your concern for the impact of solar and wind farms on open spaces in the southwest. Rooftops should be the first choice for solar panels, but I suspect that it costs nearly twice as much as large scale solar farms. For example, I was studying the energy plans for my state of California and discovered this chart of assumed costs for various renewable energy (from California Independent System Operators, ISO 2016-2017 Transmission Planning Process):

    Large Solar In-State: 242.19
    Large Solar Out-State: 183.17
    Small Solar In-State: 334.80
    Solar Thermal In-State: 551.55
    Wind In-State: 239.14
    Wind Out-State: 223.88
    Pumped Storage In-State: 407.91

    I agree that renewable energy has high costs, but I don’t agree with your source of the American Enterprise Institute. I think that source downplays the significance of planetary warming likely from continued use of fossil fossils. I would have happy to elaborate on why I question that source, if you’re interested.

  3. Rincon says:

    You quoted the American Enterprise Institute. In reply, would you like to see what Greenpeace has to say? I suspect you would see a polar opposite. Which extremist should we believe? I know which one YOU believe. I consider myself somewhat less gullible. I don’t believe either one.

    Funny how the Texans were “fooled” about wind power. They have adopted it in a big way. If they were a country, they would rank 5th in the world for wind power capacity. Wind accounts for over 15% of their power. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Texas
    Now, I must ask you to explain why, since wind power is soooo expensive, how Texas manages to have the eighth LOWEST electric rates in the nation. http://www.neo.ne.gov/programs/stats/inf/204.htm

    Somehow, your American Enterprise fella isn’t passing the reality check.

    You were also fretting about using large tracts of land. Here in Illinois, we grow crops under them. It’s popular with farmers, who receive a yearly check regardless of weather or crop prices. Great for their business. Our electric rates are 20th lowest. Iowa ranks 11th lowest, and yet they rely on wind for a full 37% of their power. How is this possible with the supposedly massive expense of wind power? https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf=ACYBGNSTFmrZL7NPQhyX8eklqnF1oxbGxA%3A1575175010207&ei=YkPjXZyTDO-N_Qa_w6DIBA&q=wind+energy+in+iowa&oq=wind+power+in+iowa&gs_l=psy-ab.1.1.0j0i22i30l9.7401.14084..18380…2.1..0.252.2320.3j15j1……0….1..gws-wiz…..10..0i71j35i362i39j35i39j0i67j0i273j0i131j0i20i263j0i10.hD5WbCnFDWY

    And you wring your hands about the ugliness of windmills that average a tower height of 212 feet, while smokestacks of coal fired power plants run from 500 to over 1,000 feet, two to four times as high. Their plumes of smoke of course, are much larger than the stacks, especially in winter. Obviously, their smoke can be seen at far greater distances than those dinky little windmills. And unlike coal plants, windmills don’t STINK. https://www.gao.gov/assets/320/318175.pdf They also don’t aggravate asthma, spew mercury, cause lung disease, and there’s no ash or slurry disposal problem.

  4. […] Don’t despoil public lands with wind and solar power Nevada Democratic U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen recently announced she is co-sponsoring a piece of legislation titled the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act of 2019, which is touted as bipartisan legislation to promote the development of renewable energy on public lands – which is the vast majority of the land in Nevada. […]

  5. Anonymous says:

    The Dotard has heard you Thomas and now has taken action!

    To destroy the entire solar industry (and all the jobs it brings) singlehandedly! Yay capitalism!

    Tariffs on solar panels implemented under President Trump have significantly harmed the U.S. solar industry, according to a new analysis released Tuesday.

    More than 62,000 jobs and nearly $19 billion in new private sector investment has been lost due to the 2018 tariffs Trump placed on solar imports, according to the study by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The number of jobs lost is nearly double the toll the SEIA first estimated when Trump announced the tariffs.

    The $28 billion U.S. solar industry has been significantly affected by the tariffs. The industry gets 80 percent of its solar panel products from imports, largely from China. The nearly 25 percent tariff applies to all imported solar photovoltaic cells and modules, the main technology on panels that convert solar energy into electricity.”


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