‘Just give me the warm power of the sun …’ it’s all the same

Generic pix accompanying story about new solar power plant.

If all else fails, read the instructions.

The morning paper carried a story today about a proposal to build a solar powered electrical generation facility near Tonopah. The online version carries a generic pix of solar panels, though the story says the plant will have “eight solar towers.”

The story does not say the plant will be a solar thermal plant, using molten salt like the Crescent Dunes plant.

But an online posting about the new Sandstone Solar Energy facility carries a rendering.

Rendering of proposed Sandstone Solar Energy plant.

 

If it is for the sake of going green all is forgiven

When you’ve engaged in a lengthy writerly career you all too often find yourself saying: Darn I wish I had written that.

That was precisely the feeling when I read this in an Investor’s Business Daily editorial today:

“If as many birds being burned by solar power farms built in the U.S. were to wash up on our beaches soaked in crude oil from a leaking offshore well, the outrage would be deafening.

“But as with the wind turbines that now cover acre upon acre of former ‘pristine’ countryside, what amount to avian Cuisinarts slicing and dicing everything that flies, including endangered species, only the crickets are chirping.”

The news was reported about a week ago in a couple of online places, but not widely reported.

During a four-hour test on January 14 of the sun reflecting mirrors at the Crescent Dunes solar thermal power plant near Tonopah, 130 birds were incinerated in a solar flux, the focal point of the mirrors which eventually will be used to melt salt and drive a turbine to generate electricity. This is similar to the plant in Ivanpah, which uses water to drive turbines and also has been incinerating birds at an alarming rate — at least alarming to some.

According to Basin and Range Watch, “several biologists on the project site during surveys reported seeing the birds fly into the solar flux, ‘turn white, and vaporize.’ No remains were found.”

This happened a month before another golden eagle was found dead at the Spring Valley wind farm near Ely. A golden eagle was killed there two years ago. The so-called allowable “take” for eagles at the wind farm is one. With this second death a Technical Advisory Committee is supposed to meet and recommend what mitigation to take, which could curtail operation of turbines or even shut down turbines.

The outcry has largely been deafening silence.

A company representative for SolarReserve, the operator of Crescent Dunes, said that apparently the bird deaths occurred during something called “standby” where the mirrors were focused and formed a visible bright spot in the sky above the tower during testing. The company says that once the mirrors are focused on the tower, it appears that the brightness and solid structure is enough to scare away the birds.

The solution they came up with for standby, which during normal operation will be for a few minutes each day during the early morning, is to spread out the mirror pointing in more of a distributed shape covering hundreds of meters just above the tower so that no single point in the sky has too high of a concentration.

The representative said this change appears to have corrected the problem as the company reports zero bird fatalities since they implemented this solution approximately 30 days ago, despite being in the standby position as well as focused on the tower for most days over the past few weeks. They said this is being monitored by an independent environmental consultant, who is carefully watching the area around the tower with high powered binoculars at all times during testing.

The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in February 2014 | Photo: Matt Hiontsa/Flickr/Creative Commons License

 

Reporting on solar power plants — a week late and few dollars short

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System just across the California border. (AP file photo by John Locher)

The Las Vegas newspaper finally got around to printing an AP story about the fact that huge solar thermal power plant just across the border in California is not performing as advertised.

In fact, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System  is producing half of its expected annual output, the story says, though others have put the output at 30 percent of rated capacity or even one quarter — and that was more than a week ago.

Though the story relates that the $2.2 billion project was built by BrightSource Energy with a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee, it doesn’t bother to mention that the billionaire owners are not paying loan payments and are seeking a $539 million cash grant from the Treasury Department, as reported by The Wall Street Journal on Sept. 23.

Though it has been reported that the plant has applied to use more natural gas to get its boilers operating when the sun fails to do the job, the story details that operators had thought they would need to use natural gas an hour a day, but instead are using gas an average of 4½ hours a day. So how much of the plant’s half-capacity production is from solar and how much from gas? Perhaps that’s were the one quarter figure comes from.

The story also makes no mention of the thousands of birds that have been killed in 800-degree heat of the sun’s rays focused by thousands of mirrors on the plant’s 450-foot tall towers.

Harry Reid was once quoted in a BrightSource press release about the Ivanpah project: “I am very happy to see utility-scale solar projects like this one moving forward with strong Administration support, and I am hopeful that this project will serve as a cornerstone of the clean energy economy in the Southwestern U.S. I look forward to BrightSource and other solar companies putting more Nevadans to work by building major projects like this in Nevada very soon.”

In 2010 Harry held a fundraiser at BrightSource’s headquarters in California, shortly after the firm got the $1.6 billion loan guarantee.

A website called The Party Blog reported on some other cozy relationships. Brightsource reportedly paid $40,000 to R&R Partners, supporters of Reid, to work on stimulus funding matters. BrightSource also had a deal with Harvey Whittemore’s moribund Coyote Springs Land Company — Whittemore was tight with Harry until he went to prison for illegal contributions to Reid — for the lease of some land for further solar projects.

 

 

Do the math and find out who benefits from proposed Moapa solar panel project

NV Energy’s Southern Nevada division, Nevada Power, is asking the Public Utilities Commission to reconsider its rejection of a proposed $438 million, 200-megawatt solar panel project on the Moapa River Paiute Indian Reservation.

Approving the Moapa project “reduces the impact of retiring and replacing coal-fired generation on customers, provides value to customers through incremental fuel diversity, generates construction jobs in 2015, and yields a net positive impact on Nevada’s economy,” the Review-Journal account quotes the utility as arguing.

NV Energy says it needs more generating capacity to replace that lost due to the legislatively mandated shut down of its Reid Gardner coal-fired plant. According to NV Energy, that plant has a 557 megawatt capacity.

Though the PUC nixed the Moapa solar project, it did approve the utility buying two existing gas-generated plants in North Las Vegas that can produce up to 496 megawatts of electricity and the purchase of a 15-megawatt solar project at Nellis Air Force Base. That covers most of the lost capacity right there, leaving the company only 46 megawatts short, not 200 megawatts.

PUC documents say the shortage is actually 54 megawatts. No need to quibble. Besides the PUC says that shortfall, when it is needed, can be provided by spending on $85 million, not $438 million.

The PUC determined approval of the Moapa solar plant would have cost ratepayers $50 million in 2017 alone, which “may have a significant effect on the creation of jobs in Nevada.” So much for creating jobs, as NV Energy and Harry Reid claim.

PUC Commissioner David Noble said, “Paying for generating capacity that is not needed places unnecessary costs on ratepayers.”

But monopoly NV Energy, owned by billionaire Warren Buffett, earns its profits by being allowed about a 10 percent return on equity. The more equity, the more profits. The ratepayers shoulder all the risk and cost.

Obama and Reid look at solar panels at Nellis AFB.

As for that Nellis solar power, Harry Reid once bragged about how the solar array was saving the Air Force $1 million in power bills. He neglected to note that the installation cost $100 million. The return on investment would take 100 years for solar panels that have a life expectancy of 20 to 30 years.

If Harry Reid had his way our electricity bills would necessarily skyrocket

Harry Reid, right, at groundbreaking for First Solar project on Moapa reservation. (Energy Department photo)

Predictably Harry Reid, D-Green Energy Cronies, launched into full pouting mode after the Nevada Public Utilities Commission killed a proposal by NV Energy to build a $438 million, 200-megawatt photovoltaic solar power plant on the Moapa River Paiute Indian Reservation.

“This solar project would have provided hundreds of good paying jobs for Nevadans as well as economic and health benefits for the Moapa Band of Paiutes, who have been subjected to nearly five decades of pollution from the Reid-Gardner plant,” Reid’s statement reads. “With Nevada’s economy on the upswing, more power from clean energy sources is needed to feed the grid and fuel job creation. What more fitting then a solar plant on the Moapa Band of Paiute’s reservation?”

Though the coal-fired Reid Gardner Generating Station had undergone extensive technology improvements and was among the cleanest coal facilities in the nation, Harry “Coal Makes Us Sick” Reid managed to twist enough arms in the 2013 Legislature to garner passage of Senate Bill 123, which mandates closing the plant — with ratepayers picking up every last dime of expense rather than the shareholders of NV Energy — and replacing its 557 megawatt capacity with brand new natural gas-fired and renewable energy plants.

Of course, Sen. Reid neglects to mention that the customers of NV Energy don’t need 200 megawatts of power, but only 54 megawatts, and even that can be delayed awhile. Nor does he mention that those 54 megawatts, when and if it is needed, could be provided by spending $85 million on standard combustion turbine technology, not $438 million.

The Moapa Project, as proposed, would have been added to the total equity of billionaire owner Warren Buffett’s NV Energy. The PUC currently allows a return on equity of a little more than 10 percent, though the power company has asked for 15 percent for some recent project. The more equity, the more profits. Do the math: 10 percent of $438 million.

PUC documents indicate that approval of the Moapa plant would have cost ratepayers $50 million in 2017 alone, which “may have a significant effect on the creation of jobs in Nevada.” Possibly permanently negating Reid’s “hundreds of good paying (temporary) jobs?”

Add to this the fact that solar power costs about three to four times as much per kilowatt-hour as power from coal- or natural gas-fired plants.

Nor does the power company need the Moapa plant to meet its legislatively and arbitrarily established renewable power requirement. Even without this project NV Energy has enough renewables to satisfy the law through 2027.

All of the added expense for NV Energy would be propagated across the grid and affect the rates of power uses throughout the region, whether customers of NV Energy or not.

Additionally, the utilities commissioners were concerned that the power company had not opened the proposal to competitive bidding, which might help assure the lowest possible price for ratepayers.

Power users across Nevada should be grateful someone is looking out for us when it comes to our power bills, because it sure isn’t Harry Reid or our state lawmakers. Paying higher power bills makes us sick, Harry.

 

 

 

 

 

Movie questions why we should destroy the desert to save the planet

Movie flier.

Movie flier.

At one point in the film an exasperated woman explains, “Ruining things to go ‘green’ is an oxymoron.”

That is pretty much the theme of Robert Lundahl’s film “Who Are My People,” which will have its Nevada premiere Tuesday, the evening after Harry Reid puts on his perennial traveling planet salvation show, otherwise called the National Clean Energy Summit 6.0, which advocates building industrial-scale wind and solar projects on public land throughout the West.

Unlike Reid, Lundahl, who grew up in the desert Southwest, sees something wrong with literally paving over hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine desert, which has been home to Native Americans and a wide variety of wildlife for thousands of years, with solar panels, solar mirrors and windmills, which in 25 years or so will be so much hazardous waste to be abandoned or hauled off, further scarring the landscape.

The hour-long film is a pastiche of desert scenes and running commentary from archeologists and scientists to tribal leaders, who point to various sacred sites that could be destroyed by the industrial-scale “green energy” projects.

Intaglios near Blythe, Calif.

Some of the more striking footage in the film is aerial footage of the Intaglios in the desert near Blythe, Calif. The largest of these prehistoric figures, or geoglyphs, measures 171 feet from head to toe. Archaeologists have no way of determining their age. According to the Mohave and Quechan tribes, the human figures represent Mastamho, the Creator of Earth and all life. The animal figures represent
Hatakulya, one of two mountain lions/persons who helped in the Creation. Sacred ceremonial dances were held in the area to honor the Creator of life.

Only a month ago, BrightSource Energy killed its Rio Mesa project near Blythe after 740 fossils were found on the site. The project would have been similar to the company’s Ivanpah project, using mirrors to heat water in 750-foot-tall towers.

“Ultimately it’s simple,” says Lundahl, who describes himself as an environmentalist and is an advocate of roof-top distributive solar panels, “you can’t destroy things to ‘go green,” and that includes the traditional practices and life-ways of Native American communities who were here long before the United States was even an idea, and the environment and traditional, indigenous landscapes which support those communities. You can’t have ‘green’ without social justice.”

But the Interior Department has already set aside 285,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land in six states — including 60,395 acres in Nevada — where permitting for utility-scale solar projects will be streamlined. Perhaps railroaded is a better term.

The Nevada land alone has the potential to generate 6,700 megawatts of power, in 2012 NV Energy’s peak generating capacity was only 6,000 megawatts.

Frame from movie.

Lundahl has invited Harry Reid and a number of the attendees at his “green” confab to attend the screening. I doubt any of them would be willing to hear an alternative point of view.

Lundahl invited Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who is scheduled to be at Reid’s summit.

“I want her to come, and hear first hand what the impacts of BLM policies are on the ground,” he said. “It’s not just a story about Indians, but it is a story about all of us. When did the public interest become corporate interest? When did public lands become set aside for profit making enterprises by multinational corporations with high placed ties to government officials? I did request interviews from the BLM but they declined all interview requests multiple times.”

Lundahl also points out in the film that huge amounts of taxpayer money is propping up these “green” projects in the form of grants and tax credits.

And much of that money is going to cronies of Obama and Reid. According to the Energy Department’s own figures, by the end of 2011 $16
billion of $20 billion given out in one loan guarantee program alone went to Obama backers. Energy’s inspector general, Gregory Friedman, testified that contracts were steered to “friends and family.”

The showing of “Who Are My People” is Aug. 13, 7 p.m., at the Flamingo Library Main Auditorium at 1401 E. Flamingo Road. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets at the door are $7.50 but can be purchased online.

At last year’s “green” summit, Reid bragged that solar panels on Nellis Air Force Base save the Air Force $1 million per year. He neglected to say the panels cost $100 million and will last no more than 30 years.

Questions no one thinks to ask: Why, why, why? And what does it cost?

Sometimes I think that old journalistic imperative should be updated to: Who? What? When? Where? How? Why, why, why, why, why? And what’s it cost?

There’s a story in the local paper today — one of those follow-up thumb suckers to the news from a couple of days ago, in this case the collapse of the proposed solar power project by ENN Mojave Energy near Laughlin — offering the rather wishy-washy projection that the future of solar energy in Nevada is “mixed,” whatever that means.

The story never addresses why anyone is pushing solar power — to save the planet from global warming, of course — or what it would cost if it is built.

The story notes that Warren Buffett’s Iowa-based MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. is in the process of purchasing the state’s monopoly power company, NV Energy, and quotes some guy as saying. “You’ve seen him take a very progressive stance toward renewables.” You’ve also seen him take some very progressive stances on making money. And with the “NVision” plan foisted on ratepayers by our lawmakers in Carson City, Buffett could build any kind of power generation at any cost and be guaranteed to make a profit — sort of like those cost-plus contracts.

There appears to be one little flaw in the underlining premise: It is false. There is no global warming and there has been none for 16 years.

The U.K. newspaper the Mail, reports on data quietly released by the Met Office this past week:

“The world stopped getting warmer almost 16 years ago, according to new data released last week.

“The figures, which have triggered debate among climate scientists, reveal that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012, there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures.

“This means that the ‘plateau’ or ‘pause’ in global warming has now lasted for about the same time as the previous period when temperatures rose, 1980 to 1996. Before that, temperatures had been stable or declining for about 40 years.”

In fact, a Forbes magazine article quotes several scientists who say we may be headed into a mini ice age.

Speaking of cost, which hardly anyone ever does, according to calculations provided to Public Utilities Commission commissioners at a meeting earlier this year, various renewable energy and power efficiency programs dictated by law already account for nearly 12 percent of the cost of electricity in northern Nevada and about 8 percent in southern Nevada.

Like the editorialists at Investor’s Business Daily, I sometimes think we are living in a fantasy world of make-believe: “There’s no global warming dragon to slay. It has been as much a myth as any fire-breathing lizard from a children’s book.”

But we keep on paying those gallant knights. This week the Los Angles Times reports:

” The Obama administration is considering a sweeping initiative to address climate change, including the first-ever limits on carbon dioxide from power plants, the country’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to people familiar with the discussions.”

It is enough to make one swoon.