Renewable Energy Is Killing the Environment

 

IVANPAH_solar_plant_green_builderA lot has been made of California’s government-funded embrace of so-called green energy. Driving from the Arizona border to LA, you’ll be hypnotized by hundreds of whirring windmills littering Coachella Valley and distracted by the blindingly bright light generated by vast new solar arrays.

A bit north in the Mojave Desert lies the $2.2 billion Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, wedged into the public land between the Mojave National Preserve, Mesquite Wilderness, and Stateline Wilderness. In its first year, it produced just 40 percent of the promised energy, greatly improved in its second year, then was knocked offline after a misalignment of solar panels caused the central collector to burst into flames.

But it’s not just expensive equipment getting fried. Birds mistake the panels’ reflection for water, fly a bit too low, and they burst into flames as well. And the site takes up so much land that the delicate desert ecosystem suffers, blading away plants and kicking tortoises and other critters out of their habitat.

These effects are making several honest environmentalists change their tune on the building of new solar power facilities. Jacques Leslie, an environmental journalist “concerned about the immense environmental and social consequences of humanity’s heedless, headlong embrace of development,” is raising alarms about a proposed plant in the Mojave:

To learn what most endangers national parks, on the occasion this month of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday, look no farther than Mojave National Preserve, a vast swath of exquisite desert panoramas halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. These days, national parks struggle with all sorts of urgent threats, such as climate change and deteriorating services and infrastructure as a result of underfunding, but Mojave’s biggest menace isn’t what’s happening inside the preserve, it’s what increasingly surrounds it.

Three industrial-scale solar farms adjacent to the preserve are already in operation, the Interior Department has approved a fourth, and a wind farm proposal is getting serious consideration. One of the solar farms, Ivanpah, made news recently for frying birds and setting itself on fire.

Soda Mountain, the solar project approved for construction on Bureau of Land Management land next to the Mojave preserve, would be the largest industrial site within 100 miles. It would isolate and possibly doom a portion of the desert’s depleted population of bighorn sheep, and like the other energy projects, it would be visible from the preserve. By generating enough renewable electricity for 86,000 homes, the project would address one environmental problem, climate change, while creating others: It would show that an energy project can be renewable without being green.

I’m not against solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources in the slightest; the more options, the better. But environmentalists like Leslie are learning the hard truth taught by Thomas Sowell: “There are no solutions; there are only trade-offs.” Oil is cheap and plentiful, but creates significant pollution. Hydroelectric doesn’t create pollution, but should we be stopping up rivers and creating inland seas like Lake Mead? Nuclear is effective and releases only steam, but what do you do with the waste?

Despite being sold as a cure-all by politicians, these trade-offs also exist with renewable energy sources. Windmills are inefficient, they Cuisinart birds, and barely break even economically due to high maintenance costs. Solar arrays are similarly inefficient, require extensive mining to build panels, take up massive amounts of land, and ignite anything that flies into their path.

But since environmentally conscious voters don’t see belching smokestacks, they assume trade-offs don’t exist. There are no magic energy sources that will heal the planet. There are only trade-offs.

Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 37 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Thatcher

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: the hard truth taught by Thomas Sowell: “There are no solutions; there are only trade-offs.”

    But but but…….I thought if we elected THE ONE WE WERE WAITING FOR all these problems would be over!

    Seriously great quote from Sowell.

    • #1
    • August 24, 2016, at 3:28 PM PDT
    • Like
  2. Coolidge

    I work for a company called Alpha Technologies (www.alpha.com). One part of our business is renewable energy (http://www.alpha.com/solar/). Why are you trying to take food out of my kid’s mouths? Huh? What the heck? ;-)

    • #2
    • August 24, 2016, at 3:29 PM PDT
    • Like
  3. Inactive

    There’s a war on “distracted driving”. You better not even glance at Google Maps on your smartphone!

    Meanwhile, we’ll set up these giant, whirling blades right next to the highway. That won’t be distracting at all.

    • #3
    • August 24, 2016, at 3:37 PM PDT
    • Like
  4. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed. Post author

    Johnny Dubya:There’s a war on “distracted driving”. You better not even glance at Google Maps on your smartphone!

    Meanwhile, we’ll set up these giant, whirling blades right next to the highway. That won’t be distracting at all.

    I actually get dizzy driving through the Palm Springs area. Need to lower my head and focus on the highway lanes.

    • #4
    • August 24, 2016, at 3:39 PM PDT
    • Like
  5. Inactive

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Geothermal is Hydroelectric doesn’t create pollution, but should we be stopping up rivers and creating inland seas like Lake Mead?

    FIFY. Geothermal is the extraction of hot water/steam (“thermal”) from underground sources (“geo”). If you use the water you find there it tends to come up with lots of nasty dissolved toxic stuff. You can avoid that with a closed loop system, but that is pretty pricey.

    The answer to your question is yes, we should, or rather, we already have. I think the majority of hydro resources in the US have already been developed. But speaking of tradeoffs – what do you call salmon that goes through a turbine? Bait.

    • #5
    • August 24, 2016, at 3:40 PM PDT
    • Like
  6. Inactive

    Spin:I work for a company called Alpha Technologies (www.alpha.com). One part of our business is renewable energy (http://www.alpha.com/solar/). Why are you trying to take food out of my kid’s mouths? Huh? What the heck? ?

    We should chat some day – a fair bit of my practice is energy, especially renewables. I drive some of my industry friends nuts by saying we’re all shameless welfare queens, except we drive Mercedes and BMWs. I would be delighted to go back to deals on proper power plants – the kind where you burn stuff.

    • #6
    • August 24, 2016, at 3:47 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. Thatcher

    I have a second home in the Palm Springs area where sunshine abounds and electricity costs are sky high. Four months ago I innocently began the process of putting solar panels on my roof, thinking it was the right thing to do for the environment and my electrical bill. The process has been a nightmare in approvals and permits. It’s only now finally come to an end. Every electric company as well as cities and states in this country spout energy conservation, yet they do everything possible to make the process difficult, primarily to protect the huge profits made by utility companies. In Nevada, Warren Buffet has almost killed solar after buying out a utility and requiring huge fees to connect to the grid. The ugly truth most people don’t realize is that you must still get your electricity from the utility company as they buy the electricity generated by your solar panels at a discount and then sell it back to you. The end result is still lower electrical bills, but I am convinced solar will never be the panacea it was meant to be until there are practical, cost effective batteries that store your own power without connecting to the grid.

    • #7
    • August 24, 2016, at 3:48 PM PDT
    • Like
  8. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed. Post author

    Isaac Smith:

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Geothermal is Hydroelectric doesn’t create pollution, but should we be stopping up rivers and creating inland seas like Lake Mead?

    FIFY. Geothermal is the extraction of hot water/steam (“thermal”) from underground sources (“geo”). If you use the water you find there it tends to come up with lots of nasty dissolved toxic stuff. You can avoid that with a closed loop system, but that is pretty pricey.

    The answer to your question is yes, we should, or rather, we already have. I think the majority of hydro resources in the US have already been developed. But speaking of tradeoffs – what do you call salmon that goes through a turbine? Bait.

    Ugh. I’ll fix — thanks for the correction!

    • #8
    • August 24, 2016, at 3:49 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. Inactive

    And in populated areas those solar panels are also a hazard if they are on the roof of a building and there’s a fire. Firefighters were called off from dousing a large fire at a D&W warehouse for fear of electrocution, a couple years back in NJ. Nearby residents were told to stay indoors with windows shut, because panels can release toxic fumes if they are burning.

    • #9
    • August 24, 2016, at 3:50 PM PDT
    • Like
  10. Member

    But if we don’t but up enough solar thermal plants how will be signal all the unicorns where they are supposed to land!

    • #10
    • August 24, 2016, at 3:52 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. Moderator

    I’m opposed to subsidizing green energy, but purely because it’s bad economic policy. I don’t care if some birds get chopped up or fried. I had part of a chopped and fried bird for lunch, so who am I to wring my hands over that? And “delicate desert ecosystem”? Tell me anyplace outside of a city that isn’t considered to be a delicate ecosystem by the anti-energy left.

    • #11
    • August 24, 2016, at 3:53 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed. Post author

    Randy Weivoda:I’m opposed to subsidizing green energy, but purely because it’s bad economic policy. I don’t care if some birds get chopped up or fried. I had part of a chopped and fried bird for lunch, so who am I to wring my hands over that? And “delicate desert ecosystem”? Tell me anyplace outside of a city that isn’t considered to be a delicate ecosystem by the anti-energy left.

    I’m demonstrating that the same environmental arguments by the left apply to renewable energy sources just as much as any other energy source. Every option is a trade-off.

    • #12
    • August 24, 2016, at 4:29 PM PDT
    • Like
  13. Moderator

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    Randy Weivoda:I’m opposed to subsidizing green energy, but purely because it’s bad economic policy. I don’t care if some birds get chopped up or fried. I had part of a chopped and fried bird for lunch, so who am I to wring my hands over that? And “delicate desert ecosystem”? Tell me anyplace outside of a city that isn’t considered to be a delicate ecosystem by the anti-energy left.

    I’m demonstrating that the same environmental arguments by the left apply to renewable energy sources just as much as any other energy source. Every option is a trade-off.

    I understand what you’re demonstrating, it just seems like a Jedi using the Dark Side of the Force. It may get you to your goal more quickly, but at the risk of corrupting your soul.

    • #13
    • August 24, 2016, at 4:38 PM PDT
    • Like
  14. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed. Post author

    Randy Weivoda:

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    Randy Weivoda:I’m opposed to subsidizing green energy, but purely because it’s bad economic policy. I don’t care if some birds get chopped up or fried. I had part of a chopped and fried bird for lunch, so who am I to wring my hands over that? And “delicate desert ecosystem”? Tell me anyplace outside of a city that isn’t considered to be a delicate ecosystem by the anti-energy left.

    I’m demonstrating that the same environmental arguments by the left apply to renewable energy sources just as much as any other energy source. Every option is a trade-off.

    I understand what you’re demonstrating, it just seems like a Jedi using the Dark Side of the Force. It may get you to your goal more quickly, but at the risk of corrupting your soul.

    Oil and solar and nuclear all have negative impacts on the environment. Personally, I would prefer an energy source that didn’t, but no such technology exists. I accept a limited amount of degradation to the benefits the energy brings.

    • #14
    • August 24, 2016, at 5:11 PM PDT
    • Like
  15. Member

    So the solar arrays fry birds and displace bighorn sheep and the enviro activists don’t start sit-ins and protests? But when a “non-green” development is proposed, owls or fish or turtles or salamanders are discovered whose existence is endangered by the project – which is then delayed for years by regulatory agencies or put on hold by the courts. Interesting how that works!

    • #15
    • August 24, 2016, at 5:44 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. Inactive

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: I’m demonstrating that the same environmental arguments by the left apply to renewable energy sources just as much as any other energy source. Every option is a trade-off.

    @exjon This is Debate Club arguing – “Yes, but…” The Left doesn’t bother with that.

    For those who want to read how the other side really argues, try this

    That’s the polemical playing field where today’s policy wonks, activists and decision-makers are deciding the future. McKibben was on the Democratic Party Convention platform committee. He has hundreds of thousands of followers.

    No “Yes, but…” for them.

    • #16
    • August 24, 2016, at 6:10 PM PDT
    • Like
  17. Member

    Pugshot:So the solar arrays fry birds and displace bighorn sheep and the enviro activists don’t start sit-ins and protests? But when a “non-green” development is proposed, owls or fish or turtles or salamanders are discovered whose existence is endangered by the project – which is then delayed for years by regulatory agencies or put on hold by the courts. Interesting how that works!

    Windmills kill bald eagles. They get permits for how many they can kill.

    But try putting your hands on an eagle feather, no matter how it was come by. Just try.

    • #17
    • August 24, 2016, at 6:12 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. Member

    If it’s not cost-effective, then, since money tracks consumption, it’s not even a net savings in resources.

    I wonder how much carbon dioxide the production and transport of those resources involves?

    • #18
    • August 24, 2016, at 6:19 PM PDT
    • Like
  19. Thatcher

    Jon,

    The idiotic plans of the Enviromaniacs are the destruction the just keeps on destroying. First, they destroy the economy and jobs with their paranoid fears of problems that don’t exist like MMGW. Next, their solutions are ludicrous. Expensive and worthless, they suck up research dollars, startup investment dollars, and for sure endless taxpayer subsidies to keep the hopeless boondoggle going. Finally, no surprise, these idiot projects are dangerous in their own right.

    Amazing!

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #19
    • August 24, 2016, at 6:28 PM PDT
    • Like
  20. Inactive

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:A bit north in the Mojave Desert lies the $2.2 billion Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, wedged into the public land between the Mojave National Preserve, Mesquite Wilderness, and Stateline Wilderness. In its first year, it produced just 40 percent of the promised energy, greatly improved in its second year, then was knocked offline after a misalignment of solar panels caused the central collector to burst into flames.

    Was I supposed to have laughed at this?

    Because I did.

    • #20
    • August 24, 2016, at 7:09 PM PDT
    • Like
  21. Member

    Let’s not forget California’s revolutionary Cap And Trade system to offset the impact of greenhouse gasses.

    Renewable energy is but a single leg of the environmental triad. The other two legs are Cap and trade offsets, and virtue shaming.

    The latest California Cap and trade auction (held in conjunction with our cap and trade partner Quebec, since no other state in the union is nutty enough to try this Al Gore-esque shell game) netted just $8 million.

    Eight. million. dollars.

    These auctions are supposed to be generating billions per year, to fund such critical matters as California’s High Speed Rail. Like all things green or tax related, projected revenues are only off by a factor of, oh, a thousand.

    Go figure.

    • #21
    • August 24, 2016, at 7:50 PM PDT
    • Like
  22. Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Nuclear is effective and releases only steam, but what do you do with the waste?

    You reprocess and reuse it. Spent fuel rods contain over 90% of their original energy value. Our nuclear waste policy in this country is beyond idiotic.

    • #22
    • August 24, 2016, at 8:11 PM PDT
    • Like
  23. Inactive

    John Davey: to fund such critical matters as California’s High Speed Rail

    But John, you’ll be able to go from Madeira to Bakersfield in 20 minutes…what could be more valuable than that?

    • #23
    • August 24, 2016, at 9:00 PM PDT
    • Like
  24. Inactive

    Nuclear, gas, coal in order these are the most economical electrical power sources and have the least environmental impact. Mostly because of the amount of land that they consume. The global warming hysteria has done more harm than good.

    Even hydropower uses more land than these others, but we construct reservoirs for other reasons like flood control and water storage. For these sort of reservoirs adding hydropower turbines only makes sense.

    • #24
    • August 24, 2016, at 9:50 PM PDT
    • Like
  25. Contributor

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    Johnny Dubya:There’s a war on “distracted driving”. You better not even glance at Google Maps on your smartphone!

    Meanwhile, we’ll set up these giant, whirling blades right next to the highway. That won’t be distracting at all.

    I actually get dizzy driving through the Palm Springs area. Need to lower my head and focus on the highway lanes.

    A couple of weeks ago I drove my oldest to your fair city and as we went through Coachella we had this EXACT discussion. It came down to: ‘if birdies are chopped up in the desert and no-one sees it, did it happen?’

    Everything in life is trade-offs. No absolutes.

    • #25
    • August 24, 2016, at 10:33 PM PDT
    • Like
  26. Member

    Gas is cheaper and cleaner than all of the alternatives, is so abundant the price can remain below the alternatives for beyond the energy horizon. Why are we standing in the way? Wind is a net consumer of energy, so is the dirtiest and most expensive. We can’t stop even the most perverse insanities. It’s crony capitalism all the way down.

    • #26
    • August 25, 2016, at 5:25 AM PDT
    • Like
  27. Coolidge

    goldwaterwoman: I am convinced solar will never be the panacea it was meant to be until there are practical, cost effective batteries that store your own power without connecting to the grid.

    Not even then. Every time you push energy into a battery then pull it out, you lose a significant fraction. The most efficient, practical energy storage known to man is our array of liquid fuels. The energy density of a tank of gasoline or diesel puts battery technology to shame. That’s why we can’t seem to break our “habit”.

    • #27
    • August 25, 2016, at 5:27 AM PDT
    • Like
  28. Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    Johnny Dubya:There’s a war on “distracted driving”. You better not even glance at Google Maps on your smartphone!

    Meanwhile, we’ll set up these giant, whirling blades right next to the highway. That won’t be distracting at all.

    I actually get dizzy driving through the Palm Springs area. Need to lower my head and focus on the highway lanes.

    My wife and I made that drive last December. What began as a somewhat eerie, other-worldly sort of visual experience quickly reached the point of “just plain weird and more than a little ugly.”

    • #28
    • August 25, 2016, at 6:43 AM PDT
    • Like
  29. Member

    The Left’s solar dream can only happen by covering nearly all the desert areas with solar panels. Its good that some environmentalists are coming to grips with what this will entail. Its amazing to compare the meltdowns lefties have over the environmental impacts of nuclear or fracking or drilling where caribou live….but yet little on the massive land area required by wind and solar. Or the dead birds. Solar’s land use multiple over nuclear based on kilowatt produced has to be between 50 and 100.

    • #29
    • August 25, 2016, at 6:49 AM PDT
    • Like
  30. Member

    Spin:I work for a company called Alpha Technologies (www.alpha.com). One part of our business is renewable energy (http://www.alpha.com/solar/). Why are you trying to take food out of my kid’s mouths? Huh? What the heck? ?

    So I can put more food in my kid’s mouths.

    • #30
    • August 25, 2016, at 7:31 AM PDT
    • Like
  1. 1
  2. 2