If solar power is the answer it must have been a bloody stupid question

Now don’t get me wrong, I know solar power on a small scale works very, very well but when you scale that is when things go wrong.

A windy stretch of the Mojave Desert once roamed by tortoises and coyotes has been transformed by hundreds of thousands of mirrors into the largest solar power plant of its type in the world.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, sprawling across roughly 13 square kilometres of federal land near the California-Nevada border, formally opened Thursday (NZT Friday) after years of regulatory and legal tangles ranging from relocating protected tortoises to assessing the impact on Mojave milkweed and other plants.

”The Ivanpah project is a shining example of how America is becoming a world leader in solar energy,” US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement after attending a dedication ceremony at the site.

”This project shows that building a clean-energy economy creates jobs, curbs greenhouse gas emissions and fosters American innovation.”

The US$2.2 billion (NZ$2.5b) complex of three generating units, owned by NRG Energy, Google and BrightSource Energy, can produce nearly 400 megawatts – enough power for 140,000 homes. It began making electricity last year.

A shining example? Really? 

According to US Energy Information Administration data, the cost of building and operating a new solar thermal power plant over its lifetime is greater than generating natural gas, coal or nuclear power.

It costs a conventional coal plant US$100 (NZ$120), on average, to produce a megawatt-hour of power, but that figure is US$261 (NZ$315) for solar thermal power, according to 2011 estimates. The figures do not account for incentives such as state or federal tax credits that can affect the cost.

Since when has building something with costs 2 and half times the cost of the next best alternative smart or even prudent. All it is going to do is lock in massive cost structures and high power prices.

Worse still is the killing ability of these ‘green projects’ against local wildlife.

Government documents show dozens of dead birds from sparrows to hawks have been found on the site, some with melted feathers. The suspected causes of death include collisions with mirrors and scorching.

In November alone, 11 dead birds were found, including two, a blackbird and a warbler, with singed feathers.

The Western Watersheds Project is continuing to push a lawsuit against federal agencies that reviewed the Ivanpah project.

Its California director, Michael J. Connor, said alternatives to the site were not considered and serious environmental impacts, including fragmenting the tortoise population, were ignored.

I’m all for alternate energy solutions…but only when they are smarter, cheaper, more efficient than the next best alternative. These massive projects are nothing of the sort.


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