What Happens When Government Interference Skews The Free Market

America has been on a search for green energy for a long time. Historically man has been  on a quest for a perpetual motion machine. I am not sure the two searches are unrelated.

Yesterday John Hinderaker at Power Line posted an article about the environmental impact of solar energy. Solar energy is not as environmentally friendly as one might assume.

The article cites the example of a 60-acre solar farm at the Minnesota National Guard’s facility at Camp Ripley, Minnesota.

The article reports:

If we devoted a fraction of that space to a natural gas, coal or nuclear facility we could produce 100 times the energy–even at night time, when people need to turn lights on.

It is sad to see military personnel who should know better, and probably do, mouthing the inane pieties of global warming:

“Camp Ripley is now capable of producing as much energy as it consumes,” said Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard. “We can make a better Minnesota and a better world by joining the worldwide initiative to address the serious challenge of climate change.”

Right. We’d prefer you address the serious military challenge of Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and so on. Tom Steward (Tom Steward in a story at the American Experiment) points out the costly reality:

The project’s astonishing $25 million price tag has led to the utility taking fire from state regulators for overpaying for solar panels and long-term lease with the National Guard. The collateral damage includes the northern Minnesota utility’s residential ratepayers, whose bills will rise as a result of the costly solar farm.

The solar facility can provide electricity for only 1,700 homes, a ridiculously small number, at “full capacity.” But solar installations never reach full capacity, and if it is dark or cloudy, they are irrelevant. No one would argue for ugly 60-acre scars on the landscape based on a cost/benefit analysis.

In Duluth, the best proxy for Camp Ripley, there are an average of 77 sunny days per year. Hey, that is better than one in five! Of course, they don’t have any sunny nights in Duluth, so there’s that.

Solar energy is not perfect. In 2014 I wrote an article about the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert. The solar energy complex has the potential to kill as many as 28,000 birds annually. Last month I wrote an article about Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), a key chemical agent used to manufacture photovoltaic cells for solar panels. There has been a 1,057 percent in NF3 over the last 25 years. In comparison, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions only rose by about 5 percent during the same time period. There are also problems with wind energy. Spain attempted to move to green energy a few years ago and nearly wrecked its economy (article here).

If the free market is allowed to work, we may actually approach something like green energy at some point in the future. However, as long as the government subsidizes and encourages things that are not actually working, the progress will be delayed.