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.


One Of The Problems With Solar Energy

On August 19, Outside Magazine posted a story about the  Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert.

The article reports:

When investigators visited the $2.2 billion Ivanpah plant last year before its February launch, they saw bird-based smoke plumes (known as “streamers” by employees) shoot through the air once every two minutes. BrightSource Energy—one of the companies involved in Ivanpah and spearheader of the proposed larger solar farm—estimates about 1,000 such deaths occur annually, but the Center for Biological Diversity says the carnage could climb to 28,000. Either way, investigators want the planned solar farm put on hold until a full year of bird deaths at Invanpah is tabulated.

We hear a lot about the ecological damage done by traditional energy plants, how much ecological damage does the death of 28,000 birds do?

The article explains the problem with the Ivanpah plant:

The desert gets some of the best solar radiation in the country, but Ivanpah is also the biggest solar farm to employ power towers—a system wherein 300,000 garage-door-sized mirrors reflect light on boiler towers that produce steam to rotate turbines. Like a lethal disco ball, the solar farm singes birds as it generates electricity for 140,000 homes. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials reported this month that power-tower solar farms have “the highest lethality potential” of any California solar project. The new BrightSource farm would have a 75-story power tower and stand in the flight path of more than 100 endangered species along the California-Arizona border. Investigators say it would be four times as lethal as Ivanpah.

Unfortunately, animals and insects are attracted to light—and concentrated light just concentrates the problem. The investigators told the Associated Press that Ivanpah “might act as a ‘mega-trap’ for wildlife … with the bright light of the plant attracting insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds.” Ivanpah officials think they can solve the streamer problem despite biologists saying there’s no known way to curb the deaths.

I think we need to do some more research before we attempt to convert to alternative energy sources. There is no way the Keystone Pipeline could cause this much damage, yet it is not being approved because of potential environmental damage.

This Really Isn’t A Victory

Yahoo News reported yesterday that a federal judge has cleared to way for the cross in the Mojave Desert to be restored.

The article reports:

A federal judge approved the lawsuit settlement on Monday, permitting the park service to turn over a remote hilltop area known as Sunrise Rock to a Veteran of Foreign Wars post in Barstow and the Veterans Home of California-Barstow.

The park will give up the acre of land in exchange for five acres of donated property elsewhere in the 1.6 million acre preserve in Southern California.

The swap, which could be completed by the end of the year, will permit veterans to restore a cross to the site and end a controversy that became tangled in the thorny issues of patriotism and religion and made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003.

Think about this for a minute. France has graveyards of American soldiers marked with crosses to honor those who died. What has happened to America?

The article reports the history of the cross in the Mojave:

Wanda Sandoz said a wooden cross was first erected on Sunrise Rock in 1934 by a World War I veteran, Riley Bembry. He and other shell-shocked vets had gone out to the desert to recover and would hold barbeques and barn dances near the site, she said.

Her husband knew Bembry and promised the dying vet that he would look after the cross, Wanda Sandoz said. He kept the promise for decades.

“We love the cross,” she said. “It’s in a beautiful spot. … My husband is not a veteran but he feels like this is something he can do for our country.”

The wooden cross was eventually replaced with one made of steel pipes. However, the site became part of the national preserve in 1994 and that meant the cross was then on public land.

The settlement involves a lawsuit filed in 2001 by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a retired park service employee who argued that the Christian religious symbol was unconstitutionally located on government land. Federal courts ordered the removal of the cross.

Does this mean that whenever you see a cross by the side of the highway to mark the spot where someone was killed, you should sue someone to have it removed? I am sorry that the ACLU chose to be offended by this cross, but there is nothing in the Constitution that protects Americans from being offended. The cross as a symbol to honor those who sacrificed their lives for America is a tradition more than a religious item. It’s time for everyone to just relax.

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