Environmentalists support solar, right?

One of the constant refrains heard among New Mexico’s political leaders and the environmental community is that we need to more fully utilize our state’s abundant sunshine. The reality is that solar power accounts for a minuscule portion of US energy production.

But, even efforts to expand on that tiny amount, presumably by picking the “low-hanging fruit” of solar production, has drawn opposition from the enviros. Most of the major groups including the Sierra Club are suing the federal government to stop large-scale solar developments on certain public lands that have been deemed “environmentally-sensitive.” I’m not sure what lands the environmentalists consider not environmentally-sensitive….

Even more intriguing is a fact sheet on large scale solar projects from the environmental group Western Lands Project. Among the points made in the letter is the following:

No scientific evidence has been presented to support the claim that these projects reduce
greenhouse emissions. Indeed, recent evidence suggests that the opposite may be true. Recent
work at the Center for Conservation Biology, University of California, Riverside, suggests that soil
disturbance from large-scale solar development may disrupt Pleistocene-era caliche deposits
that release carbon to the atmosphere when exposed to the elements, thus “negat[ing] the
solar development C gains.”

So, now you tell us? Big solar projects are bad for the environment too? I guess that means we should toss New Mexico’s Renewable Portfolio Standard out the window, right? The enviros will undoubtedly say that solar is the way to go, but that we all just need to live off the grid with panels on our roofs. Good luck with that on the three consecutive rainy days we’ve had here in Albuquerque (Believe it or not, it happens).

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3 Replies to “Environmentalists support solar, right?”

  1. The sun grows food, heats homes, makes hot water, dries clothes, makes vitamin D, provides interior lighting, and with some effort, makes electricity. The sun runs the whole show but the mindset of civilized man is that we must burn something to keep the consumption economy cycling.

    Large scale PV projects are a way for utilities to emulate or counterfeit coal to keep the grid centrally controlled. It is obvious that poking a million holes in the caliche pan is going to have some effect just as paving more parking lots does. Scale will someday be studied so that we can understand that doing big projects usually has a bigger environmental downside that a lot of small projects.

    This is why PV is such an elegant technology. It can be scaled (with an increase in efficiency) to individual homes, businesses, schools etc. Those who operate the grid would see their ratepayers leave and no longer subsidize the large industrial and institutional consumers of their electricity.

    How much battery backup do you need in Albuquerque to get through all those dreadful rainy days? Not much.

    We already depend on the sun for everything, life itself, why not convince PNM to use the sun most effectively in providing their service? Big fields of PV panels are dumb and environmentally contentious. Rooftop solar and ordinary battery backup is simple and now cheap. PNM needs to stop trying to emulate yesterday’s success (selling bulk fossil fueled electrons) and realize that their ratebase is going to disappear.

  2. Gallager thinks PV solar is sustainable, what koolaide have you been drinken man?


    Solar Power Cost: Don’t Forget Intermittency (energy economics 101)

    by David Bergeron
    October 12, 2011

    [Ed. note: David Bergeron is president of SunDanzer Development, Inc., a solar energy company located in Tucson. His earlier posts at MasterResource are Free-Market Solar: The Real Opportunity and Economic/Environmental Assessment of Grid-Tiered Photovoltaics: Arizona Lessons for the U.S.]

    Germany has been shutting down it’s nukes over the japan disaster scare and replacing them not with solar nor wind, but bituminous coal burning plants. They have been moving whole towns in order to get the precious stuff. They have been cutting back on solar subsidies due to the worsening economy.

    Solar, along with wind, has one of the highest subsidy rates over any other energy source:

    According to the EIA solar is subsidized $24.34 per MWh, wind $23.36, coal 44 cents

    Onshore wind production costs 1.5 times that of coal, Offshore wind = 1.9 times, PhotoVoltaic solar = 4 times, and advanced nuclear 1.2 times that of coal

    You can’t use intermittent energy successfully on the on- demand grid. And what batteries are currently being used for home owner storage?, the old lead acid work horse. Try maintaining a a large bank of those.

    Yes when a home owner first gets it installed it’s, hey look at my meter run backwards. After 10 years of so it’s man I’m not getting subsidized enough to pay off the loan and all those batteries are breaking my bank with maintenance replacement and upkeep. After 20 years it’s, panels are going dead and need replacing. I have to wash them every week. The efficiency has gone down 20~30%. what was I thinking?!

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