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US Halts Applications For Solar Energy Projects

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the think-of-the-mojave-ground-squirrels dept.

Power 481

Dekortage writes "The US Bureau of Land Management, overwhelmed by applications for large-scale solar energy plants, has declared a two-year freeze on applications for new projects until it completes an extensive environmental impact study. The study will produce 'a single set of environmental criteria to weigh future solar proposals, which will ultimately speed the application process.' The freeze means that current applications will continue to be processed — plants producing enough electricity for 20 million average American homes — but no new applications will be accepted until the study is complete. Solar power companies are worried that this will harm the industry just as it is poised for explosive growth. Some note that gas and oil projects are booming in the southwestern states most favorable to solar development. Another threat looming over the solar industry is that federal tax credits must be renewed in Congress, else they will expire this year."

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Printer Friendly Format (5, Informative)

MrMunkey (1039894) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968049)

Here is the printer friendly format for easier reading. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/27/us/27solar.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print [nytimes.com]

Re:Printer Friendly Format (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968101)

And here's an informative video report on the issue. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBXo4lKVek4 [youtube.com]

Re:Printer Friendly Format (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968719)

Yes, lets waste a few trees. Very friendly.

Re:Printer Friendly Format (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968965)

The idea is getting rid of all the "next page" clicks, shitforbrains.

Re:Printer Friendly Format (1)

Lord_Frederick (642312) | more than 6 years ago | (#23969035)

I love seeing comments that could be rated funny AND informative.

Re:Printer Friendly Format (1, Offtopic)

azgard (461476) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968973)

Actually, I often use the "printer friendly" format to display the whole article in a single page, so I could store it on my computer.

This isn't a bad thing.. (4, Insightful)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968077)

They probably should have done this sooner, but it's better to do the EIS before the explosive growth of solar plants.

This way, they have a much better idea what the effects will be, and have more clear, consistent, comprehensive information and data on which to judge applications.

I think the companies are just upset because it might prevent them from securing investors during the time they can't even submit an application. But for the people, and the industry, it's probably not that big of a deal.

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (2, Insightful)

Fastfwd (44389) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968103)

Ideally yes but is'nt stopping everything a too radical solution to the problem of poor planning?

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (2, Insightful)

lazyDog86 (1191443) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968273)

They're not stopping everything, they are not letting anything new start while they do better planning. Sounds like a good solution for poor planning to me.

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (4, Insightful)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968543)

What they mean is: We fear that if solar and wind power are allowed to grow, it may create unemployment in the coal-mining and gas extraction industries.

A large solar and wind farm had the capability to replace the energy generated from a small coal mine. , which of course affects the voting pattern.

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (2, Informative)

Smauler (915644) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968911)

A large solar and wind farm _do not_ have the capability to replace the energy generated from a small coal plant on a still cloudy day, and that is your problem right there. I guess you could invest in some _really_ big batteries. Seriously, anyone who has seriously looked into green energy has found just this one huge drawback (there are others which I will not go into now) insurmountable for large scale operation.

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (2, Informative)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968945)

It is not that simple...
Solar plants, however, do not operate very efficiently at certain times of the day... (For example, we have this thing called 'darkness' whenever it happens to be 'nighttime'.)
Sometimes, there are lots of clouds too, etc...
Due to these simple points, terrestrial solar power generation stations will NEVER replace the 24/7 reliability of Coal/Gas/Nuclear/Hydroelectric power generation plants. Solar can only be used as a supplement during peak demand in sunny 'daytime', for example..

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (4, Insightful)

Don853 (978535) | more than 6 years ago | (#23969053)

That's not what they mean at all. What they mean is:

We have a giant paperwork backlog and we're totally swamped. We're going to streamline the process. Don't give us anything new until we're done with that. In the meantime, we wouldn't have gotten to your new applications anyway.

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (4, Interesting)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968185)

This reminds me of code freeze cycles in open source projects... as annoying as they may be for developers (and some users), they're necessary.

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (1, Flamebait)

davejenkins (99111) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968797)

Sorry, but this is a horrible thing. Your analogy of a 'code freeze' does not apply, because a code freeze allows all the interlocking parts of an app to make sure they work well together. Code freeze is needed when you have disparate programmers working on a single code base.

Here, we have a market full of companies trying to make profit on different strips of land-- completely separate from each other.

The only reason the BLM is calling for this freeze is because they are incompetent government nabobs. They cannot deal with the paperwork, so they are panicking and forcing a freeze in the market-- they are distorting progress and introducing a market inefficiency just because they cannot rethink their processes and figure out a way to both handle incoming requests as well as revamp their overall baseline environmental impact study for solar.

Whoever proposed this freeze should be fired. It's likely some bureaucrat that cannot be fired, so remember to write your congressman and give your grief about how the BLM is doing no damned good (as if they ever did).

I grew up in the West deserts, and I know that the BLM are morons-- Bureau of Livestock and Mining was our name for them. They've never been environmentally minded-- they've always just been a dirty hand in whatever local dirty business needed a handout from Uncle Sucker.

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (3, Insightful)

Gerald (9696) | more than 6 years ago | (#23969021)

The only reason the BLM is calling for this freeze is because they are incompetent government nabobs. They cannot deal with the paperwork, so they are panicking and forcing a freeze in the market

The USPTO coped with a large amount of applications by approving a bunch of crappy applications. This was bad. The BLM is coping with a large amount of applications with a freeze on applications. This is ... bad?

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (5, Insightful)

emagery (914122) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968437)

I agree that it isn't a BAD thing... what bothers me, though, is how many in our government are pushing oil and coal as being uber critical to american energy needs... so much so that environment corners cut are worth the price... but when an alternative to their bias comes up, it's time to throw up the red flags... this isn't to say that oil/coal don't get enviro'd up the yin-yang, but the one sided bias is upsetting for a pro-solar guy like myself.

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (3, Interesting)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968515)

Absolutelly. lets not rush into a new energy source before finding out whether it'll screw us over in the long run.

I can see the 'oil is evil' crowd getting annoyed at the delay, but we need to know what the effects of solar technology will be. For one thing the air around large solar plants may be significantly heated, raising the local temperature and damaging the environment immediatelly surrounding the plants.

A small effect perhaps, but so was smoke, once....

Whatever, this is a good move. I may be wrong about the local heating, there may be other dangers, or none at all. I'd prefer the facts came from a properly conducted study then the mouth of a solar power evangelist with passion but no facts supported by evidence.

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (3, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968879)

You are wrong about the local heating being a problem. Many cities are tens of square miles, and while they experience a heating effect, it is several degrees, not several tens of degrees.

A light breeze has the effect of spreading the heat from a 1 mile zone across several cubic miles of air in an hour. Significant local heating would *generate* a breeze.

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (5, Interesting)

olyar (591892) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968949)

I would think that the air around a solar plant would actually be cooler, since the panels are converting solar energy into electric power and then transferring it to the grid.

If that energy had not been captured, it would have heated the ground.

My understanding is that the environmental impact issues of solar are focused more on the materials involved in manufacturing and/or disposing of solar panels.

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (1)

arrowrod (1256976) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968583)

The panels are going to kill duckies?

Re:This isn't a bad thing.. (2, Interesting)

cavis (1283146) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968681)

I agree... the environmental impact study should have been done years ago. Wasn't solar power a big issue back in the 70's, even if just for a short while? So why wasn't this done before now? Why didn't the Bush administration Now that the US is struggling with its dependency on oil, corporations are pumping billions into alternatives... only to hit this roadblock? I shudder to think where gas and utility prices will be in two years.

This should be easy (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968097)

People need the electricity. The BLM should only need to answer one question: Will the proposed solar energy plant harm the environment more than a natural gas/coal/oil plant would to produce the same amount of power? If not, let it be built.

As a resident of Texas, I hate that we're building more and more coal-fired power plants when we have such abundant sun and wind out here that we could be using instead. Hell, I have to suffer through 2 months (and counting) of 100+ degree days, I'd like to at least be getting something out of all that sun other than dehydration and sunburn.

Re:This should be easy (1, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968477)

The simple answer is that Coal is cheaper than wind and solar.
Also solar takes up a HUGE amount of land. Not the small scale solar systems that people put on their roofs but the large ones that can replace power plants. BTW small home solar in not effected.
Deserts look empty but they are actually one of the more fragile ecosystems.

So you want solar and think it is a good idea put some panels up on your roof.

Re:This should be easy (1, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968563)

Deserts look empty but they are actually one of the more fragile ecosystems.

Deserts are not desirable ecosystems. They are what happens when you push a healthy ecosystem to the point of collapse. Over time and without human interference all deserts should shrink (this may require one or more ice age/warm period cycles, however.)

I agree that the answer is to put solar etc. on rooftops. Unfortunately, most rooftops are pointed the wrong direction. Also it's not yet cost-effective for most people, who can't afford to spend 20 years' energy bills in one go (for solar) or who can't feasibly put up wind power on their house for whatever reason.

We need more point-of-use generation, not to save money on transmission losses, but to reduce the amount of transmission equipment which is necessary. Reducing the dependence on centralized infrastructure can only be a good thing.

Re:This should be easy (4, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968675)

You're saying that without humans there would be no deserts? I find this assertion to be difficult to believe. There is an argument that global warming has caused deserts to grow, but one also has to consider the effect of desert reclamation (the Soviets were big on this) through irrigation and careful land management.

It's also blatantly wrong to say that deserts are collapsed ecosystems. Another ecosystem that dies off can turn into a desert, but within the desert is an ecosystem all to itself. They may not be desirable to humans, but there is no shortage of species that call a desert home.

Re:This should be easy (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968749)

They are what happens when you push a healthy ecosystem to the point of collapse. Over time and without human interference all deserts should shrink

Citation?

You're the first person I've ever heard express the opinion that deserts will go away if humans would just stop mucking with things....

Re:This should be easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968823)

Shrink != go away.

Re:This should be easy (2, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968783)

"Deserts are not desirable ecosystems. They are what happens when you push a healthy ecosystem to the point of collapse. Over time and without human interference all deserts should shrink (this may require one or more ice age/warm period cycles, however.)"
Huh?????
There have been Deserts for a very long time long before man had any real impact on the environment.
As to how desirable they are? Well to some life forms they are very desirable, to other not so much.
Your statements on the "value" of deserts is just nuts.

Re:This should be easy (5, Insightful)

indifferent children (842621) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968525)

I'd like to at least be getting something out of all that sun other than dehydration and sunburn.

Well, if you can find some way to grant a monopoly to the oil companies on the harnessing of solar power, I'm sure we can clear-up these bureaucratic hurdles PDQ.

Re:This should be easy (1)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968531)

People need the electricity. The BLM should only need to answer one question: Will the proposed solar energy plant harm the environment more than a natural gas/coal/oil plant would to produce the same amount of power? If not, let it be built.

There is the matter of the environmental impact on the fields that the panels would be installed, the digging and burying of wire, the materials used and the effect on the environment in the long-term exposure to said materials. Solar panels ain't exactly made of recyclable material these days.

Re:This should be easy (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968661)

There are certainly other concerns than comparing it to other plant types. In California, for example, some of the deserts are home to the threatened desert tortoise. Simply building a plant somewhere flat may put it in a nesting area. Depending on the plant type, there are differing support infrastructure requirements, including roads, power feeds, and water supplies, and the path that they take may again affect local wildlife, at least during construction.

There are fewer concerns with the construction of a solar plant than with those that produce toxic byproducts during power generations. This simplicity makes it easier to develop an EIS template as is being done, and a good template can reduce start-up time and therefore start-up costs. The fewer concerns should not justify waving off the remaining issues with a wave of the hand.

Why did people settle in America? (5, Funny)

evilandi (2800) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968873)

I have to suffer through 2 months (and counting) of 100+ degree days,

This is probably a really dumb question, but as I Brit I have never figured out why settlers chose to live in America. I mean, the climate seems to spend half the year trying to KILL you. I've been to Boston in January and got snowed in my hotel with 6-foot/2-metre snowdrifts that arrived in ONE NIGHT. I've been to Houston in May and been stuck in my hotel lest the 48c/115f heat burn me to a frazzle. I went to California in February and they had to close the coastal highway because the sea had smashed it up.

I don't doubt for a moment that the USA is a lovely place to live IF you have air conditioning and central heating, but when the first settlers turned up a few hundred years ago, long before climate control, exactly what made them think "This is place to live! This location is ideally suited! We shall search no further!"?

Now I realise that the Pilgrims were essentially an extreme religious cult who got booted out of the Netherlands for being too nutty (and believe you me, the Netherlands is a pretty liberal place, getting kicked out of there really does take some doing - they must have been like Waco-quality loons). I know they also faced persecution in England for much the same thing. I also know that the British/Netherland climate of, essentially, rain rain rain, cloud, rain, does get a bit depressing, but at least the weather here never tries to KILL you. Any day of the year, anywhere in the country, you can step outside for the whole day and you won't die.

Whereas the Pilgrims set up home in BOSTON for the WINTER?

Then there's the wildlife. We don't have any dangerous wildlife, we shot it all, whereas you lot appear to have a country full of poisonous plants and poisonous/pointy-toothed predators. If the American weather isn't trying to kill you, there's some ivy or crocodile waiting to give you grievous pain.

And then you sing songs about how great your country is. Sure, your people are virtually all fabulous (and anyone who says otherwise clearly hasn't met many of you personally), and ten out of ten for looking on the bright side of things, but your country is trying to kill you - how can that not introduce an element of self-doubt? How can you chaps be so religious when every time you step out of your house/car, some part of God's wonderful environment tries to nail you in the head?

When it comes down to energy conservation, do you never hover your finger over the thermostat, hesitate and think "Wouldn't it be a lot more energy efficient if I lived somewhere else entirely?".

(Iceland - it's the future of datacentres, believe you me.)

goverment tit (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968105)

If solar (or ethanol or wind or ... anything) is as good as people like to believe, it can survive without tax credits.

Re:goverment tit (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968193)

But make sure the oil companies keep getting their tax subsidies. I mean, how do we expect these poor petro companies to compete with the market controlling renewable energy conglomerates?

Re:goverment tit (1)

camg188 (932324) | more than 6 years ago | (#23969041)

If losing federal tax credits is truly "Another threat looming over the solar industry", wouldn't federal corporate taxes be a threat looming over every other industry as well? Therefore shouldn't taxes be reduced or eliminated on all corporations?
Taxes are a cost of doing business for corporations. The cost of doing business is passed on to the consumers and stockholders.

But I thought... (1)

Illbay (700081) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968109)

...the environmental impact of solar energy was already officially established as "groovy, man, groovy!"

I'm betting (3, Interesting)

Paranatural (661514) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968111)

Whoever makes it into the WH will make a big show of giving an executive order to open the applications back up. As to whether this is a good thing or not, I'm not so sure. Solar has been making some big strides, but if everyone is forced to wait a couple of years, who knows what may come out, and what the current implementers will learn in that time? It may just save two years of shitty implementations with obsolete-before-it's-built tech.

Re:I'm betting (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 6 years ago | (#23969013)

Yeah, but don't forget that the "future tech" excuse will never stop being an issue, so eventually you just need to bite the bullet and do the best you can. The fact that better technology is inevitable is just a reality you have to deal with.

And at least with something like solar panels, even an technically obsolete system will still continue to generate power. It's not like the sun is going to get an upgrade that makes it incompatible with existing solar plants.

aaahh, (1)

Icegryphon (715550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968125)

Bureaucracy is such fun isn't it? The world needs more Ron Paul type characters. /Did I just say that?

Re:aaahh, (4, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968195)

The world needs more Ron Paul type characters.

It needs an entire Ron Paul font. :-) Man, that was weird...

I think is funny, because there's a good overlap between the group that is rabidly "alternative energy" and the group that wants draconian government environmental policies. I love it when thing blow up in faces like this. I have the day off, so I'm gonna go out and find an activist to laugh at. :-)

Re:aaahh, (4, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968369)

Stupid people have existed in every group, every movement, every race and nation, for all time. For instance, a lot of stupid people like Ron Paul. A lot of stupid people like Obama, and McCain. There are just a lot of stupid people. It isn't smart to judge a group by the stupid people that support it, but by the smart people who do.

As for laughing at activists, the only people I've met who consider that worthwhile are people who haven't done anything good and decent with their lives, and resent people who have. But whatever, go denigrate people who've dedicated their lives to making the world a better place if that helps you sleep at night.

The important line in the summary (4, Insightful)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968129)

"overwhelmed by applications for large-scale solar energy plants".., that's good news. At least people are trying!

Re:The important line in the summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968211)

Instead they should try to make many small-scale solar energy plants next to each other, each one too small to require an environmental study.

Re:The important line in the summary (1)

osopolar (826106) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968337)

I could not agree more, it seems the real issue is

Funny how cliches stay true. (2, Insightful)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968131)

The government that governs least governs best, goddammit. Of course this will harm the industry; It's an artificially imposed market restriction!

God forbid somebody do something without those geniuses at the government making sure it's ok first. Them being the kings of noticing unintended consequences in others' ideas. Oh wait...

Re:Funny how cliches stay true. (0, Troll)

moseman (190361) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968227)

A - f'ing - men brother. But be careful, this is /. and someone might take offense to your common sense and lack of love for all things nature. Once the messiah is elected thing will RUN MUCH SMOOTHER AND EVERYONE WILL BE IN A ZEN LIKE BLISS.

Re:Funny how cliches stay true. (5, Insightful)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968259)

Well, the government tends to frown on corporations building power plants on public land without, you know, checking with them first.

I think you don't understand what's going on here. The Bureau of Land Management is in charge of those vast stretches of deserted desert in the southwest. This isn't private land - indeed, the alternative to dealing with the BLM is to build on private land instead.

These companies are submitting applications to get the BLM to let them build on public land. The BLM has to decide whether to let the applicant build power generation facilities on the particular piece of public land they're looking at. Oftentimes, many different applications will be submitted for the same patch of land, and BLM has to decide whether to let one build the proposed plant, or to hold out for something else.

If you want to build some solar plant on your own private land, that's another matter, and you don't have to send an application to the BLM. There will be regulations and approvals and so forth, but you can still do it.

There is no freeze on the building of all solar power generation stations - this is a freeze on applications for using public land managed by the BLM only.

Re:Funny how cliches stay true. (1)

shurikt (734896) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968463)

For the most part, we're talking about Nevada, which is almost completely owned by the Federal Government and managed by the BLM.

Re:Funny how cliches stay true. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968609)

There is no freeze on the building of all solar power generation stations - this is a freeze on applications for using public land managed by the BLM only.

s/managed/periodically clear-cut/

HTH, HAND.

Re:Funny how cliches stay true. (1)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968983)

And they need two fucking years to do this why?

Call me cynical, but this smells a lot more like a convenient budget grab than conscientious federal employees looking out for the environment. A beancounter somewhere noticed that a lot of people like the idea of solar power, and realized saying, "Hey uh, this is too hard. We're going to need two years to do this... assuming we don't get a huge budget boost before then," would quickly move a lot more funding into their hot little hands.

Re:Funny how cliches stay true. (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968345)

Worked great for the investment banks.

Re:Funny how cliches stay true. (3, Informative)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968507)

I'm sorry, are you arguing that large investment banks are/were unregulated and ungoverned?

That's hilarious.

It's not funny anymore. (1)

copponex (13876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23969011)

http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1993 [upenn.edu]

How many economic disasters must occur due to speculative greed before the lesson is learned?

Here's an idea: you're a member of an oil cartel. Project that due to "demand" that oil will rise to $170 a barrel. Now watch your reserves gain 20% in value just because you said so.

Re:Funny how cliches stay true. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968779)

The government that governs least governs best, goddammit. Of course this will harm the industry; It's an artificially imposed market restriction!

The companies are asking for permission to build on land owned by the government. This is federal land use policy, not federal regulation.

Public Land (4, Informative)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968177)

This is only for use of land owned by the Federal Government. You can still do whatever you want with private land, providing you have the proper zoning and building permits from the local government.

I don't foresee many issues with local government in the middle of the desert.

Re:Public Land (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968277)

"You can still do whatever you want with private land"

You obviously don't own any land. You have confused this with a free country.

Re:Public Land (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968465)

You obviously don't own any land. You have confused this with a free country.

NO ONE owns any land. If you owned "your" land, why do you have to make quarterly rent payments?

Re:Public Land (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968485)

I don't foresee many issues with local government in the middle of the desert.


What, you don't think the 'middle of the desert' doesn't have a local (I.E. city/town) government? If it doesn't, then it has a country government. Neither level is going to be particularly likely to let plants go up willy-nilly without significant enviromental review. If they don't do the review, then the local Greens and their lawyers will ensure it happens.
 
Another issue is just who owns huge chunks of land in the Southwest [wordpress.com] .

What environmental impact!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968187)

How can a solar power plant affect the environment any more than wind turbines slow down the jetstream?

Re:What environmental impact!? (2, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968247)

You could build a giant array of solar panels over area covered by grass. With no sunlight, the grass dies, the rains wash away the soil, havoc commences, etc.

Re:What environmental impact!? (3, Funny)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968315)

You could build a giant array of solar panels over area covered by grass. With no sunlight, the grass dies, the rains wash away the soil, havoc commences, etc.

You haven't seen the desert southwest, have you?

Re:What environmental impact!? (1)

SteveAstro (209000) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968329)

Err. We are talking about deserts here, not noted for their lush vegetation. Else they wouldn't be deserts...

Re:What environmental impact!? (1, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968433)

Or, you can build a giant greenhouse, in the shape of a dome. Leave it open around the bottom rim, and put a hollow tower in the middle, with intakes at the bottom, and with the top uncapped and protruding through the top of the greenhouse.

The solar energy will create a temperature difference between the external air and the internal air, causing air to be drawn in through the bottom edges of the dome and vented through the tube out the top.

All you need to do is stick wind turbines in the tower.

You'd be preventing direct rainfall, but you could harvest and channel the run-off anywhere you wanted. That means, depending on the location, it might be practical to have irrigated farmland underneath your solar generation plant. You could even stick homes in there.

Re:What environmental impact!? (1)

trickno (1227142) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968597)

Or, you could just build windmills and let nature run its course around them.

Re:What environmental impact!? (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968761)

Yes, but windmills require wind to be useful, and prevent alternative uses of the land. You could set something like this up anywhere there was sunlight, and still use the land for anything you like, possibly even improving its utility for other purposes.

Re:What environmental impact!? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968707)

You could build a giant array of solar panels over area covered by grass. With no sunlight, the grass dies, the rains wash away the soil, havoc commences, etc.

"You could build a giant array of solar panels over area covered by rocks. With no sunlight, the rocks die, the rains wash away the soil, havoc commences, etc."

Wait a minute......

Ass backwards... (2, Interesting)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968213)

Why don't they come up with the environmental criteria/requirements and state that the application submitter must complete the study and submit the findings with the application. If further study would be required, they could then investigate or push it back to the requesting company/agency.

What environmental impact!? (-1, Redundant)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968251)

How can a solar power plant affect the environment any more than wind turbines slow down the jetstream?

Re:What environmental impact!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968343)

Solar panels are heavy pollutants. But this aside, it pollutes overall much less than, say, nuclear or coal... I guess it looks like a case of oil business lobbying again, eh?

Distributed power station (4, Insightful)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968255)

Personally I think it's probably better to distribute the power-generation facility onto the roofs of all the residents in these 'southwestern states'... Use the wasted space productively...

  • There's virtually no environmental impact, in fact you're helping the environment by reducing the load on the power stations
  • It actually reduces the need for air-conditioning - because a fair amount of the solar energy your roof would soak up is converted to electricity
  • The generation is local, so there's less loss as electricity is transported across the country
  • There are the mentioned rebates and tax credits to reduce the initial cost.

I'm in the process of installing an 11.9 kW system on the roof of my home in CA. It's costing about $80k (of which I expect to get $12-16k back in rebates) , and it'll take my electricity bill down from $800/month to ~$100/month. Saving ~$700/month makes payback in ~8 years, and the panels have a 25-year lifespan (at which point they're at ~80% efficiency of day-1).

Why cover the land ? Cover the roofs instead!

Simon

Re:Distributed power station (4, Funny)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968379)

$800/month power bill?!

Even in Nevada (Nevada Power has very high rates) I don't even know of anyone that comes close, even with a 7 SEER central air unit.

Are you growing weed or something?

With that kind of usage, I'd expect the DEA to come visit to make sure you're not!

Re:Distributed power station (3, Informative)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968469)

It's pretty easy - PG&E have a tiered cost-system, so it costs more as you use more. I've probably doubled my electricity use since it cost me $200/month, but the cost gets disproportionately higher.

I have a pool (which has a pump that soaks up 40A) and I have air-conditioning which can do the same. Add the washer/dryer, pond pumps (another 5A) and general load (server in the garage, lighting, etc..) and I'm using ~80kWH/day.

Hence the solar system :) Yes, this is CA, but no weed...

Simon.

Re:Distributed power station (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968957)

This is California, where electricity rates are high to pay for all the state mandated good ideas. I am at $450/month and haven't hit the summer yet.

$800/month?! Re:Distributed power station (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968393)

What, are you running a datacenter in your house, holy cow! That's more than I pay in rent for a very large 2 bedroom house.

I have 3 computers on at any given time and my electric bill is almost never over $50, even with AC running. I'd crap myself if I got a bill over $100.

Now I do live in Pennsylvania, but it can't be that different.

Re:Distributed power station (2, Insightful)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968445)

Why cover the land ? Cover the roofs instead!

I was once told this is because it devalues the property. It's a shame that other people don't think solar panels on a roof are attractive.

On a side note, I would like to see solar panels installed over the vast stretches of parking lot we have in shopping malls, and amusement parks. It would produce electricity, and keep my car cooler in the summer.

Re:Distributed power station (3, Interesting)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968739)

As part of the proposal, the company referenced the appraisal journal [ongrid.net] (warning: PDF) which establishes that the resale value of a home powered by solar energy increases by $20 for every $1 in saved operating costs. In my case, that adds $168k to the value of my home (on day-1, it gradually tails off over time). This is actually more than I pay for it!

I think the argument goes that people can afford to spend more on the house because their energy bill will be lower every month - you're trading energy bill for mortgage payment... I'm not sure it makes sense to me, but the appraisers presumably read their own industry journal :)

Simon

Re:Distributed power station (2, Insightful)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968927)

I heard that about ten years ago. Back then solar panels were uglier, more expensive and not as efficient. Things have changed, being green is trendy at the moment. Back then, being green and saving money didn't offset the fact they were unsightly.

Agreed, But... (1)

twmcneil (942300) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968481)

The power companies are not just going to let us all start paying them less. Oh they might not notice when it's just you dropping your monthly payment by 85%. But let us install your kind of set up on a majority of the homes in the U.S. and you bet your green ass they will notice and they won't sit for it one second.

We won't see any serious effort to "solarize" the U.S. in the manner you describe until the power companies find a way to get a piece of the action.

I'm not saying that it's right or that it should be this way. I'm just saying it's a reality that has to be reckoned with.

Re:Agreed, But... (1)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968587)

Actually, it's the law (at least in CA). They have to agree to let you do it.

Consider a company that paid for solar panels to be installed on your roof, then charged you for the energy they produced. Any overage they could charge to the electricity supplier as it feeds back into the grid. You get a reduced rate for the electricity because you're leasing your roof to the company.

Seems like it could work...

Simon

Re:Distributed power station (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968633)

what i would like to see and suspect would be a good business model would be a company that got a lot of funding to purchase solar panels in utility quantities and place them on the roofs of residential buildings wiring the panels into the house's electrical system and selling any excess power to the grid. The power used by the house would be paid for as if the homeowner were paying to a utility so there is no initial cost to the homeowner because the provider would buy, own and operate the panels and the company providing the panels would get profit from the excess energy if there were any either way they are selling the energy. This would not be able to provide all the power needed but it would provide a decent amount.

Re:Distributed power station (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968747)

take my electricity bill down from $800/month

What

The

Fuck

?

Re:Distributed power station (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968821)

Good idea, my only question would be economies of scale, as well as liability. I think it's definitely worth crunching numbers on:

1) is it more efficient to install (& maintain!) 1000 acres of 'solar farm' in one bulk lot or some otherwise nonproductive land (when you consider in the labor, time, cost, infrastructure) or 10,000 0.1 acre roofs? How "nonproductive" would the land have to be to make this value equation positive? I can easily see the infrastructure, labor, and maintenance far, far exceeding the economy of this idea - esp in the southwest where nearly valueless land is rather plentiful.

2) liability: you're adding ca. $75-100,000 in 'value' to each homeowner's home? Who pays for the insurance? Does the home's value go up, and if so, does the homeowner get to keep that increased value on home sale?

I'd be very curious as to how this would influence desert areas. Would ample shade make them more habitable (for flora and fauna) or less? Could the collection panels, properly designed, serve as a solar still, adding essentially a 'drip irrigation' to the zone in which it's constructed?

Solar panel ffficiency after 25 years (1)

hack slash (1064002) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968997)

You're just about dead-on with the 80% efficiency after 25 years, I have a polycrystalline Kyocera solar panel made in 1983, in full direct sunlight it generates a measured 24 watts of electricity, exactly 80% of the original 30 watt rating.

soak it up (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968269)

enough electricity for 20 million average American homes

Or about 1 million Al Gore [snopes.com] type homes.

Oops - he made some improvements [tennesseepolicy.org] last year - so make that only 900,000 homes worth.

Re:soak it up (2, Informative)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968363)

And yet, from the *same* article you linked to (yes, you actually have to *read* it all), his carbon-footprint per year is precisely zero. Can you say that ?

Simon

Re:soak it up (1)

Bruiser80 (1179083) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968757)

I'm sure he can't, as most people don't have a controlling interest in a company that offers carbon credits that have yet to do anything. By investing in his own company, he gets to say he's carbon neutral.

I'll have to try that sometime. All I'll have to do is file the paperwork to create a LLC. Ooh, that's a bit of paper used, I better give my company a few more bucks. All better :-D

Freeze? (2, Insightful)

DeadPanDan (1165901) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968333)

Is there any way that it could be worse than coal? Do you need two years to answer this question?

Solar power plants on reservations? (5, Interesting)

columbus (444812) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968357)

I don't know why this popped into my head.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to speak to the Indians about building solar power plants on their land.

We pushed them off of all the best land and consigned them to places that were arid and infertile. We consoled our consciences by telling ourselves by saying 'hey, we left them with a shitpile of land'. Of course the land wasn't good for anything . . . at least not then.

Additionally, the Indian reservations are a perennial backwater, mired in poverty and desperately in need of external investment. An enterprising company may be able to get access to large amounts of sundrenched land it needs while the Indians get the external investment they need - a mutually beneficial commercial relationship.

Also, the moratorium will tend to press potential investors away from public land and could give reservation based solar farms the chance to leapfrog development in other areas.

Re:Solar power plants on reservations? (1)

hey (83763) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968605)

Sure as long as the land is close to transmission.

Re:Solar power plants on reservations? (1)

superdan2k (135614) | more than 6 years ago | (#23969045)

Why do it for them? Our "let us do it for you" mentality hasn't worked in Africa. Instead, the various reservations should work with banks to finance a wave of solar power plants on their land, so that they're making money for themselves, much like they have with the casinos. Let them make the money and re-invest it in their own communities and they'll be better off than with letting the big utilities come in, develop (and eventually claim "imminent domain") on what little land they have left.

Missing something here (1)

John Jamieson (890438) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968419)

I am gapping I think.

How will these solar installs (whether thermal or PV) possibly do more environmental damage than drilling more wells, burning coal, burning oil or dealing with the aftermath of a spent reactor?

Unless I am missing something big, lets keep approving AS we do the study. Who is really this scared of Solar. Not us common folk! Is it the coal industry, oil, wind? It has to be somebody, because this does not seem to make sense.

Re:Missing something here (2, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 6 years ago | (#23969009)

Unless I am missing something big,

You are missing something big. The Endangered Species Act. It is a violation of Federal Law to even TOUCH an Endangered Animal (with the usual exceptions for scientific research), much less to build something where it lives.

For a start.

I'd also like to point out that OTHER options, such as nuclear power plants, don't get convenient fill-in-the-blanks Environmental Impact Templates - everything but Solar has to do its EIS from scratch, rather than follow some pre-approved document.

hmmm what a cowinkadinky (4, Interesting)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968517)

hmmm I wonder if someone "important"
http://redgreenandblue.org/2008/06/15/senator-attacks-solar-energy-industry/ [redgreenandblue.org]
isn't ready to get in line so they
http://green.bligblog.com/oil-companies-and-solar-energy-682.html [bligblog.com]
are slowing down applications until that "person"
http://thepanelist.com/Hot_Topics/Alternative_Energy/_200805271019/ [thepanelist.com]
is ready.

Shakespeare was wrong... (-1, Flamebait)

TrebleJunkie (208060) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968545)

...kill the bureacrats, and THEN the lawyers.

We can't drill for oil where there's oil, we can't put up windmills where there's wind, and now we can't put up solar panels where there's sunlight, apparently. "Environmental Impact." Ha!

What about the environmental impact of stupid decisions like these? I'll quote the Talking Heads:

"There was a factory/Now there are mountains and rivers"
"We caught a rattlesnake/Now we got something for dinner"
"There was a shopping mall/Now it's all covered with flowers"
"And as things fell apart/Nobody paid much attention"

-- (nothing but) Flowers

(Scary to thing the Talking Heads as harbingers of our demise.)

This is idiocy. Absolute idiocy. You've got an populace -- not to mention an economy -- clamoring for energy independence and alternative energy sources, a glut (from the sound of it) of folks willing to provide the technology and the innovations --- and a bunch of bureaucrats who'd rather save the fucking fruit bats than the fucking country or fucking human race! How many time is it necessary to shoot oneself in the foot?

Exploit the Earth or Die [theobjectivestandard.com] .

Sadly, our government and our bureaucracies are making a conscious choice for the latter.

Thank goodness we still have a 2nd Amendment. We might need to use it soon.

Nothing new under the sun (1)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968591)

This is the same regulatory framework that stymied geothermal development in the 1990s, and a favored control mechanism by the environmentalist lobbies. They have made it very difficult to develop in the western deserts for other people, they just never expected it to impact their pet projects. An introductory course on unintended consequences.

The oil and gas development bit is a red herring, as mineral extraction (e.g. oil and gas development) is specially protected by very old Federal statutes that mitigate the regulatory overhead that the BLM can impose on power plant projects.

Dr. McCoy had it right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23968715)

"The bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe."

Electrical Units!!! (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 6 years ago | (#23968723)

Is it too much to ask to get rid of the freaking "power xxx homes" nonsense and put things in terms of MW or MWh?!

This is supposed to be news for nerds, not news for soccer moms whose only perspective on life and electricity is their own home! (Small subset of soccer moms, that is.)

Interesting Timing (3, Insightful)

sherriw (794536) | more than 6 years ago | (#23969007)

I find it interesting that this 'necessary delay' is happening right at the same time that Bush is pushing for oil development in more ecologically sensitive areas like Alaska. Is he hoping the delay will make oil exploration more necessary, or that the public will get the impression that there are big enviro concerns regarding solar power? When people read that the gov has halted something to 'investigate environmental concerns', they assume that there must be some concerns in the first place.

I'm not saying there aren't enviro considerations with solar- but why wasn't this done years ago? And why not study solar projects already up and running? The timing is interesting is all I'm saying. And two years!? Give me a break.

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