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Showing posts with the label NRG

Solar Power Tower Developers Attempt to Dismiss Shortfalls

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Solar power tower developers have chided critical press coverage of their massive facilities as letting perfect be the enemy of good.  But we have learned enough about this technology to know that power tower projects do not even qualify as "good" clean energy projects.  Far superior alternatives exist in terms of life-cycle carbon emissions and sustainable siting.

Solar power towers have earned a bad reputation, and their developers are desperate to restore the green halo that they enjoyed a few years ago.  NRG - the current owner of the Ivanpah Solar project in California - and Solar Reserve - owner of the Crescent Dunes project in Nevada - have long been on the defensive with inaccurate and misleading public relations efforts.  But they have stepped up their PR efforts after new reports on their natural gas use and impacts on wildlife. Although developers promise to eventually deliver energy storage benefits, other technologies allow us to do so without burning birds in …

Ivanpah's Toll on Wildlife Mounts

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According to reports sent monthly to the California Energy Commission, the NRG and BrightSource Ivanpah Solar project in California continues to incinerate and batter birds and bats, even though the plant is often not running at full capacity.   As many as 165 birds and four bats have been found dead on the project site from February to the end of April, and 6 birds have been found injured.  These numbers are probably only a fraction of the total mortality since surveys cannot cover the whole project site, and it is possible some birds and bats die after flying beyond the project boundary or their carcasses are picked up by scavengers.  As KCET ReWire points out, some of the bird deaths in April were water birds, suggesting they may have flown to the shimmering mirrors of the solar project thinking it was a body of water.




Many of the birds were killed after being burned by the super-heated air above the project site, while others likely collided with one of the thousands of giant mirr…

Destructive Ivanpah Solar Project To Finally Start Operations

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Government officials and executives are expected to flip the switch on the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System on February 13, over three years after BrightSource Energy and its lead investor, NRG, began bulldozing pristine desert to build the project.   During the 3+ years it took these companies to replace over 5.6 square miles of intact ecosystem to build 377 megawatts of solar capacity, Californians have added at least twice as much solar capacity with panels installed on rooftops or over parking lots, and even more capacity has been added with utility-scale projects built on already-disturbed lands.

Years of public relations efforts by NRG and BrightSource have not changed the fact that the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the eastern Mojave Desert arguably represents one of the most destructive renewable energy projects permitted on public lands by the Obama administration.  The Ivanpah Solar project is to the Mojave what oil drilling would be to the Arctic Natio…

NRG Solar Engages in Cover-Up

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NRG Solar's Vice President recently expressed to CBS just how ill-informed he is about desert ecology.  In a story about the Ivanpah Solar project, Mr. Randall Hickok described the 5.6 square mile Ivanpah project - which NRG invested in along with BrightSource Energy - as "environmentally benign" and sited on "degraded land" that is "less prone to have wildlife."  Really?  Is that why he had to hire over 80 biologists to displace dozens of endangered species?  Ivanpah Valley hosts an above-averages species richness, serves as a critical habitat linkage for the desert tortoises, hosts pockets of rare plants, and provides a foraging area for desert bighorn sheep and golden eagles.

I'm sorry Mr. Hickok didn't bother to read the environmental impact statement for the project.  I would much rather NRG invest in distributed generation and projects on already-disturbed lands, but now I'm not sure they know the difference.  Luckily CBS also interv…

Feds Balk at $125 Tortoise Website; Spend Billions to Kill Tortoises

As I wrote about yesterday, the White House announced its Campaign to Cut Waste and highlighted the DesertTortoise.gov website as a prime example of the sort of "waste" the government hopes to eliminate.  Chris Clarke over at Coyote Crossing learned from someone familiar with the website that it costs approximately 125 dollars, and a few hours of labor to upload new information each year.  The site received 49,000 visitors from January through April this year.  That's less than a penny per visitor, and we can expect tens of thousands of more visitors by the end of the year.  Also, the White House apparently did not bother giving the wildlife officials that maintain the website (as one of their many tasks) any advance notice that they would target the effort as an example of "waste."

So the White House does not want to spend 125 dollars a year to educate tens of thousands of people about the best way to share an environment with a threatened species, but the Whi…

Two Reports Highlight Ecological Importance of Ivanpah Valley

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Two separate reports from the Nature Conservancy and the Renewable Energy Action Team indicate that the Ivanpah Valley is important to the ecological health of the Mojave Desert, suggesting the area is not suitable for destructive solar facilities.  The Ivanpah Valley is currently the focus of concerned citizens since at least three massive solar facilities could destroy over 20 square miles of pristine desert in the area, and displace or kill hundreds of endangered desert tortoises.  Many argue that rooftop solar installations--not remote facilities on public land--should be the centerpiece of renewable energy policy.
Solar facilities targeting the Ivanpah Valley:
Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System: Under construction by BrightSource Energy LLC, NRG, and Bechtel, with financing from Google. (5.6 square miles)Stateline Solar power project: Proposed by First Solar LLC (3.4 square miles)Silver State North and South: Proposed by First Solar LLC. BLM approved a portion of the project. …

Destruction of Ivanpah Valley

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Bechtel, one of the investors in BrightSource Energy LLC's Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System, released photos of the project construction.  Remember, the photographs so far only show about a fraction of the total proposed project since phases 2 and 3 were halted by the Bureau of Land Management since the project's impact on the endangered desert tortoise are much higher than expected.  A revised biological assessment indicates that as many as 162 adult tortoises may be displaced or killed, and hundreds of smaller juvenile tortoises could be killed.

This photo was obtained by GreentechSolar from Becthel's website:

Becthel is partnering with BrightSource and energy firm "NRG" to build the Ivanpah Solar site.  Ironically, Bechtel was also a partner in the construction of the Hoover Dam, which submerged 247 square miles of America's southwest in 1936 to quench our energy thirst.  What a shame that we have the opportunity to avoid destroying public land by cho…

Is Washington Creating a Big Solar Bubble?

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We all know what happened when Wall Street and Washington both looked the other way in the name of corporate profit as banks and insurers inflated housing prices, and encouraged unstable investments.  But will Americans be stuck with the cost of another over-hyped investment?

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has smoothed the way to permit hundreds of square miles of solar energy facilities on public land in America's southwestern deserts.   In California alone there were 20 solar applications in line for public land, totaling over 200 square miles.  The Obama administration asked the BLM to work with the Department of Energy (DOE) to decide which projects can receive taxpayer-backed financing and grants.  Massive solar projects have already been approved for over 4 billion dollars in government loans, and millions of dollars in cash grants.
A subsidiary of energy firm "NRG" was awarded over 18 million dollars in grants (free cash), and 2.1 billion dollars of taxpayer-b…