Solar Farm dislocates Desert Tortoises – a Threatened Species

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 15th, 2014

Week in Review

The problem with renewable energy sources is that they take up a lot of real estate.  To save the environment they must take a big footprint in that environment.  And big things cost a lot of money.  Such as solar farms.  Or wind farms.  Even though the ‘fuel’ is free.  Sun.  And wind.  Which is why free solar and wind power is some of the most costly power.  And if that wasn’t bad enough we also have to evict some of the indigenous life from their natural habitat (see Sunflower mirrors power California’s desert farm by Rowan Hooper posted 2/13/2014 on New Scientist).

IT TAKES a couple of seconds to work out what’s going on in this photo. You’re looking at a pair of heliostat mirrors – sunflower-like reflectors that turn to track the sun during the day. These are just two of hundreds of thousands such mirrors arranged in the Mojave Desert in California, all part of the Ivanpah solar power project.

Their job is to concentrate the sun’s rays onto boilers located on three central towers, turning water into steam that drives turbines. The site (below) covers 14 square kilometres and will produce at least 377 megawatts of electricity, not much below the summer output of a typical nuclear power station in the US and enough to power 140,000 homes in California…

The project has been controversial. Native American groups have objected, claiming it will impact burial grounds. The project was also held up while desert tortoises – a threatened species – were relocated away from the Ivanpah site. It highlights the fact that even renewable energy projects can have some adverse environmental impacts.

Hundreds of thousands of mirrors?  That must have cost a pretty penny.  I wonder what happens when the desert winds blow sand onto those mirrors.  Either making them dirty and less reflective.  Or dulling them by the natural sandblasting of the blowing sand that has worn away solid rock in the dessert.  Making them less reflective.  Requiring periodic cleaning of these mirrors.  And their replacement over time.  Thus making a very costly power generation system even more costly.

If we’re not hacking eagles to death with wind turbines we’re kicking another threatened species from its home.  Neither of which happens when we burn coal in a coal-fired power plant.  While there is only a theory that these coal-fired power plants are harming the wildlife on the planet it is a fact that renewable energy is.  So one can only conclude that wildlife like eagles and desert tortoises prefer coal-fired power plants over solar and wind power.  Which isn’t harming them.  As is evidenced by their being around after centuries of burning coal only to suffer harm from solar and wind power.

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