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California desert mirror energy or green mirage

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The partisan scapegoating of global warming has baited political and allied business opportunists with loose money to promote very expensive “renewable” and “sustainable” energy projects – most of which fail cost/benefit analyses. For example, new “fracking” to massively increase petroleum fuels replaces recent renewable energy projects on a cost basis alone.

Myopic and unsustainable government mandates to control questionable climate threats inflate consumer costs and cause electric power shortfalls. The California Energy Commission’s green/renewable energy obsessions mandate California's electric utility companies to use new low-carbon renewable energy to produce 33 percent of their electric power by 2020.

Solar thermal reactor electric power plants were all the rage of renewable power enthusiasts in the 1980’s. There were nine separate “solar reactor” power plants proposed for the Mojave Desert near Barstow by the Israeli company BrightSource Energy (formerly Luz Industries). BrightSource’s solar thermal technology -- which focuses sunlight from thousands of curved mirrors onto massive boilers 339 feet in the air to make steam that drives turbines to produce electricity – was to have an advantage over conventional photovoltaic solar panels.

The latest Mojave Desert solar reactor electric plant, Ivanpah, is the world’s largest using mirrors to focus the power of the sun on solar boilers atop three towers. The electricity generated by all three tower reactors is enough to serve more than 140,000 homes – approximately the size of Pasadena. The complex is estimated to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by more than 400,000 tons per year. But, it has to pay the cost of impacts to the endangered Desert tortoise, and those poor desert birds that get toasted when flying through the high-energy solar array.

Sprawling across 3,500 acres (the area of Los Angeles International Airport) in the Mojave Desert, the $2.2 billion Ivanpah solar thermal power plant has more than 300,000 mirrors that reflect one-thousand degree sunlight onto boilers housed atop three towers. The Ivanpah plant was partially backed by a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from Obama’s Department of Energy, the same stimulus program of failed solar panel maker Solyndra and other bankrupt renewable energy projects to control climate.

For comparison, building a conventional electric power plant fired by fracked natural gas would cost about $1,000 per megawatt of electric power generated, a fraction of the $5,500 per megawatt that Ivanpah will cost. (Reuters, February 13, 2014)

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