15 February 2014


Two days ago the world's largest thermal solar power plant, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, officially opened in the Mojave Desert.  It's already producing electricity and will eventually deliver enough to power 140,000 houses.  And it will never explode or produce an oil lake, nor dump almost immeasurable levels of radioactivity into the environment.

The US is lagging badly behind other countries in the transition away from fossil fuels.  Germany has led the way in solar power, Brazil in ethanol-fueled cars.  But Ivanpah, and this decision to go with solar instead of natural gas in Minnesota, show that the US is getting on track.

The right-wing blogs, which are always eager to dredge up any negativity they can find about non-fossil-fuel energy, have pounced on the fact that Ivanpah has killed a small number of birds (not that they ever seem to care about all the birds killed by oil spills); also, a local population of endangered desert tortoises had to be relocated.  Unfortunately, it's impossible to build a project of this size without some negative impact of some kind.  Conservatives also grumble that solar electricity is relatively expensive; but the costs are coming down rapidly, and such comparisons also fail to take into account the actual costs of the alternatives, such as the constant risk of a nuclear accident poisoning a large territory, or the fact that continued reliance on fossil fuels would make the Earth uninhabitable in a century or two.

Japan's Fukushima province, site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, has set a goal of 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2040; Japan as a whole has shut down 50 nuclear reactors since the disaster.  Germany has set a goal of 60% of energy from renewables by 2050.  If they can do it, so can we.


Blogger Jerry Critter said...

It's a start.

15 February, 2014 08:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The nuclear energy advocates also don't like to bring up the fact that the cost of insuring against potential nuclear disasters is underwritten by the federal government. It's another example of how large energy corporations externalize their costs by socializing their risk.

15 February, 2014 15:03  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jerry: All the more reasons to keep the Republicans out of power -- if they have their way, the start will definitely be stillborn.

Anon: Exactly. The electricity prices we're quoted don't reflect the true costs. If private insurers would cover nuclear plants at all, the cost of the premiums would make those plants uneconomical to operate.

15 February, 2014 15:11  
Blogger Ahab said...

It's about time! Let's start transitioning away from dangerous and polluting energy sources to more sane ones.

16 February, 2014 12:17  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ahab. Yes. Better late than never.

17 February, 2014 02:16  

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