Library from Nevada
At a time when every penny counts, a number of citizens of the West could soon see higher electric and water bills to subsidize the delivery of wind power from thousands of miles away to California. And given the history of power generation in our area, it hardly seems fair.
No doubt renewable energy technologies will continue to evolve and become more viable. But it would be helpful if conferences such as this one included a serious discussion of economic realities rather than simply devolving into a pep rally for increased public handouts to favored green producers all too eager to stick out their hands.
The politics of renewable energy headed the agenda in battleground Nevada on Tuesday, as Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar opened a fifth annual green energy conference with the announcement that a 12-square-mile wind energy farm in rural White Pine County will begin producing electricity.
Nevada's renewable energy sector shows that over $1.3 billion in federal funds funneled into geothermal, solar and wind projects since 2009 has yielded and is projected to yield just 288 permanent, full-time jobs. That's an initial cost of over $4.6 million per job.
The Spring Valley Wind project towers over nearby vehicles. The project, located 30 miles east of Ely, Nevada, includes 66 Siemens 2.3 MW machines. The Spring Valley project went online August 8, 2012 and is the first in the State of Nevada.
The proposed Wilson Creek Wind Project would have consisted of up to 350 wind turbines generating up to 990 megawatts of electricity on approximately 31,000 acres of the public lands in the Wilson Creek Range, including Mt. Wilson, Table and White Rock mountains, and Atlanta Summit.
Programs to support wind-energy projects for Nevadans have been a financial flop so far, according to the state Bureau of Consumer Protection. But NV Energy of Las Vegas and Sierra Pacific Power of Reno say changes are being made, and the program should continue.
According to a Department of Interior memo, Enbridge Energy Partners, a Canadian-based company with extensive energy holdings in the U.S. that purchased the Southern Nevada plant from Arizona-based First Solar, "can apply for payments of up to 30 percent of the eligible costs of the project - approximately $50 million."
The 7,500-acre Spring Valley Wind farm in White Pine County, just west of Great Basin National Park, is set to start providing power to northern Nevada this July, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
The head of Reno's renewable energy program says turbine makers misled the city about how much power its turbines would generate. ...He wants the Nevada PUC to make proof of electricity generation a rebate requirement.
A year ago, a Reno clean energy businessman warned the Public Utilities Commission that if it didn't set a few standards for NV Energy's wind rebate program, its customers could end up footing the bill for turbines that rarely produce electricity.
The original plan by Searchlight Wind Project, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Duke Energy, was to produce 300 megawatts of power, but the project has been trimmed to 200 megawatts. ...the plan was altered in response to objections from the town’s residents. ...one of those residents who just happens to live west of beautiful downtown Searchlight would have had a clear view of many of those windmills from the picture window in his living room — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Midway through a two-year study about the potential impacts of a proposed wind farm on golden eagles in northern Nevada, wildlife biologists say they've identified nearly a dozen nesting sites in the area of the $200 million project in the mountains 20 miles northeast of Sparks.
With another season, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will have two years of data on the soaring and hunting patterns of golden eagles near the proposed Virginia Peak project, said Amedee Bricky, who is a migratory bird biologist for the service in Sacramento. "The turbines pose a lethal hazards for the birds," she said. "The biggest concern is the birds don't recognize the spinning blades as a hazard."
The 500,000-volt line would be a direct current line that’s projected to cost about $3.5 billion. The project would help transport electricity generated from Wyoming wind farms to California, which has set a renewable target to obtain one-third of its power from renewable sources by 2020.
The plant was built with the help of a federal grant of approximately $65.7 million through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the loan from John Hancock is 80 percent guaranteed by the federal government.
The email stated Wilson Creek Wind still wishes to have the BLM "to maintain a current right-of-way application for the project, but the EIS process will be completely put on hold for the next six to eight months while the applicant reviews potential alternative sites based on the response during public scoping."
In a remote desert spot in northern Nevada, there is a geothermal plant run by a politically connected clean energy start-up that has relied heavily on an Obama administration loan guarantee and is now facing financial turmoil. The company is Nevada Geothermal Power, which like Solyndra, the now-famous California solar company, is struggling with debt after encountering problems at its only operating plant.
Complaints that the renewable energy industry creates relatively few jobs is probably accurate, say energy and economic experts. While renewable energy generation is growing fast in Nevada, it's still just a fraction of the overall economy. The Nevada Commission on Economic Development has been aggressively pushing renewable energy projects, but as a percentage of the state's total jobs, "it's not much, to be honest," said Lindsay Anderson, director of business research and development with the commission.