While there is no doubt the world needs safer alternatives to the conventional energy technologies they've been using, the present rush to schemes they've been pursuing have their own disadvantages as well. Just my personal feelings and opinion of course.
|Image: BHE Renewables|
Topaz Solar Farms construction site, Carrisa Plains, CA
Take a moment, 2.40 minutes to be exact and watch the video of the Topaz Solar Farms construction site which is located on the Carrisa Plains of Central California. Almost close to four years of ongoing construction, plus three years of planning and permitting, the $2.4 billion, 550-megawatt Topaz Solar Farm is the first of this size in operation. Then when it is finally finished it will be primed to sell power to California utility PG&E. The project is owned and operated by MidAmerican Energy, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. It's a huge ocean of over 9 million solar panels on a massive amount of once agricultural land.
There is no doubt or argument that mankind has got to pursue some kind of healthier energy alternatives to the present failed not so ecological system they have used from the beginning of energy generating systems from the industrial revolution onward. As always, many things humans pursue comes at an ecological price and while Wind and Solar are being touted as the answer to everything wonderful with Eco-Green, there are high costs here as well from an ecological standpoint. Problem is, it is popular today for many who are involved in such money making eco-schemes to demonize anyone who may criticize such projects where unforeseen ecological consequences were never well thought out. The potential for profit and unbridled pursuit of wealth tends to put race horse blinders on such individuals where instead of responsible peripheral vision, we get planners and investors with tunnel vision. Point such concerns out to these industrialists and their proponents and all manner of insults, derogatory name calling and labeling people with legitimate concerns as nothing more than Anti-Science. This is of course the usual cowards way out when no viable answers are forthcoming. This is also a popular tactic in other areas of industrial science where big business interests must be defended at any cost. I'll list a number of my own personal concerns, many of which I have read about and some of which very little attention has been addressed. The NASA pictures below illustrate not only how the landscape has changed, but also the decline of vegetation with regards the present severe drought.
|NASA Photos of Change where Topaz Solar Farm is located|
Water Issues: unwashed Solar Panels don't generate as efficiently as clean ones
|Sandia National Laboratory|
Mr Twister mirror washing machine is the most cost-effective
method of cleaning mirrors at Kramer Junction solar plant
in the Mojave Desert, USA.
|Image: iClean Endinburgh|
So industrial equipment is needed for industrial cleaning of Solar Farms. This requires massive amounts of water from unsustainable sources. I say unsustainable because there is no way to replace what has been pumped deep from within the earth. The other dangers are the lowering of water tables which can also dry up the very few precious artesian springs that remain throughout the Mojave, Colorado and Sonoran Desert environments. Countless wildlife [animals, birds, reptiles, etc] are terribly dependent on such natural watering holes. Even desert plants with the deep root systems which redirect water distribution through hydraulic lift for other surrounding plants may also be in trouble. See, there is this thing called domino effect and lack of foresight to envision any dire consequences in the future.
|Pressure Washing Phoenix - Power Washing Phoenix AZ|
The worst target areas are of course the obvious ones, Deserts in the southwest. One also has to consider that these same scenarios are going to play out across the globe in like semi-arid and arid habitats. Europe has big plans for creating Industrial Solar complexes in the Sahara Desert in North Africa that will be the size of some of their own small to medium countries within the E.U. Google the Net and you will see all types of businesses have sprung up around this industry in the form of various maintenance services like the one above in and around the Phoenix area of Arizona. So where do they get their water ? Ideally that water needs to be as clean and purified as possible. Human drinking quality if possible. Then there are those automated cleaning systems within city infrastructures and services from companies offering self-service hands off gadgets which only require one minute washing and one minute rinse from sprinkler heads. Having been in the landscape irrigation maintenance system business, I can assure you the heads will always require some type of tedious regular maintenance of keeping mineral deposits and other debris out of those jets. Water waste is almost always assured.
|Image: Solar Power World|
WEEDS: Grassland Fires and Herbicides
|Image: KSBY News|
This also happened a couple years earlier at Intel's Solar Farm site near Folsom, California where dry dead grass caught fire when landscapers were trying to clean the areas underneath the panels. Here is a link to that event with video. Now in the video, the firefighters and news people were calling the plant material brush, but trust me, it started in the dead grass. Brush may have been on the outlying borders of the solar panels, but the fire started in dry dead grass under panels.
Grassland fire has the incredible potential for wildfire destruction, even more so than chaparral as it can accomplish the damage in a faster shorter amount of time before help arrives. Take a look at the photos of Morgan County Colorado's "Last Chance Fire" and what happen to the electrical infrastructure:
|photo by Knut Loschke|
This a photo of a Solar Farm near Markranstädt,
Germany in 2011. It's a weed-ridden solar installation.
Both these photos above and below are examples of overgrown weed infestation in regions where far more rainfall is recorded. Namely Germany and Canada. So how do they deal with such weed management ? Conventionally speaking, the scary scenario is the usual industrial science-based chemical herbicide control through spraying. What scares me is we aren't really necessarily talking about Roundup by Monsanto here. We're talking something far more dangerous if the Solar Farm industries really want to cut corners and save lots of money so that their bottom line looks much better to investors. How does that happen ?? Scroll down, look at the Oil Field and I'll let you in on a secret and personal story.
Thin-film, fixed-tilt power plant in Ontario, Canada
Take a close look at any oil field anywhere in Southern California and notice there are little to NO WEEDS anywhere. Why ??? The companies cannot afford any type of vegetation fire [especially grass fires] any where near their dangerous volatile oil wells. An oil well fire is both dangerous and expensive to put out. With that in mind, in 1989-90 when I worked for Coors-Biotech, it was my job to work closely with our distributors of our natural solvent, most of whom were chemical distributors. One of our distributors lived in Santa Barbara California and his customer base was mainly the Oil Industry. He told me back then that his Oil Company clients demanded a type of chemical herbicide which had a seven years minimum guarantee of not only killing the weeds but would also sterilize the soil so as to not allow anything to grow on that land for at the very least seven years. I remember how that spooked me. The idea that Chemical companies such as Dow, DuPont or Monsanto had the ability to invent such a creation that would completely destroy all biological life in the soil for such an incredible long duration. Shouldn't have been surprised. Remember Agent Orange ??? In Vietnam there are literally still chemical effects of the junk the US Military sprayed there, especially around former US Air Force bases. Vegetation was considered an aid to the enemy. See the photograph below and the bluish tint around oil wells ? This is a dye they put into the herbicide to identify areas already sprayed with the chemicals. Seriously, take an opportunity, drive up to Bakersfield and surrounding Oil towns and communities and see for yourself what the Oil & Gas Industry has done to the landscape. Once again, I just don't trust what may be used in the future on Solar Farm sites which can ill afford multi-billion dollar equipment destroyed in a grass fire. BTW, wildfire was always a known issue for Topaz Solar Farm as you can see in the link below. Herbicides are mentioned along with grazing, but they make no mention of just what would be used.
|Image: Percy Feinstein/Corbis|
Overlooking Chevron's Kern River oil field with the Sierra Nevada in the background, March 30, 2015
Unintended Consequences of Solar Farms on Wildlife
|Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System Image via http://www.energy.ca.gov|
|Image - PLOS ONE|
|National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory|
Below are some important links. First from PHYS-ORG which is the easier read, then from PLOS-ONE has much more deeper research with more than a dozen videos of birds, bats and insects getting burnt to a crisp instantly. One timelapse shows insects by the 1000s being zapped, it looked like fireworks.
PLOS-ONE: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Wildlife Detection and Observation Technologies at a Solar Power Tower Facility
Where should Solar Farms be located & whose backyard ???
|Photo courtesy Laura Cunningham, Basin and Range Watch|
As of 2010 Energy Developers had presented the federal Bureau of Land Management with 75 applications to build solar facilities within the Mojave desert.
"A solar panel 100 miles by 100 miles in the Mojave Desert (USA) could replace all the coal burned to generate electricity in the entire U.S."Louis A. Del Monta, Physicist, Author and CEO
Back in 2013, India inaugurated the first of a series of interconnected Solar Projects over irrigation canals which would not only generate power, but also slow evaporation of water from the irrigation canals. The entire network when completed will be over 85,000 kilometers or 52,816 miles long. This also implies that 11,000 acres of land can be potentially conserved along with about 5,000+ gallons of water saved per year. Now here is my question, How can a country like India which is poorer and if you believe the propaganda, more inferior technologically speaking as compared to the United States, how can they come up with such innovative clever ideas ? For one thing, they do not have the land area to waste on massive land gulping Solar Projects as the USA does. They need every bit of arable farmland they can save to feed their population which is huge as compared to the USA. This is more of a corporate business as usual model. There is no reason the concrete lined All American Canal and Coachella Canal could not have such Solar infrastructure built over it. The advantages would be plenty of available water to filter, clean and purify for washing the solar panels and excess water draining back into the canal.
|Image: Comaco Concrete Lining Technology|
All American Canal, Imperial County
|Narmada Canal solar power project in India saves agricultural fields for farming|
With the Imperial Irrigation Water District making deals to sell off water rights to San Diego just to the west along California's coast and less water for the conventional farming, many farmers in Imperial Valley are taking up farming solar as a business. Such projects on former farmland are the Signal Mountain Solar Project. Still, such areas will be weed prone and we wonder what methods will be used for such control. Traditionally, Imperial Valley has always relied on chemicals. Count on the status quo continuing here.
|Signal Mountain Solar Project west of Calexico and almost a stones throw from Mexico|
Below are some more human infrastructure example which need no explanation.
|South Korea Bikelane|
South Korea running 20 miles between the cities of Daejeon and Sejong, they can be running down the median of a six-lane highway
|Sonnenschiff solar city in Freiburg, Germany|
|Dragon-Shaped Solar Stadium in Taiwan is 100% Powered by the Sun Read more: Dragon-Shaped Solar Stadium in Taiwan is 100% Powered by the Sun|
|Photo: Clean Technica|
Solar carports have a double benefit: generating renewable
energy and reducing the island heat effect
And finally, Wildfire Danger Component variables most News Reports don't touch
Solar Panel fires are more common than I first thought when I wanted to address debris under solar panels on roofs and maintenance. Almost nothing out there on leaves, pine needles and other debris collecting under non maintained solar panels on home roofs and creating a wildfire hazard. Seriously, nothing! However there were numerous reports and pictures on electrical issues, fires and dangers for firefighters trying to put out fires on solar rooftops. Apparently there are numerous companies who jumped on board the climate change band wagon of solar craze, who took advantage of government grants and/or loans in the USA & around the world and have since gone bankrupt leaving customers with junk panels which are grossly inefficient and dangerous reputation for starting fires, even after supposed fixes and corrections are made. As I stated, I was originally only interested in the maintenance issues for homeowners and wildfire, but clearly there is far more dirt behind the scenes than mere leaves. Below is a commentary of one such dangerous issue with Solar Panels.
"When a panel fails, fire is a real danger."
"We have had roofs burn. On the composition it has burned and the actual panel catches on fire," said Owens.
"In fact, it could have very well been an open flame underneath here with vegetation," said Kauffman.
At a dual solar generating and panel testing station in sunny Davis, BP panels fail regularly. "One day, the worst happened when flaming debris hit the grass below."
"Caught the grass on fire and there was a breeze blowing and that grass actually turned into a grass fire that burned and burned about 25, 30 acres of crops," said Bill Brooks of Brooks Solar Engineering.Also see article from Metropolitan Engineering Consulting and Forensics: INSTALLATION, FIRE, PROPERTY DAMAGE, ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE AND OTHER LIABILITY RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH SOLAR PANEL SYSTEMS
|Image: manufactured Home Pros|
I seriously find this subject hard to believe that nobody has lost a house due to leaves, needles and other debris collecting in the spaces between the solar panels and the house rooftops before. The photo at top is what I dealt with every single fall in preparation for winter rains. Even in open air spaces with no trees nearby, tree leaves and other debris blew high up on the wind currents from great distances and collected under awning tight spots. That's just the nature of the world we live in. Maintenance and cleanliness is a must. But the other danger I found is electrical shock to firefighters because every single little photovoltaic cell continues to produce electricity as long as there is sunlight hitting them. Hence this is a very real danger to firefighters on rooftops and they are aware of this. Spraying water on such electrical panels is a risk as well.
There are clearly without question great uses for solar power in many applications, especially areas of remote road signs and equipment like earthquake monitoring devices, etc. But there are also drawbacks. I haven't even touched on the issues with dangers to wildlife from both the Industrial Solar projects and Industrial Wind Turbine projects, but they are very real. You can google that and other info as well. But caution needs to be taken when you are searching for the right manufacturer and system design. There have been clearly many bad experiences by large seemingly reputable solar companies who have shafted homeowners, investors as well as the Governments. The dire circumstances regarding climate change and need for alternative energy from what mankind has been pursuing and ruining the earth is very real, but you should also be well aware that the public relations behind the alternative energy movement is also taking advantage of this dire need for marketing their business for profit purposes as well. Short cuts are taken for maximizing profits. Should be no surprise here since it is that way when it comes to merchandising anything across the globe. That's the reality of the world we are forced presently to live in. The pursuit of eco-green innovation and solutions however never seems to require humans to alter their own personal resource wasting lifestyles and I can tell you with extremes in climate change, both extreme in temperatures with both heat and cold, the demands for energy will skyrocket at more costs. Pursue a greener lifestyle, but also take a grain of salt to all the sales pitches on alternative energy ideas, especially when someone is trying to sell you something they manufacture. Historically everything humans have done comes with a price and unforeseen consequences, no matter how good the sales pitch and pretty the picture they paint on it. It's called do your own Homework people!