Our View: Dark side of solar energy
As the government's obsession gains momentum to force adoption of solar energy, the hyped promises of a "huge, clean industry," as the Los Angeles Times recently described it, fall short.
Exhibit 1 is a proposed $2.7 billion solar power plant for Hidden Hills in Inyo County, 230 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
A Times report said Inyo County officials liked the promise of "a bounty of jobs and a windfall in tax receipts" for hosting the project. The general fund revenue would be boosted 17 percent.
"But upon closer inspection," the Times reported, "the picture didn't seem so rosy."
The county discovered the presumed revenue boost instead would be "a fraction of the customary amount." Solar projects receive tax exclusions to encourage their construction.
Also, fewer than 10 local workers would get permanent jobs, a consultant advised, and local residents would get only 5 percent of construction jobs. Moreover, "construction workers are likely to spend their money across the nearby state line, in Nevada," the Times said.
"Riverside and San Bernardino (counties) have made similar discoveries," the Times reported.
Two of the world's largest solar plants, being built in San Bernardino County, pose millions of dollars in new annual public safety costs. Full costs are unknown because, as officials complain, the speed of approvals is too fast for adequate analysis. Millions of federally owned acres to be set aside for solar development also will make the land unavailable for public and recreational uses.
There also are environmental concerns about thousands of garage-door-size solar panels side by side on millions of acres of desert floor capturing heat to be transferred to skyscraper-sized water towers to create steam to generate electricity.
The law of unintended consequences is playing out. Taxpayer money thrown at grand-sounding projects skews other economic and social factors, at a high price.
The federal Interior Department said in August that it will allow construction permits on 285,000 acres of public land in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
Washington and Sacramento are in a head-long rush to sprinkle millions of acres with solar panels. The Times quoted Gov. Jerry Brown saying he will "crush" solar opponents and "nothing's gonna stop me."
The solar land grab is but one objectionable aspect of a movement driven by ideology more than by reason. "Despite its impressive growth, and even with significant subsidies, solar power is substantially more expensive than conventional power sources in most locations," observed H. Sterling Burnett of the National Center for Policy Analysis. A re-evaluation of the scope and pace of the movement is called for.