If you are looking for the daily post I appologize

There will not be a daily post until I can figure out how to use WordPress… again.

So this post will simply ask the question, why change something that works into something that requires more education and time in a world where time grows shorter. Relearning how to post a video here is like smoking cigarettes and shaving. No, it is worse.

I’d like to post a video but i can’t keep up with WordPress changes…

… so here is a story that should be related to the “fryscraper ” mess. If you aren’t familiar with fryscrapers, comment on this blog and my next post will explain.

The $2.2 Billion Bird-Scorching Solar Project

At California’s Ivanpah Plant, Mirrors Produce Heat and Electricity—And Kill Wildlife

 
 
Feb. 12, 2014 8:17 p.m. ET
 

Regulators are having second thoughts about approving new solar projects due to growing evidence tower-and-mirror solar technology is killing birds. WSJ’s Cassandra Sweet reports on digits. Photo: Getty Images.

A giant solar-power project officially opening this week in the California desert is the first of its kind, and may be among the last, in part because of growing evidence that the technology it uses is killing birds.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is scheduled to speak Thursday at an opening ceremony for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station, which received a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee.

The $2.2 billion solar farm, which spans over five square miles of federal land southwest of Las Vegas, includes three towers as tall as 40-story buildings. Nearly 350,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, reflect sunlight onto boilers atop the towers, creating steam that drives power generators.

The owners of the project— NRG Energy Inc., NRG +0.28% Google Inc. GOOG +0.87%and BrightSource Energy Inc., the company that developed the “tower power” solar technology—call the plant a major feat of engineering that can light up about 140,000 homes a year.

Temperatures around the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System’s towers can hit 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Zuma Press

Ivanpah is among the biggest in a spate of power-plant-sized solar projects that have begun operating in the past two years, spurred in part by a hefty investment tax credit that expires at the end of 2016. Most of them are in California, where state law requires utilities to use renewable sources for a third of the electricity they sell by 2020.

Utilities owned by PG&E Corp. and Edison International have agreed to buy electricity generated from the Ivanpah plant under 25-year contracts, according to NRG.

Utility-scale solar plants have come under fire for their costs–Ivanpah costs about four times as much as a conventional natural gas-fired plant but will produce far less electricity—and also for the amount of land they require.

That makes for expensive power. Experts have estimated that electricity from giant solar projects will cost at least twice as much as electricity from conventional sources. But neither the utilities that have contracted to buy the power nor state regulators have disclosed what the price will be, only that it will be passed on to electricity customers.

 

New utility-scale projects began operating at a record rate in the fourth quarter of 2013, adding 1,141 megawatts of capacity, according to research firm SNL Energy. But only a handful of new projects were announced, totaling 13 megawatts.

BrightSource wants to build a second tower-based solar farm in California’s Riverside County, east of Palm Springs. But the state Energy Commission in December proposed that the company instead use more conventional technologies, such as solar panels or mirrored troughs.

One reason: the BrightSource system appears to be scorching birds that fly through the intense heat surrounding the towers, which can reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The company, which is based in Oakland, Calif., reported finding dozens of dead birds at the Ivanpah plant over the past several months, while workers were testing the plant before it started operating in December. Some of the dead birds appeared to have singed or burned feathers, according to federal biologists and documents filed with the state Energy Commission.

Mirrors reflect sunlight on to boilers atop the Ivanpah facility’s towers to create steam for generating power. The Washington Post/Getty Images

Regulators said they anticipated that some birds would be killed once the Ivanpah plant started operating, but that they didn’t expect so many to die during the plant’s construction and testing. The dead birds included a peregrine falcon, a grebe, two hawks, four nighthawks and a variety of warblers and sparrows. State and federal regulators are overseeing a two-year study of the facility’s effects on birds.

“With the data we’ve gathered, it’s far too early in the process to draw any definitive conclusions about long-term impacts on avian or other species,” said Jeff Holland, a spokesman for NRG, the project’s operator, which is based in Princeton, N.J.

BrightSource has “confidence in the technology and its ability to operate and perform as expected,” said Joe Desmond, a spokesman for the company, adding that he thinks it will be able to resolve the problem of bird deaths and build more big plants in California and elsewhere.

The solar-technology company, which remains closely held after canceling a planned public offering in 2012, intends to use its technology in China and other countries, Mr. Desmond said.

By the Numbers

Facts about the Ivanpah project

  • $2.2 BILLION Cost of power plant’s construction
  • 3,500 Acres covered by the plant, about five square miles
  • 459 FEET Height of each of three towers, which are topped by boilers
  • 347,000 Number of garage door-size mirrors that are used to reflect sunlight
  • 140,000 Homes per year for which the plant is expected to generate electricity

BrightSource

The company put plans for a third California solar farm on indefinite hold last year, and it abandoned a proposed fourth project for which it had sought state approval in 2011.

In response to BrightSource’s blueprint for its second big solar farm in Riverside County, near Joshua Tree National Park, biologists working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told state regulators that they were concerned that heat produced by the project could kill golden eagles and other protected species.

“We’re trying to figure out how big the problem is and what we can do to minimize bird mortalities,” said Eric Davis, assistant regional director for migratory birds at the federal agency’s Sacramento office. “When you have new technologies, you don’t know what the impacts are going to be.”

The agency also is investigating the deaths of birds, possibly from colliding with structures, found at two other, unrelated solar farms. One of those projects relies on solar panels and the other one uses mirrored troughs. Biologists think some birds may have mistaken the vast shimmering solar arrays at all three installations for a lake and become trapped on the ground after landing.

Another concern about the second BrightSource project involves the height of the towers, which would be 750 feet tall, roughly the same as a 69-story building. Indian tribes have objected to the project, saying the tall towers and the light emitted from the facility’s mirrors would be visually obtrusive.

The Ivanpah plant draws water for the boilers atop its towers, and for washing its many thousands of mirrors, from underground wells at the site. The water will be recycled; an on-site treatment plant will filter out wastewater sludge, which a waste hauler will remove and dispose of, according to the company.

The plant was more expensive to build than a similar-size conventional solar-power plant would be today, particularly as prices for solar panels, a rival technology, have fallen over the past few years. Many of the solar power facilities currently being developed are smaller than the Ivanpah plant, such as rooftop solar panel installations and solar farms built near cities and towns where there is less space available.

Write to Cassandra Sweet at cassandra.sweet@wsj.com

Good Friends Shape Our Lives

I mentioned Chuck Saxton, the hook tender, in the last column. He was stocky with red curly hair sticking out all over, made to be a logger with a low center of gravity.

 

Chuck’s superior was Kiddo. I can’t remember his given name, but Kiddo called everybody else “kiddo.” He was an old man with a snoose-stained chin and was responsible for the operation of all seven sides (or sites). How a crude character like Kiddo could earn our respect must have had something to do with fear. In common language you couldn’t call him respectable but you knew he would never tell someone to do something he wouldn’t do himself. We feared disappointing Kiddo.

 

It seems like a lot of the people in Alaska are there because they shouldn’t be somewhere else, and yet I didn’t meet anyone that was not an honorable person in logging camp. Warren (Chuck’s predecessor) was an extreme case and excluded from the sample.

 

Chuck was in Alaska running from the law. He had entered a bar in Roseburg, Oregon and found a rookie cop beating up a seventeen year old kid for being under age. Being an honorable man, Chuck grabbed the cop in a rage and held him off the floor and against the wall with one hand until the cop passed out. Chuck valued freedom so he left Roseberg and flew to Sitka.

 

Chuck and I became pretty good friends. We quit together in September and caught a Beaver to Sitka. The Beaver we were on had a radial engine. It was quite a hot rod compared to the plane I flew to camp on five months earlier. As we crossed Chatham Strait the windshield became covered with oil. The pilot radioed for another plane to meet us in a little cove on the east side of Baranof.

 

A nice older couple lived there in a little log house. At the head of the cove was a thirty foot waterfall full of salmon. The old man said we should walk over there to see the brown bears catching fish. I still resent turning back when we heard our ride coming over the mountain. We never saw the bears but we did make it to Sitka safely.

 

I saved $5,000 that summer and spent half of it pretty fast; partly on a trip to Hawaii with Chuck. The highlight of that trip was a hike over the top of Haleakala Volcano on Maui. We bought a loaf of bread and a piece of cheese for the hike, which wasn’t enough to take us from sea level to 10,000 feet and back. Those mangoes all over the ground on the east side of Maui were fantastic but our teeth were full of hair.

 

The stars at 6500 feet in the middle of the Pacific make a dark sky white. Flip-flops work okay on lava rock if your pack is light. The Hawaiian sun does not have any mercy on a white logger’s skin. It takes more than two and a half days to starve to death. Locals hate haoles (pronounced howlies: non-native white people) who don’t throw their money around. These are things I learned in Hawaii and the last one is the reason I will never go back. Racism is a real thing and after all my time in multiracial neighborhoods, I never experienced it so intensely as in that tropical paradise. Good riddance, Hawaii. You only love us for our money.

 

Chuck and I parted ways after that and I returned to Northwest Montana for a year before moving to Dumont to care for my grandpa in my grandma’s final days.

 

Not surprisingly, I lost touch with Chuck for a few years. Then I found his folks’ phone number on Google and called to find he was dying of cancer. He was hailed as a hero when he resurfaced in Roseberg. That young cop was run out of town while Chuck was gone.

 

He spent his days fishing in the Umpqua River until he couldn’t get those big salmon in the boat anymore, but that was not until he had built a 1936 Indian motorcycle that set a land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

 

The people we meet over the years somehow make the ones we still have more precious.