Energy

House Republicans Targeting Solar Panel Subsidies — Saving The Birds?

REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS ENERGY)

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Chris White Tech Reporter

House Republicans will target a series of Obama administration-subsidized solar power plants Thursday, many of which have torched birds as well as caused massive fires.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, is leading the House Natural Resources Committee’s oversight panel in investigating the Ivanpah solar plant and others that have benefited from federal loans and grants despite fire hazards and environmental destruction.

“During the Obama administration, taxpayers have subsidized tens of billions of dollars in renewable energy projects, including risky utility scale solar projects on federal land,” a committee memo notes. “These projects cover vast tracts of land, and have demonstrably impacted protected species.”

The plant’s operators requested the federal government give it $539 million in federal grant to help pay off the $1.6 billion loan it got from the Energy Department – it essentially used taxpayer money to pay off a loan from taxpayers.

The California-based Ivanpah generates a paltry 45 percent of expected power in 2014, and 68 percent in 2015, according to government data. The highly subsidized plant manages to accomplish at the wholesale cost of $200 per megawatt hour, which is six times more expensive than power created by natural gas-fired power plants.

“Despite its corporate backers, and billions in funding provided by the federal government, Ivanpah has been unable to meet its contractual agreements to supply electricity to consumers in California,” the memo adds. “In March of this year, the facility was granted an extension, with financial penalty, to provide extra time to meet its obligations.”

The committee’s memo also notes how the solar plant has incinerated birds.

“Known as ‘streamers,’ it is believed that the birds are drawn to the installation — either mistaking the bright light for water, or pursuing the insects that are drawn to the light,” the memo said. “The birds are then incinerated in the air by 1,000-degree Fahrenheit rays from the collection towers. This includes many species covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.”

Enormous solar power plants like Ivanpah are significantly different than rooftop solar panels. They use tens of thousands of mirrors that reflect sunlight at a tower holding massive amounts of water that is then heated to produce the steam powering a turbine producing electricity.

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