Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he’s not against any one form of energy, but still took the time during a recent speech to highlight how green energy from solar panels and wind turbines comes with an environmental cost.
“You know wind chops up around 650- or 750,000 birds a year,” Zinke said at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Tuesday. “Wind comes at a cost. If you’re a fisherman, offshore wind isn’t particularly enamored with because it prevents you from fishing which is an important part of our economy.”
Zinke also said a massive government-funded solar thermal plant in the Southern California desert was a “sphere of death” for insects and birds and looked like something out of the movie “Mad Max.”
“Solar. If you’ve been outside of Las Vegas and looked at that solar field, it kind of looks like a scene from Mad Max,” Zinke said, referring to the Ivanpah solar plant, which was partly funded by the Obama administration.
The Ivanpah solar plant uses 170,000 mirrored heliostat panels to point solar rays to boilers atop three tall towers to generate electricity. Ivanpah got a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, and then a $539 million federal grant to pay off its federal loan.
“Is that the future of having these three or four eighty foot towers with reflector cells the size of garage doors where it makes this cone — this sphere of death — so as birds go through it they get zapped,” Zinke said.
Auditors estimated the Ivanpah plant killed 6,185 birds in 2015, including about 1,145 birds that were incinerated by the the intense heat coming off its many mirrored heliostat panels.
“And, they invent new language for it. It’s called a streamer. A streamer,” Zinke said of the incinerated birds. “And, then what happens is the bird gets zapped and of course bugs become a part of it and then it draws more birds. So, there’s a few problems with that too.”
Zinke’s point was that replacing coal-fired power plants with wind and solar has an environmental cost. He said coal can be burned more cleanly over time, and it’s unlikely that we can immediately replace it with wind and solar energy.
“We’re not against any energy,” Zinke said. “We’re all the above but certainly fossil fuels and coal is going to be a part of our energy mix, and I’ll go back to what I talked about at the very beginning. It is better to produce energy here under reasonable regulation than let it be produced overseas with no regulation.”
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