Energy Week

Earth-Friendly Energy Is Anything But

Windmills pollute air and water and harm wildlife.

Environmentalists worship solar energy and wind power as Earth-friendly answers to their ecological prayers. Tortoises, bats, butterflies, and bald eagles beg to differ.

Perhaps because solar panels and industrial wind farms lack emissions, they seem “clean.” Despite their pristine appearance, however, these “green” electricity sources hammer Mother Nature — often fatally.

Southern California’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.

Consider the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in southern California’s Mojave Desert. As Carolyn Lochhead wrote on September 7 in the San Francisco Chronicle, Ivanpah occupies 3,500 previously untouched federal acres. It features 300,000 mirrors that focus sunlight on three 40-story towers of power. Inside, 900-degree temperatures yield steam, propel turbines, and generate electricity for 140,000 homes.

Ivanpah’s environmental toll is stunning:

• BrightSource Energy, the project’s owner, could have rehabilitated a brownfield, an abandoned commercial site, or a decommissioned military base. Instead, BrightSource developed 5.5 square miles of virgin desert.

• Lochhead reports that “scientists now say desert soils contain vast stores of carbon that are unleashed by construction of solar facilities.”

• Tortoises native to that area became refugees once BrightSource relocated them en masse.

• Kit-fox dens were flattened during construction.

• Monarch butterflies and birds should avoid Ivanpah at all costs. Those who traverse its highly concentrated sunbeams often ignite. Center for Biological Diversity ecologist K. Shawn Smallwood told the California Energy Commission last July that Ivanpah will roast an estimated 28,380 birds annually.

This MacGillivray’s Warbler suffered fatal burns at the Ivanpah solar plant in October 2013. Photo: Associated Press/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Ivanpah cost $2.2 billion, including a $1.6 billion federal loan. For its next trick, BrightSource envisions a bigger installation near Joshua Tree National Park — within a migratory path for protected peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and some 100 other bird species.

Meanwhile, environmentalists call wind power as benign as a summer breeze. In fact, wind farms have become avian killing fields. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports that “wind turbines may kill a half a million birds a year.” Wind blows away another 600,000 bats annually, primarily through lung hemorrhaging. While these “flying vampires” look scary, most are insectivores and vegetarians. Bats actually serve mankind by pollinating crops and devouring mosquitoes. Fewer bats mean more mosquitoes. Swell.

USF&WS explains also that “eagles appear to be particularly susceptible. Large numbers of golden eagles have been killed by wind turbines in the western states,” as have smaller numbers of bald eagles. Team Obama — which could not care less about America’s beautiful, majestic national symbol — almost never prosecutes wind companies for violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Even worse, Obama is granting wind-farm operators 30-year federal eagle-killing permits, to continue their mayhem — all in the name of “clean” energy. On this matter, Obama’s unvarnished callousness is staggering.

Long before windmills are installed — which itself consumes open fields — they abuse the Earth.

To evaluate any energy technology, “we must remember that it’s a process, starting with mining the materials necessary for the machines,” Alex Epstein notes in his forthcoming Penguin book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. Epstein observes that manufacturing wind turbines requires “hazardous substances like hydrofluoric acid in order to get usable rare earth elements.”

The Daily Mail’s Simon Parry toured Baotou, China, a source of neodymium, the main ingredient in wind turbines’ electromagnets. He discovered “a five-mile wide ‘tailing’ lake. It has killed farmland for miles around, made thousands of people ill, and put one of China’s key waterways in jeopardy.”

This toxic lake in Baotou, China, is filled with pollution from nearby neodymium factories, which are crucial to wind-turbine production.

Parry added:

This vast, hissing cauldron of chemicals is the dumping ground for seven million tons a year of mined rare earth after it has been doused in acid and chemicals and processed through red-hot furnaces to extract its components.

The lake instantly assaults your senses. Stand on the black crust for just seconds and your eyes water and a powerful, acrid stench fills your lungs.

For hours after our visit, my stomach lurched and my head throbbed. We were there for only one hour, but those who live in Mr. Yan’s village of Dalahai, and other villages around, breathe in the same poison every day.

Environmentalists should stop hallucinating about “sustainable” power sources that unleash puppies and rainbows at no cost to air, water, habitat, and wildlife. “Clean energy” hurts nature. Those who believe otherwise live in Fantasyland.

— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.

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