Solar panels don't have problem with glare, but the landscape of the county has large viewsheds of sloping treeless desert, so any facility will have a large visual impact. It also disturbs the ground and replaces the desert scrub with actual bare ground, which is more susceptible to dust, and dust is a problem that plant operators try to combat , but have long accepted as an inconvenient reality of siting in the desert.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivanpah_Solar_Power_Facility  https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7274289
You clearly haven't been on a highway leading straight towards a hillside panel cluster  at that particular time of day and year when the reflection trail of the panels passes over the road. It's much worse than going towards dawn or sunset because those are toned down do much by atmospheric attenuation. All you can do is blindly maintaining speed and hoping that nobody in front of you panics. We have a lot to learn about panel placement and permits, maybe we need to deliberately add jitter to panel orientation in locations where the reflection beam would pass over sensitive locations like high speed roads or even go back to heliostat installations there. (Or at least have some minor articulation capabilities to aim the reflection away)
I think it was at the location marked in the link, the end points of the route mark the glare source and target. IIRC it is an unrestricted stretch, where on a Sunday when trucks are not permitted even the slow lane often travels at 150 kph or more
It's the same light from the sun that you say is attenuated by the atmosphere before reaching your eyes that is reflected from the solar panels. It is literally impossible for it to be worse.
Edit: no problem, maybe I could have been more clear :)
Blew my mind when I drove past that (on the way to Las Vegas?).
I swear it appeared as though the air was incandescing at the top of the tower where all the sun's rays were focused. Def something out of a Sci-Fi film....
I saw it driving from Las Vegas to SF. Remember it being near Zzyzx which reminded me of Sonic Youth music video.
I am not sure why people think that a desert is bare and empty, I guess most just assume that because you can't see it as easily as you can in a forest that there is nothing there, but desert ecosystems are much more fragile than most other ecosystems and do not adjust easily to random interference.
I won't pretend that I know these projects are well-sited or they couldn't easily be done in a better way to lessen their impact. But, you can't use "it has a new harm" as an a priori veto of changes when the status quo is so deeply, deeply harmful.
I would ask those locals if they are ok with having no electricity other than what they can generate themselves on their own houses.
Desert may be a fragile area, but what is the real impact of its disruption? Everywhere there are tradeoffs.
Messing with ecosystems on a large scale will probably have serious side effects which we haven’t investigated; better to err on the side of caution.
I guess I’m surprised that the LA Times would publish a claim like that without comment or caveat.
I doubt most people actually believe dust has anything to do with it. They don’t want these infrastructure projects near them, plain and simple.
I encounter the same thing dealing with engineers. They will list a variety of objections to an idea, or "risks," without any attempt at quantifying the issues involved. Managers do this too. If I ask for details, it becomes my job to research it.
It creates a logic chain that could happen, without any discussion of actual probabilities or costs.
For example banning of assault rifles, discusses how it could save lives. People are surprised to learn that there are less than 200 deaths per year from any type of rifle.
The same goes for universal background checks.
If journalism can't be bothered to do research maybe the rise of AI created factuals is well deserved.
An investigative piece should actually look in to that claim rather than just repeat it. How can solar farms cause more dust than agriculture?
A news article is like that in a court of public opinion where the public is the judge and the reporter is merely there to report on both sides of the argument, not supposed to be doing research on their own, it is up to the other side to fact check and add that to their argument, it isn’t the reporter’s job or even their place ethically.
There is definitely room for reporters doing fact checking and more involved investigative journalism, just not in that kind of article.
The key is to ask the question.
Then who's job is it?
If there isn't such a person, then the research doesn't get done. I think this is fine, because by definition nobody cares. It's possible that only poor people care and they can't provide the funding, but then their political representatives should be able to find the funding. I accept that's not perfect, but it's generally how things work unfortunately.
Without facts and common assumptions, opinions are noise.
It's difficult to get (and in turn, give) a fair assessment of an issue without actually genuinely understanding the nuances of arguments on all significant sides. But issues are not simple and journalists are, in general, not qualified to meaningfully interpret the things they're reporting on. I think we've all probably experienced the pain that is reading an article that we happen to be experts on, yet we turn the page to something we're not experts on and suddenly expect it to be better?
Ideally providing 'context' would simply be that, but in practice 'context' can be, and frequently is, framed to cast an assessment on an issue - even when not intentional! Even your example here would be a perfect example of the inadvertent. Meteorological forecasts are pretty much meaningless at the 20 day level. Should our journalist mention this? Is failing to omit it misleading? There's just a lot of tricky issues like this. By contrast, if you simply report plain falsifiable facts directly driven by the story at hand, which would include things such as 'x' said 'y', you avoid all of this and simply have good, impartial reporting. That reporting could then be analyzed by more qualified parties to provide 'context'.
You're arguing a straw man of not checking out the sources sufficiently and just going off of surface impressions, when GP is arguing that digging into the sources is their job.
The general public is even less qualified to interpret things being reported on.
Jouralists who just repeat the press releases that each party gives are I believe a net negative. They set themselves up to be propaganda mouth pieces.
> Meteorological forecasts are pretty much meaningless at the 20 day level. Should our journalist mention this? Is failing to omit it misleading?
At some point certain topics are maybe just not worth reporting on at all. If there's no way to make a 20 day prediction beyond a wild guess, then why bother reporting that there's even a disagreement? The report at this point is "Two people make different guesses as to the value of a random variable."
It serves no purposes to report, and only creates a debate on a topic that there shouldn't be a debate about.
Ask somebody who wants to claim that solar farms can cause dust storms and he'll be able to make a sound logical case for it. Ask somebody wants to claim that solar farms do not cause dust storms and he'll be able to make a sound logical case for it. Even if the person reporting genuinely wanted, and was able (e.g. - not prevented by the newspapers 'official' stance on an issue) to do that, they simply would be grossly unqualified to do so. Reporters rarely have any sort of scientific background whatsoever.
If the facts are genuinely not well-known or agreed-upon by experts, then absolutely report on that. Not so readers can “make up their mind” (since that shouldn’t be the goal, if experts can’t even agree), but so readers can understand the complexity of the issue.
If one side lies out their ass or states "opinion" that is easily disproved as untrue, then it shifts the conversation without having facts.
In my view, proper journalism needs to reaffirm basic facts in their coverage so viewers/listeners don't have to put up with obvious bullshit or crazy opinions.
People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.
That's the type of reporting that leads to false equivalence and IMO wastes my time.
I don't need to hear "both sides" of every argument. I don't have enough time to understand every complex issue in detail. What I do need is a smart journalist I trust to investigate the issue, determine the truth and than share that with me along with the evidence that lead them to that conclusion.
That's actually useful to me. Currently reporting of just "Person A said blah, Person B said foo" doesn't help me, it leaves the power with whether A or B are more eloquent, deceitful or experienced, not who is more truthful or accurate. It can still be misleading based upon which pieces are chosen to be reported, and the parts left out people will naturally fill in with their personal biases about how they believe the world works.
Media companies are heavy on opinion, and shockingly short on full facts. The vast majority of articles never do much work to explain where they get their information - usually its "a study shows this" or "Jane said that" without linking the study or the FULL statement and context in which Jane said what she said.
The thing that is frustrating is because of this we all just read from news sources we agree with. It's impossible to show people how they're wrong if you don't link original sources and I just have to take it on your word that it meant exactly what it meant.
I say this as someone who actually engages with people who disagree with me but with the quality of most news articles it's basically impossible to convince people of something against their current views using them.
And that's how we end up with things like "obviously, we cannot have a climate change, I mean it's cold on the outside!!".
Now imagine a lot more vehicle traffic in a desert. I know lumber companies will spray water on dirt roads to keep the dust down, not sure if that’s a viable option out in a desert though.
What about a week after construction finishes. How about 10 years later?
You might appeal to the nature of democracy mandating 'your' view, yet I would argue that this view is precisely what's causing a deterioration of our democratic processes. This push towards trying to encourage people who have no basis for taking a stance on issues, to take a stance, waters down the views of the informed and returns us to Socrates critique of uncredentialed democracy. Who ought choose the captain of a ship, everybody including those who've never sailed, or experienced sailors? I think this is mostly self evident to the point of being rhetorical.
In times before the internet people were less inclined to form an opinion on every single issue and so, in practice, we ended up with the self evident choice. But as that has changed, we're now having the butcher vote for Richius as captain because of an opinion he heard from the Town Crier. That crier just happens to be best friends with the son of of one particularly influential Senator. That son's never once sailed in his life, though he thinks 'it sounds like a lot of fun!' Of course that son's name - Richius.
Because climate change won't destroy precious fragile landscapes? Okay, here's my deal: you get to keep your precious desert, but as long as you oppose local renewable energy, you can only subsist off the crops, livestock and other resources you can grow in the desert. Why should you benefit from the rest of us sacrificing our own landscapes to save ourselves when you aren't willing to do the same?
Just because a desert or prairie ecosystem isn't as obvious a conservation target as a forest doesn't mean they are not valuable ecosystems that shouldn't be protected from development.
There's no free lunch in energy generation, every form of it has some ecological drawback. Look at this virgin forest that Georgetown University wants to cut down to put a solar facility up. How is this a net positive for the environment?
I don't think my percentages are off https://www.energy.gov/eere/solarpoweringamerica/solar-energ... 0.6% according to that article, so probably in the single digit percentages in real life.
EVs are also taking hold faster in CA due to their better economics and broader cultural appeal in CA.
All these trends will lower the per capita energy consumption further without negatively affecting lifestyles.
> The policy approved by the supervisors prohibits utility-oriented renewable energy projects — defined as projects that would mostly serve out-of-town utility customers, rather than local power needs — within the boundaries of Community Plans that have been adopted by more than a dozen unincorporated towns.
It doesn't seem like they're opposing local renewable energy. They're opposing renewable energy that is used primarily to serve out-of-town customers.
Argueably a very legitimate stance on the part of the community.
I'm all for nuclear energy, if it can be done safely. (The cost might be too high for it to be commercially viable, but if it's worth doing the state can subsidize for the good of humanity).
But that blog post does not succeed in making any sort of case for why solar and wind won't be enough.
Do investigate the relative dangers of energy production.
I support nuclear power, but to say that it is without risks and the public is just irrational is disingenuous.
I didn't say nuclear is without risks, but it is safer than other methods of producing lots of electricity
Although only one person has died from radiation YET,
over 2000 died during/from evacuation.
If someone tells you there's a 1% chance that if you don't evacuate millions of people would be exposed to dangerous radiation, would you give the order? 10%? 50%? these are not easy questions
Furthermore, with Fukushima we got lucky! Had it not been for the rapid response nuclear pollution could have affected one of the biggest metropolitan areas and economic engines in the world, and vital fish stocks. The tail risk was real, and the consequences would have been earth-shattering for Japan. In any calculation like this, it's not only the odds of an event occurring that needs to be taken into account, it's the impact of that low-odds event too
Lots of people are promoting 50/50 mixes of intermittent/unreliable renewables + nuclear.
The author of the article thinks the renewables are problematic and our money would be better spent just going for 24/7 reliable clean energy sources.
From here: https://www.sbsun.com/2019/02/28/san-bernardino-county-board...
" some residents say the prohibition will protect communities from potential health hazards caused by blowing dust, which increases when pristine desert land is disturbed by construction. They also sited the protection of scenic views, carbon sequestration from desert vegetation, and preservation of habitat and wildlife as reasons to prohibit large solar development."
Sure, let's have more coal from Nevada instead.
Ideally the “new school” site could be turned into housing instead of destroying the center of the community which will require difficult zoning changes (currently 1 home per 5 acres I believe).
>will require difficult zoning changes
Communities are now too blinded by greed to make these decisions honestly. Zoning decisions need to move to the state level.
Outside-of-California coal plants that significantly and regularly contribute to Southern California's energy mix are Navajo (in Page, AZ) and Intermountain (in Delta, UT). These are Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP)'s share and get mixed in through them. There's even a dedicated HDVC line  between Intermountain and Victorville.
The coal for Navajo is mined in Kayenta, AZ, and the plant's effects are multifaceted. It came about as a compromise when dams affecting the Grand Canyon were cancelled, and the mine and plant create jobs and lease payments for the Navajo Nation, but it also pollutes land and is used to power cities far away.
The coal for Intermountain is mined in Utah, Colorado, or Wyoming, depending on market forces.
LADWP has set goals to switch off of coal in the coming years, including considering converting Intermountain to natgas. Navajo's prospects are not good -- they're under regulatory and economic pressure, and conversion to natgas is not viable due to the lack of pipelines to the area.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Path_27  https://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/3392214
I have always wished that anyone who complains about wind or solar destroying their view should be forced to live with a coal or nuclear plant in their backyard for 12 months, so they can get some perspective.
That, or severely reduce their electricity consumption, forever.
NIMBYism in California has been at the level where one generation basically doesn't give a damn about the subsequent generations. This fits in with the pattern.
There are no coal mines in Nevada. You might be thinking of Arizona or Wyoming.
Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything/Anyone.
FWIW I own property in the Mojave near Joshua Tree National Park. I am fairly pro-solar, but can at least appreciate the need for a more thorough evaluation of how these large-scale installations will affect the environment. It seems prudent to me that the county put on the brakes for now until we have better answers.
It may turn out that these solar installations can actually have more positive effects than negative, though it might only be possible with additional steps like covering the ground throughout the area with something like a perforated tarp. I wouldn't be surprised if such a tarp could be used to trap moisture in the ground and grow strawberries or something between the panels through the perforations where water and crops may pass.
Right now my property is covered with millions of wild desert flowers. Many people think all deserts are just some barren sandy landscape devoid of life. I know I did before owning a piece of it. It's not the case, there's a lot of life and it's a fragile ecosystem. Today I was photographing dozens of honey bees and a few butterflies feasting on acres of flowers in the Mojave.
I uploaded some of today's photos to imgur for the HN crowd if interested https://imgur.com/a/blZbs5e
E.g. if their concern is the risk ruining views, then ban construction that ruins views, don't ban things you think may ruin views whether or not they actually do, while not banning a near infinite number of things that also might ruin views; if your concern is dust, then require plans and documentation that you're taking sufficient measures to prevent it, don't ban just some of the things that may or may not cause the problem while leaving the door wide open for other projects that would cause the same problem just because people aren't pursuing those other kind of projects right now.
[I keep fantasizing about "acceptance tests" for laws and regulations: Too often laws and regulations are set out based on totally untested hypotheses about their effects, but without any kind of process to review efficacy or side-effects, and with an inherent political cost to revisit an issue; imagine if all laws and regulations had to set out intended goals and define an objective set of criteria to measure if they meet the goals, and would automatically be suspended if they do not have the intended effects or have sufficiently large negative side-effects; it wouldn't stop bad laws, but it would at least document what the actual intended direct effects are]
They can't possibly be serious.
How much damage could solar or wind even cause ?
What's the point of renewable energy if not to help protect natural areas like the ones being proposed for development?
Mining and fabricating the amount of low-density energy harvesters and storage systems needed to fill in the intermittency also requires dozens of times more materials, land, and waste than the major carbon-free competition (nuclear).
If you're going to ban these, then offer a non-fossil-fuel alternative that could work.
These days you can buy a lot of solar, wind, and storage for $2.6B, so I'm not sure that closing the reactor is merely "not liking" nuclear. At this point we get more carbon free energy from solar and storage for the same amount of money, so if one is concerned about carbon it makes more sense to chug it down and build newer cheaper infrastructure.
The only other methods I am aware of are the giant cooling towers people associate with nuclear plants or ponds (more like canals which snake back and forth, see Turkey Point in Florida) which allow the water to cool before reuse.
Well they don't seem to be banned. And seemingly they would be in favour of renewables for their own use. So disconnect them from the grid, add renewables and battery storage, that would seem to please everyone?
OK, so this is pretty much another incident of property value protection?
The worst case scenario for toxic waste is probably the Hanford Site, which is obviously awful but it's not exactly causing global climate catastrophe like carbon might.
Just because they say they are doesn't mean they actually are.
Also most of the environmental footprint of the panels comes from the production process, which requires high temperatures and solvents.
All in all it's not much of a problem.
Here's a photo I snapped from my backyard just now. This is the Sonoran Desert in Phoenix, but much of the southwest is like this. Not exactly a dead ecosystem.
Here's an update on the upcoming desert bloom from a couple of days ago with a nice video included:
Aside from this the Anza-Borrego Desert(within the area in discussion here) has natural springs and oases, bighorn sheep which are endangered, there's also golden eagles, black-tailed jackrabbits, kit foxes, deer, falcons and dozens of different reptiles. I would highly recommend spending some time there before dismissing it as a "fucking desert."
edit: In case anyone else wonders, there would be a negative effect, as deserts are net carbon sinks.
Covering them with solar panels disrupts the environment and displaces it’s inhabitants.
Other biomes are worth preserving as they keep this planet habitable. I thought deserts do quite the opposite.
> Even though the plant and animal species that exist in hot deserts are well-adapted to those environments, we know from studies that such organisms are treading a fine line over environmental tolerance; some are even at their limits, according to the IPCC (25).
>Both The Sahara and The Namib are extremely hot deserts and in recent years have experienced some of the hottest temperatures to date. Pakistan and Iran have also experienced record dry spells and high temperatures in the last decade. Even semi-arid desert climates are experiencing an increase in hot and dry spells, becoming more parched and experiencing wildfires in areas where scrub, brush and tree cover is more abundant.
>Evidence demonstrates that the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula alone show increased water vapor feedback, much higher sensitivity, and increased sensitivity in deserts to greenhouse gas emissions. Simply, deserts become hotter and drier during a warming climate with wider implications for the warming climate.
However I was not aware of this
>Many are not aware that deserts are a net carbon sink, providing some relief from the increase in greenhouse gases. This will be problematic while carbon emissions continue to increase, and world governments will need to do something about it in the future. The discovery was made when researching bacteria in the desert. Research suggests that bacteria located in massive aquifers beneath the sand and in the sands itself, are capturing carbon from the air. In theory, the aquifers could hold more than the entire global population of plant material at present at 20 billion metric tons (or 22 billion imperial/US tons) (33).
But my question was about deserts in general. The answer I was looking for was deserts being carbon sinks.
They occur naturally and life has adapted to them. From a conservation standpoint that's enough reason for me to keep them around.
On the other hand RadiThor existed so clearly the other extreme also existed :)
Fair enough. We should just put the sustainable solar power that these same residents want access to on arable farm land instead?!?
My intuition would suggest that renewable energy would take energy out of the system (wind power at least). Reducing dust storms.
So are they correct? Is it climate change being attributed to the cure?
We have (and California/Western States especially) drastically reduced per capita water consumption over the past few decades. Almost nobody has noticed.
This same approach needs to happen with electricity and other forms of energy. We shouldn't build any net new large-scale generation facilities (replacements are ok). To really make a difference, we must consume less. Consuming the same or more is no longer an option, even if it renewable or carbon-free.
Also, you just claimed that consuming more energy is not an option with making any arguments to support that claim. In fact, consuming more energy is an option every household has, and if we ban solar and wind then that energy will come from fossil fuels.
On the practical level, we never consume anything, just change its state. So even the most energetic human activity can quite readily be a net neutral activity as long as it is planned with a cyclical reuse in mind.
I see no virtue in reduce if recycle is working well. They are both just practical means to an end. So we should go all in on sustainable systems since they are far, far easier to build than a new psychology and some level of hardship for all society, throughout the entire world - even if that hardship is small.
There’s really no benefit to decreasing consumption of electricity. There’s no difference between decreasing demand by 1W and increasing solar output by 1W.
This ignores the sunlight that reflects back into space, and if conversion into electricity and slow return to heat actually increases the amount of energy that the planet can effectively absorb.
At some level, it's just a question of if the planet would heat up by painting the deserts black -- and I suspect that the answer is "yes".
This is also true for water. I'm not sure exactly what you're saying.
Electricity use implies 'stuff'. Our production of 'stuff' is nowhere near being environmentally sound.
So 1W hitting the desert floor is nothing like 1W hitting a solar panel.
Immigration though, and also electric cars etc will need more energy.