Frank Landis' Blog

Can anyone help me find…?
February 2, 2010, 8:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As I posted on Rick Halsey’s Facebook page recently, I’m looking for an article. I’ll describe the article in a second, but let me first get my soapbox out about the desert solar and wind land rush. Let’s see, where to start:
–I could start with the problem, dating back to pioneer days, that land that has been developed is worth intrinsically more than undeveloped land. No, really. The value is from real or potential water, mineral, etc rights. So Joe Idiot tries to farm the desert, scrapes it bare, goes broke, leaves a useless eyesore, and that’s still worth more than an adjacent area full of endangered plants and animals. I’ve heard rumors that Senator Feinstein is trying to change this provision, and if so, bless her and help her out, because what’s happening is that just about every undeveloped acre of BLM land in the southwestern deserts has a solar or wind plant targeted at it. Not the screwed up areas so much. Just the undeveloped land. Time to scream, environmentalists!
–Or, conversely, I could start with the problem that the local power utilities understand how to build power lines and work with big, monolithic power plants. So they want to build more. In Mexico, even (I think having a big, gas-burning power plant near Tijuana is an excellent way to light up San Diego. Don’t you?). Conversely, the local power companies have issues with dealing with dispersed power generators, like, say, people with solar panels on their roofs. As a result, San Diego just raised the cost of permitting a home solar panel by several hundred percent, while other states (such as Massachusetts) are already implementing programs to buy any surplus power that their customers generate. Time to scream? Sure, why not?
–Or, perhaps, I could start with the problems with utility corridors. They’re ugly, they kill birds and wildlife, and …. Ummm, oh yeah, power lines also start fires. That’s a bit of an ugly problem. We certainly need more fires in southern California (see more from The chaparral institute on this). Powerlines are also vulnerable to fires and earthquakes. And, to get back to the topic of this post, power lines are exquisitely vulnerable to terrorism.

Terrorism? Well, I’m absolutely not interested in taking down a line. However, someone (I seem to recall it was one of the Nixon cabal, possibly G. Gordon Liddy) published this article back in the 1980s. In it, he described, in some detail, how he could use approximately 50 men, some shotguns, dynamite, and similar supplies, to take out the West Coast. His idea was to shoot the wires off the insulators on the high tension lines (that’s what the shotguns were about), dynamite certain key towers and power distribution centers, blow up a couple of aqueducts, and dynamite a few freeway passes through the mountains. Result: people across the West Coast would have no power, no water, and no way to leave except by walking or driving an ORV. Evil man.

Now, to repeat, I have absolutely no desire to follow these instructions.   However, I would like to find a copy of that article, mostly so I can include it in EIR/EIS comments on all these damned power lines they want to put in in the next year.  It’s stupid to destroy so much undeveloped land and make ourselves more vulnerable at the same time.

While we’re at it, if anyone can figure out a way to reach into Washington and get them to focus on decentralizing the power grid, not just making more huge plants, I’m open to suggestions.


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Can’t help with the article but there are a few more points being overlooked in the grand race to develop desert lands, whatever their history.

An article this week in the LA Times discussed LA City Department of Water and Power (DWP) efforts to persuade Owens Valley folk to permit a huge solar energy farm on lands now blowing toxic dust storms due to DWP pumping all the water down to LA. The entire project proposed would provide more power than LA needs, so DWP plans to sell the rest to whatever jurisdictions pay the most. Did I mention that City of LA has used DWP money for years to stuff the City General Fund, while DWP infrastructure falls apart in broken pipes and degraded power grids? The current drought finds DWP probably wasting more water through broken Mulholland-era pipes than LA citizens have conserved.

DWP says they will save water by not having to restore water to the Owens Valley area. The DWP is mandated to provide enough water to keep the soil moist and in place and to support native groundcovers designed to hold the soil. The article quotes DWP as saying they have done wind tunnel tests and solar arrays will stop toxic dust storms.

What the article does not say, what no one says, is how solar arrays will stop toxic dust storms.

If the solar arrays act as windbreaks, either stopping powerful straight wind flow or creating turbulent centers that will slow down the wind flow, then what happens to the solar collectors? Plans of solar arrays show the collectors in rows of towers embedded in either concrete or bare soil. Either dust will collect around and on each collector or the turbulence will act like scouring pads and erode or chemically react with the face of the collectors.

Guess what is the common method of handling these problems?
Answer: washing the collectors with water! Why waste water on stabilizing the toxic soils with plants when water can be wasted in a more useless, expensive way?

DWP has not tested how solar collectors will perform efficiently or what the cost of maintenance is for locating them in a toxic dust storm area known for its high winds. Maybe DWP engineers and executives should look at the effects of wind erosion in Red Rock Canyon or fly over the desert and see old volcanoes overrun by sandflows driven by desert winds.

Ah! Solar farms in the desert flats! New dune systems in the making!

A suggestion to the City of LA: if every house and building had a solar system on their property, supplying power to the homeowners and businesses, minimum power at least would be available during emergencies such as earthquakes or loss of powerlines in wildfires or floods. The City could save money now used for emergency repairs and benefit from continuation of services and businesses during emergencies. The property owners would be responsible for repairs. The dispersed power supply system makes sense in our catastrophe-prone densely built southern California.
DWP could supply power from other local energy sources, perhaps through waste conversion technologies also dispersed throughout the city in conjunction with material recycling facilities.

Comment by Elisabeth Landis

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