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Freeze On US Solar Plant Applications Lifted 282

Posted by timothy
from the it-would-have-melted-eventually dept.
necro81 writes "Barely a month ago, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced a freeze on applications for solar power plants on federally managed land, pending a two-year comprehensive environmental review. After much hue and cry from the public, industry, and other parts of government, BLM has today announced that it will lift the freeze, but continue to study the possible environmental effects. To date, no solar project has yet been approved on BLM land."
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Freeze On US Solar Plant Applications Lifted

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  • Frozen? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2008 @02:45PM (#24048675)
    Because Big Oil doesn't like Big Sun.
  • by blahbooboo (839709) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @02:46PM (#24048685)

    My god, what next!? Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

    Yes, it's from ... Ghostbusters!

    • by Marc Desrochers (606563) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:49PM (#24049759)
      Applications were unfrozen. This doesn't mean anything more that shutting up all those who complained. Apply all you want, doesn't mean your application is going anywhere.
  • Continue Building! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wandering Wombat (531833) <mightyjalapeno.gmail@com> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @02:46PM (#24048689) Homepage Journal
    We'll just figure out what the effects are after we're hooked up to your juice.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by InlawBiker (1124825)

      Indeed. And what about the prospect of offshore drilling for solar power? How many seagulls and fish will it displace or kill? I know it's next on the BU$H Agenda, don't try to pretend otherwise!

    • by znu (31198)

      The environmental impact of large-scale solar deployment is almost certainly less than that of most conventional power generation mechanisms. So continuing on the way we're going while we wait for some long study of the impact of solar doesn't seem very clever. In fact, it insisting that we wait on such studies seems like a pretty transparent ploy to protect existing power generation industry from the market forces that might otherwise undermine it.

    • by gunnk (463227) <<ude.cnu.gpf.liam> <ta> <knnug>> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @04:19PM (#24050151) Homepage
      Chance that solar power installations may do harm to the environment: probably quite low, but non-zero.
      Chance that a coal-fired power plant does significant harm to the environment: 100%

      If we can displace some power sources that we KNOW have big negatives with some we're pretty sure won't, then yeah: let's build now and watch for any unexpected consequences as we go forward.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Some are even predicting U.S. solar plant applications could be ice free by as early as this summer.

  • Don't review it! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @02:51PM (#24048765) Homepage

    Solar power sounds great and is very trendy. Why evaluate the possible consequences for our actions when we can plow ahead blindly? Going ahead with energy policy without considering the environmental effects has worked well for us so far!

    Besides, being in favor of solar power helps you score with hippie chicks.

  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @02:56PM (#24048873)
    They will kill all natural plant life, absorb all available sunlight, douse the planet with darkness, freeze up the North Pole, stop the North Atlantic Conveyor, interfere with the mating rituals of rhesus monkeys and cause the whales to change their tunes. It is the end of the world as we know it!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's just great. It starts with an earthquake. Maybe some birds and snakes or an aeroplane.

      Lenny Bruce is not afraid.

    • I can't believe you left out the biggest problem of all: what to do with all that solar waste.

      I know I sure as heck don't want a bunch of depleted sunlight in my backyard!

    • by sm62704 (957197)

      Those plants that live on the sun are damned HOT!

      I looked up solar power [uncyclopedia.org] in the uncyclopedia. I was going to quote it but WTF, I can't be bothered.

      It is the end of the world as we know it!

      And REM feels fine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by philspear (1142299)

      This plan is particularly dangerous when you consider we're not entirely sure how the sun works! Some reports indicate it may be powered by nuclear reactions and it MAY release high amounts of radiation!

      We're considering using this in our backyards?!? WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

  • by Alcimedes (398213) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @02:58PM (#24048905)

    I wonder if the BLM has approved any oil wells on BLM land......

    • by Mike Buddha (10734) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:06PM (#24049055)

      Gosh, you could actually find out, instead of posting vague, unsubstantiated rumors on the Internet. What am I thinking? This is Slashdot! Mod him up!

      • by Alcimedes (398213) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:11PM (#24049135)

        I looked, but could only find old articles that ruled in favor of the oil/gas company drilling on Native American land for oil.

        If you have more recent ones I'm all ears. :p

        "Land Management Bureau, rejecting appeal by 10 American Indian tribes and environmentalists, rules Anschutz Exploration Corp may drill exploratory oil well in southern Montana near ancient rock art site Indians consider sacred
        May 23, 2001"

        • by Knara (9377)

          Sounds a little bit more like it wasn't on Native American land, but instead was non-sovereign land where they had some site they considered sacred.

      • by tthomas48 (180798) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:24PM (#24049359) Homepage

        From the BLM web page:

        http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy/oil_and_gas.html [blm.gov]

        It wasn't too hard to find. Being on the main blm web page and all. To answer the question, the BLM does have quite an investment in selling leases for exploiting natural resources. Although, it doesn't explain why they wouldn't be interested in selling leases to exploit sunlight. Of course, we might find out that this was a directive from someone higher up in the administration.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jguthrie (57467)
          On the other hand, we might find out that environmental impact studies were completed on all those oil and gas wells before the leases were granted. Those granted in the last 30 years, at least. Why should solar industry be exempt from the requirement to have environmental impact studies done?
          • by tthomas48 (180798) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:52PM (#24049813) Homepage

            They're still going to do the studies, and from what I'm seeing they're not planning on approving any of the leases until that study is done:

            FTA:
            "The BLM in 2006 completed a similar study of the effects of wind farm development in the Midwest. The agency did not, however, halt applications during that process, which began in 2003. Resseguie said that was because wind resources were geographically dispersed and there were no multiple applications for any single location, as there are in California for solar plants."

            So it sounds like they were just trying to close the queue so it wouldn't get clogged up while they waited on the results of the survey. It doesn't appear to in any way impact when they will start approving leases.

          • by NiceGeek (126629) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:53PM (#24049837)

            when's the last time you heard of a serious sunlight spill?

  • by MBC1977 (978793)
    Maybe, just maybe we can begin to harness some clean energy into wider usage.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mapsjanhere (1130359)
      We're so lucky that the solar cells can now be grown on trees, and don't come out of some high energy use chemical process anymore. That's finally really clean energy.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I do believe you'll find that use of actual photovoltaic solar cells, which is the only thing most people seem to think of when Solar is mentioned, is one of the LAST things on the minds of businesses looking to do solar power. High energy solar power production is primarily done using mirrors to heat steam to drive a turbine. Essentially the same technology most other power plants use, but using sunlight to heat the water instead of nuclear fission/fossil fuels. Hence, the difference between solar energy p

  • Germany has them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mschuyler (197441) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @02:59PM (#24048919) Homepage Journal

    While we whine about 'environmental considerations' of grabbing free energy from the sun, other countries are actually doing something about it. I was just in Germany where solar cell farms have been built in many places along the autobahns. Further, there are huge windmills everywhere (turning VERY slowly--Any bird which hits one of these is not paying attention. In France they've gone whole-hog nuke for electricity. There isn't a project alive that we can't make take ten times longer and make ten times the cost over our 'concerns.'

    • Further, there are huge windmills everywhere (turning VERY slowly--Any bird which hits one of these is not paying attention.

      In germany they don't have stills hidden every 5 feet in the countryside. We can't help it if our birds are a bit "slower" in the head because of that! Someone please think of the birds?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mapsjanhere (1130359)
      I guess you weren't in Germany more towards the end of the year, when all those windmills are turned off. The only reason they have windmills is that they have government subsidized guaranteed prizes for the electricity they produce. When they have generated their year's quota, they are turned off to save on maintenance cost. Was really funny the last time I went there; Dec. 30, and all was still. January 1st comes around, and what a view of spinning activity.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        As a german, I'll have to say I've never heard about any such quotas. All there is is a guaranteed price at which the electricity companies have to buy electricity from solar, wind etc. sources. Who would set the quotas, and who would get how much anyway? Would the owner of 100 small windmills get 100 times the quota the owner of 1 windmill gets? What about the guy in the windy north, does he get the same as the owner of a windmill in a not as windy part of the country? Would everybody elses quota be reduce
  • funny thing-- i predicted this is almost exactly in the first thread-- but got modded down as 'flamebait'.

    eat my photons.

    • I advocated the same thing as has happened as well. The replies insinuated I was an idiot and got modded up.
      My post, no mod points, but at least I wasn't marked flamebait.

      An aside. I't good I didn't get modded down, I got modded down enough around that time. I made the mistake of saying I should really abandon my Perl experience and learn Python (because I feel it is better).
      Man, did I learn my lesson! Some Perl coder out there is such a rabid fanboy that it would make the other camps (apple, ms, evolut

  • by Thelasko (1196535) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:00PM (#24048939) Journal
    this was mostly misreported by news agencies. They made it sound like nobody could build solar power plants, when it only applied to "federally managed land."
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:11PM (#24049131)

      You need to see just HOW MUCH BLM land exists here in the Southwest. It's the vast majority of land where solar could be a viable enterprise. The amount of private land vs government-land (not withstanding Indian reservations, which I suppose could be argued as casino/government land) vastly outstrips private land holdings.

      This is a big deal, because bush is shutting off a huge reserve of prime solar generating real estate on BLM land. I suspect if oil was found on BLM land there would be a cry for getting guvamint out of the land business.

      • by Thelasko (1196535)

        I suspect if oil was found on BLM land there would be a cry for getting guvamint(sic) out of the land business.

        Yeah, because there's no controversy over drilling on federal land. [wikipedia.org]

  • This cannot happen, it seems to make sense!

    Here is something I have never said before... Crimson Avenger eat crow! Ya, you got the mod points, but I got the Government to take my side! How is that for power! ;)
    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=597459&cid=23968419 [slashdot.org]

  • by Plazmid (1132467) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:05PM (#24049027)
    Birds instantly cooked in mid air due to highly focused sunlight.
  • while renewable energy is a good long term goal, going nuclear would/does work today [see France] and the excess power allows you to do interesting things when the grid is not using it all [see CERN]. Now that's not to say there aren't issues, but they are known issues and as long as you don't try doing anything stupid [see Chernobyl] and stick to regulations its >99.999% safe.

    and while they're at it perhaps they could invest the money needed to finally get fission working too. all this 'being green' is

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sm62704 (957197)

      and while they're at it perhaps they could invest the money needed to finally get fission working too.

      I think you mean "fusion" [wikipedia.org]. Fission [wikipedia.org] is what the present nuclear plants use. As to fusion, I'm hopeful yet skeptical, as when I was a kid fission (nuclear power) was going to make electricity "too cheap to meter".

  • by mls (97121) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:14PM (#24049167)

    In the same week, a group of New Mexico utilities have announced a RFP for a new solar project [earth2tech.com]. This is interesting since a significant amount of land in rural New Mexico is Federally controlled, either by the BLM or military.

  • by clovis (4684) * on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:15PM (#24049189)

    I have to wonder how many of the corporations/people who are asking for permits actually have the intent (and ability) to build solar array farms, or are they just hoping to grab the land rights now so that they can hold it hostage and sub-lease it later to others?

    • by rrkap (634128) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @04:02PM (#24049935) Homepage

      California has a mandate that 20% of its power must come from renewables (not including large hydropower plants) by 2012 and higher targets shortly after. The only cost-effective way to meet this requirement is by building massive thermal solar plants very quickly. Lots of the best land for such plants is controlled by the Federal government in one form or another. There are something like 10 500 MW solar farms planned for construction in in various parts of the Mojave desert over the next decade. So, the demand is real.

      • by TheSync (5291) *

        California has a mandate that 20% of its power must come from renewables ...The only cost-effective way to meet this requirement is by building massive thermal solar plants very quickly

        There are already several wind farms in California that produce peak on the order of 500 MW. Peak power use by California is 50 GW, so 20% is 10 GW, so all you need is to build 20 large wind farms of current design. Or a farm like San Gorgonio pass already has something like 4,000 wind generators of various sizes, if you re

  • ok (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GregNorc (801858) <gregnorc@gmail.cSLACKWAREom minus distro> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:17PM (#24049237)
    Someone give me some possible downsides to solar energy. I'm not being sarcastic - I've never heard this line of thought that solar energy is bad for the environment and would like to hear the reasoning behind it.
    • Re:ok (Score:5, Informative)

      by gclef (96311) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @04:03PM (#24049949)

      Solar cells are still made from industrial chemical processes, so they're not necessarily very land-fill friendly (obviously, this depends on the chemical makeup of the cell)....and yes, the cells will wear out and require replacement.

      Also, as a joker pointed out earlier, since they don't work at night, you need batteries...our battery technology is also fairly heavy on the heavy metals right now. These also wear out, often faster than the cells do.

      In the case that the BLM are talking about, there are a number of interesting possibilities:
          * How to bees/other insects react to light reflected back off large banks of cells? Does it mess with their navigation?
          * Do any of the plans to get cables out to the banks of cells mess with the wildlife they're trying to protect?
          * Do the cells have any (potentially) toxic runoff when hit with heavy rains/hail/etc?
          * will any residual heat from the cells mess with the local flora/fauna? (if it's an area that's normally snow-covered in winter, what happens if the heat from the cells keeps it snow-free? Does that mess with any of the local plants cycles?)

      • Re:ok (Score:5, Informative)

        by chrysrobyn (106763) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @04:47PM (#24050541)

        Also, as a joker pointed out earlier, since they don't work at night, you need batteries...our battery technology is also fairly heavy on the heavy metals right now. These also wear out, often faster than the cells do.

        Thermal solar power works by heating something like liquid sodium and then using that to heat steam to 1000F, which is a very efficient temperature to run a steam turbine. As such, they work at night, for between 2-20 hours after sundown (can even out a partially cloudy day, for example).

        Thermal solar doesn't need batteries, and you don't use batteries for a grid intertie solar plant. Most energy is needed during the day, when the sun is brightest, so honestly, the big point is taking peak needs off the coal plants -- which is how you have to size them and where you pay most of your money. Photovoltaics can feed into the grid and provide this peak pretty well, although it's yet to be seen if thermal solar can beat them for efficiency.

    • Re:ok (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tweenk (1274968) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @04:13PM (#24050079)

      This is what their study aims to answer (what exactly are the concerns and how bad they are). Unfortunately random people's suppositions don't substitute research, which is why they are investigating it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by danzona (779560)
      Someone give me some possible downsides to solar energy.

      It isn't so much the solar energy itself, it is the stuff that is necessary to collect the solar energy and then get it to people's houses.

      If somebody wants to build a large solar collecting station out in the middle of nowhere* there are some questions that need to be answered. I'm kind of disappointed that they don't already know most of this stuff since people have been building on BLM land for 200 years, but hey that's the government for yo
      • by ahfoo (223186) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @05:32PM (#24051209) Journal

        The most interesting thing about this whole debacle has been seeing how many people have so little clue about solar thermal. When the story first broke you could see all these Republican apologists ranting about the horrors of photovoltaic production just as we see in this thread here on Slashdot on the other end of the story.

        And then if it wasn't the atrocity of silane gas and photovoltaics then it was about how they were going to have to install all these new power lines. Again, we're seeing this same ignorant idiot trash spewed all over Slashdot.

        The truth is, this is about solar thermal and this has been throughly vetted in public documents that are freely available to anyone with the slightest interest in the topic. Such far-left comunist hippies as Arnold Schwarzenegger drafted the document which explains in great detail that they have planned the solar thermal projects in question specifically to intersect with existing grid-interties.

        No! Gasp, you mean somebody already thought of it?

        Yes, read it yourself. Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
              It's the Western Governorsâ(TM) Association. Clean and Diversified Energy Initiative. Solar Task Force Report. Get it while it's hot kids.

        http://cleantechlawandbusiness.com/cleanbeta/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/solar-full.pdf [cleantechl...siness.com].

              But what I really like about this whole story, yeah I have enjoyed this story from beginning to end, is that it raised the prominence of solar thermal in the mass media. All the long-haired dope smoking hippies bloggers in the world couldn't have achieved what the Bush BLM managed in a single month.

              Thanks BLM!

  • Nothing changes. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by russotto (537200) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:19PM (#24049277) Journal

    They're still not going to actually _approve_ any of these applications. Instead, they'll just let them pile up while they "study" the issue.

    If the Department of the Interior were in control of Saudi Arabia there wouldn't be a drop of oil coming out of it...

  • This is another example of the Bush Administration using its power to block anything at all that might take dollar 1 out of the hands of their oil industry buddies. That was a despicable act. They do not want solar to catch on.

Somebody ought to cross ball point pens with coat hangers so that the pens will multiply instead of disappear.

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