ZAGATA: How To Reduce CO2, Trees Or Panels?


How To Best Reduce CO2

– Trees Or Solar Panels?

As I’m sure many of you did, I read with great interest about the proposal to build a 3,000 acre solar farm near West Laurens. It’s a great opportunity for the affected landowners – much like the Marcellus gas and the Constitution Pipeline would have been for many New York landowners.

Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and a former environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.

Why is the solar farm being greeted with enthusiasm while the potential to drill for natural gas, the cleanest burning fossil fuel, was greeted with loud protests? Let’s see if we can come up with one or more good reasons for the difference in receptivity.

Those who protested the gas drilling and pipeline voiced their concern that the gas would go to New York City and thus Upstate wouldn’t benefit. Guess what, the electricity from this solar farm will go to the city.

The environmental impacts – more on that later – will be borne by Upstate residents just like they were when the city flooded our valleys to build reservoirs to supply its residents with drinking water. Then they came back and bought the remaining land so the local towns would have no way to grow their tax bases.

Why would they do that, you say? It’s all about the money.

If development were to occur in the Catskills, the EPA might force the city to install a filtration system for its drinking water at a cost of about $7 billion to construct and $600 million per year to operate and maintain. That happened in 1996 and the city avoided doing that by signing the Watershed Agreement to get the EPA off its back.

So much for where the energy is going. What about the environmental impacts?

With directional drilling, many wells can be drilled from the same pad. That greatly reduces the surface impacts. The pipeline right-of-way (ROW) would require clearing a few hundred acres of vegetation during construction for the ROW.

However, that ROW would immediately be re-vegetated and thus would still provide habitat for early successional (grasses and brush) wildlife species and sequester carbon from the air. Then, via photosynthesis, that carbon, existing as carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air, would be converted to sugar to help build wood fiber and oxygen.

Recent research findings tell us two important things about that early succession. First, it is in short supply and DEC, Audubon and The Nature Conservancy are advocating forest cutting to create more of it. Why? Because 43 species of migratory songbirds are in trouble due a loss of that habitat type.

Second, early successional/young forests sequester more carbon per acre than older, mature forests.

The solar farm in question would put 3,000 acres, and that’s just one of many solar farms to come, under glass, gone – thus no longer would wildlife, except maybe for a meadow vole, call it “home.”

What about carbon sequestration? Gone! Not only would that land no longer be good for wildlife, but it would cease sequestering carbon. Has anyone done the math to determine if the solar energy produced on those acres will at least replace the loss of the carbon that was being sequestered? Where have all the protesters gone? It is likely the county will be happy, as the land will no longer be taxed as agricultural land but at a much higher rate as industrial land.

That about the landowners who lease their land? You might be tempted to ask why the company isn’t offering to buy their land. It’s quite simple.

After about 20 years, the expected useful life of the solar panels, the company will walk away, and the landowner will be faced with the cost of disposal of the hazardous wastes associated with 3,000 acres of toxic solar panels. That will be a tidy sum and could be even greater if the solar farm were declared to be a Superfund site.

Remember, those Albany scientists that want to over-build our renewables energy capacity by three-fold despite what that will cost to those of us who use that energy?

Recall that solar energy has a reliability factor of about 25 percent. (It can be depended on 25 percent of the time – that means that 75 percent of the time you can’t depend on it).

Wind is slightly better with a reliability factor of 35 percent. So, with solar the un-reliability factor is 75 percent and with wind it’s 65 percent. During that time the energy being produced is zero. It doesn’t matter if I overbuild by a factor of three or a factor of five – 3 x 0 = 0 and 5 x 0 = 0. That’s how much energy will be available to keep your pipes from freezing during the un-reliability periods.

You might be tempted to say that we may be able to use Lithium-ion batteries to store the energy. Aside from the environmental impact of mining those materials, consider that we get them from countries that are not friendly.
If you’re old enough to remember the oil embargo in 1973-74, then you know what the OPEC countries were able to do to our economy and way of life. It wasn’t pretty. Do we really want to repeat that mistake again?

I asked earlier about the glaring absence of protesters because their absence would seem to be revealing.

One might ask if their concern was really about the environment or if we’re looking at a social agenda geared towards changing the way we live that would have little or no positive impact on the environment. Indeed, it could be quite negative – both economically and environmentally.

That should concern you.

Read the story about Crescent Dunes, a Nevada solar power project, in the Jan. 16, 2020, issue of The Wall Street Journal. The Obama Administration, against the recommendations of its own scientists, went ahead and made $737 million in loan guarantees for this project and it went belly up – that’s $737 million of your tax money and another $140 million of private investor funds that went up in smoke.

Combine that with the fact the Chenango County solar farm is only producing 10 percent of the energy promised and you have no choice but to question where we’re headed.

The environmental impacts are only now being recognized and no one seems interested in the adverse economic impacts. Renewables are today’s “poster child”, but how will they fare with age?

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