Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New Mexicans Conspire?

In a stealth move, New Mexican Senators Domenici and Bingaman inserted unlimited loan guarantees for nuclear power in the Senate Energy Bill. This provides the ability to obtain very low interest loans for the construction of new nuclear power plants. You might think that this is just standard corruption, a quid pro quo for financial support from the industry. But is it? None of the proposed new reactors is intended to be sited in New Mexico. You'd think that covertly adding such a thing to the legislation would at least have some kind of benefit for New Mexico like construction contracts or other pork. What is going on here?

We should not forget that the Governor of New Mexico is a former Secretary of Energy. While the Arizona Corporation Commission dithers about net metering, the Governator fumbles the million solar roof project, the Nevada legislature can't meet for long enough to keep up with technology and Utah is lulled by Northwest hyrdo, he is cornering the market on big solar. Why shouldn't he? New Mexico is right in there in the best resource. But, how to preserve the market in electricity? That is tricky. Texas has wind that is getting too cheap to meter, the Northeast states are implementing renewable energy standards. It is just the South and Midwest that are complacent in their coal use. What is needed to keep them off their own Real Energy long enough for his efforts to make them dependent on New Mexico and it's ultracheap solar power? Remember, once you go renewable, there is no reason to switch again, so if there are going to be non-local renewables, the markets have to be developed NOW.

Bait and Switch is an old game. Promise nuclear power, then just run it out of business with the taxpayers taking the fall. A single high-voltage high-capacity direct current transmission line from New Mexico to Georgia puts twelve of the proposed new plants out of business only a quarter of the way into their design lifetime with only a quarter of the very low interest loans paid off. Upon default, the taxpayers take the fall and the Richardson Solar Power Monopoly is in place for the next two centuries at least. Make no mistake. The Department of Energy has always been all about playing hardball, beating the Soviets in bombs, running weapons labs in complete disregard of nuclear safety, and crushing foreign uranium markets. For DOE, civilian nuclear power has always been a useful idiot rather than a real priority. Richardson is looking centuries ahead in the solar power projects he is supporting in New Mexico. Just look at this small sample:

Solar Reduction of Carbon
Pueblo of Pojoaque / SolareC - $363,000
This innovative development effort will test a full-scale concentrating solar power system. This system uses sunlight to break down CO2 and allows direct production of electricity and hydrogen, which can either be burned at night to provide electricity or to produce synthetic fuels. If successful, this technology could revolutionize the solar energy world by providing an innovative means of storing solar energy power for later use.

Solar Combined Heat and Power Project
New Mexico State University / Heliodyne--$280,000
This project will provide a demonstration facility that uses solar energy to produce electricity for a large building while using the waste heat from the system to heat and cool the building. This approach could provide a highly efficient system that could be employed in commercial and state buildings across New Mexico.

Utility Scale Concentrating Solar Project
UNM / SkyFuel--$226,000
This project will develop an improved capability to produce efficient concentrating solar power panels at a lower cost than is presently available. It could result in development of megawatt scale solar power installations in New Mexico and elsewhere along with new manufacturing facilities in New Mexico.

The question is, does this count as a conspiracy or is Richardson just making convenient use of the state delegation's penchant for pampering their funders? It may be hard to tell. What is for certain is that Richardson is preparing for a future of large scale dispatchable solar power at costs that will drive new nuclear power plants right out of business because base load is just not going to matter anymore. Convenient corruption or sly scheming, it is the taxpayers who will foot the bill for keeping competitive local renewables out of Richardson's intended market. Even the Sunshine state, with it's 10 kW limit on net metering, should watch out for the trap. At least, if we are lucky, giving the nuclear industry enough rope to hang itself, even at tax payer expense, will be a less ignominous end than another Three Mile Island. Have you run your evacuation drill lately? Did it work? Just like New Orleans?

Richardson is running for President, and he might be a good one depending on his ability to look past New Mexico's interests to those of the country. But this development should give even his staunchest supporters second (or third of fourth) thoughts.

1 comment:

Edward Robins said...

So what are the main advantages of solar energy?
The panels for home use are exactly the same as the huge industrial size panels, only smaller of course.

solar hot water