Nevada’s gambling industry was built on bad math – people too lazy to figure out The House always wins in the long run.
Apparently we also elect such mathophobes to our Legislature and our county commissions.
Earlier this month, for example, the Clark County Commission unanimously agreed to extend for two years permits for Duke Energy to erect 87 wind turbines – each 425 feet tall – on 19,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land east of Searchlight. It could’ve been, has been and will be any rural community surrounded by BLM land.
BLM has not issued an environmental impact statement, according to company spokesman Dick Bryan, the former senator and governor. Thus the stated reason for an extension. But neither has the company signed any buyer, nor has Congress extended the production tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour that makes wind financially viable.
Despite the fact wind energy costs three times as much as fossil fuel-generated power and requires tax subsidies and tax breaks to pencil out, the majority of commissioners fawned over the prospect of a handful of construction jobs – 300 to 400 – and ignored the fact that draining money from the private sector via higher power bills and taxes kills jobs – on average two to four for every one created. Permanent jobs will amount to a couple dozen.
Despite the impossible odds, the commissioners acted like fixated gamblers, each in turn reciting, “We need ‘green’ energy for jobs,” instead of “Eighter from Decatur, county seat of Wise.”
Though the Searchlight town board has twice voted to reject the windmill project, the commissioners – including Steve Sisolak, whose district includes Searchlight – backed it unanimously.
“The jobs and the renewable energy portion of this are very, very important to me,” Sisolak said. “The jobs are local for Nevada residents. I want to reiterate that. … We all are very aware of getting three or four hundred local people back to work” – and utterly unaware or unconcerned about the jobs that will be lost.
Under questioning by Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, Bryan admitted the company has not found a buyer for its juice but has had some conversations with NV Energy, the local electric utility. Giunchigliani expressed hope that NV Energy would purchase the wind power, apparently without regard for what such a purchase would do to the power bills of her constituents and every other NV Energy customer in the state. (The Spring Valley wind farm near Ely charges the power company nearly 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, about three times the cost of power from natural gas turbines.)
NV Energy has said it plans to buy only 250 megawatt-hours of renewable power in 2014 and 2015 to comply with a state law mandating use of renewable power. Duke, with its proposed 230-megawatt wind farm, will not be the only firm competing for those contracts. More than two dozen other projects are on the drawing board on BLM land in Southern Nevada alone.
“This is not an eco friendly project,” Searchlight resident Judy Bundorf testified. “Pardon me to offer one more bit of math. When they say it’s a 200-megawatt project, that’s if the wind is blowing between 15 and 40 miles per hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Typical output from commercial wind farms ranges from 20 and 30 percent of the nameplate rating. In England during the last cold spell two years ago, they were getting 5 percent or less. …
“This is my first time at the rodeo, because I’ve never been involved in having my property value threatened at this extent.”
Lynn Davis of the National Parks Conservation Association pointed out that the project will sit astride two national recreation areas, Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Mojave National Preserve.
Donna Andress, who has lived in the area since 1927, suggested 100-year-old Joshua trees could be destroyed by the project.
Local real estate broker and kayak guide Ellen Ross also did some math and estimated the BLM land lease costs renewable energy companies about $118 per acre. “I’d like a deal like that,” she said. “By building these projects you are degradating not only the community, but tourism and land values, which mean you have less real estate taxes, less income in your municipality. You have less people. You are destroying the potential that Las Vegas was built for.”
It’s simple math.
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