Campaign Update & Early Voting 

 

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I attended two meet-ups for Virgin Valley Water District candidates who are supported by several golf courses. It gave me a chance to talk individually with some voters. I continue to have good reactions from almost everyone I meet.

 

Early voting in the Virgin Valley and Moapa Valley is now complete. Voter turnout was a bit lower than I expected which means that every vote is more important. I'm expecting a very close race and again I'm asking for your vote. It may be the one that puts me on top.


I Am Not A Rocket Scientist, but ... 
 

I'm not a rocket scientist, but my 40 years at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory did teach me something about NASA's launch program.  

 

On Tuesday, an unmanned rocket launched by a commercial company exploded a few seconds after liftoff. Lost along with the rocket and the launch pad were over 5,000 pounds of supplies headed for the Space Station. The mission was the responsibility of Orbital Sciences Corp., but there is obviously some loss to NASA, if only in delaying the mission. Fortunately, the lost supplies were not critically needed by the astronauts. Orbital has said that the launch was insured. I'm sure that the cost of their launch insurance is paid indirectly by NASA as part of the contract price for each launch.

 

This loss is a reminder of how difficult rocketry is and we should not take it for granted. Certainly the contractor and NASA don't take launches for granted. Technology is pushed to the limit to carry the largest payload at the lowest cost. And despite the lack of failures in manned missions in recent years, it is a risky business for astronauts. For example, there is always a range safety officer, whose duty is to destroy a rocket if it is failing in a way that could endanger people on the ground. Yes, this applies to manned launches, too.


Moapa Paiute Solar Array in the News  
 
There is big news regarding the second large solar array planned to be built on the reservation of the Moapa Paiutes. On Monday, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) may have killed the project. See THIS in the Las Vegas Review Journal. The PUC noted that the project was not subjected to competitive bids, which might have resulted in building the capacity at another location by different companies. The PUC thought that the cost was too high, which would unnecessarily raise rates to ratepayers. According to Sean Whaley in the Review Journal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that the PUC decision is a setback for Nevadans. See THIS. 

 

Without further evidence, I can't agree completely with either Reid or the PUC. As Reid says, the PUC decision may delay closure of the Reid Gardner Generating Station, and also the total elimination of coal power in Nevada. But the decision may also save ratepayers a lot of money. Requiring open bids for this capacity is likely to result in lower cost. It could also set a precedent that the PUC will demand open bidding on future projects in order to achieve lower bids.

 

It is time for the cost of large solar arrays to come down. There is no longer any technological risk and there is also little cost risk. The construction cost of an array is well known, so companies should compete and ratepayers should get better prices. Solar arrays need to become common commodities in order for them to be cost-competitive with fossil fuel energy.

 

Reducing cost to ratepayers is important, but there are other factors to consider. There are social issues, such as jobs and eliminating coal usage in Nevada as soon as possible. For the current situation, it is likely that the project will go forward, but with the solar energy sold to a different customer rather than to NV Energy. If this happens, the job situation would be unchanged. Selling the energy elsewhere wouldn't help NV Energy meet its requirement to get 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.  

 

This is a complicated situation. Both sides have valid points.

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