"Is there an option to turn it off?" Gov. Brian Sandoval asked about the solar panels on the Nevada National Guard carports in Carson City and Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, no, Jennifer McEntee, administrative services officer for the Guard, responded Tuesday. She explained that under a 20-year contract executed in 2009, the Guard pays Sierra Solar a flat 15 cents per kilowatt hour for the power -- about twice as much as it would currently cost to buy the same amount of power from NV Energy.
The company put solar panels over carports at the Guard's headquarters in Carson City and at the Las Vegas Readiness Center and the Edsall Training Center in Clark County.
The company spent $17 million on the solar panels, which now reportedly produce 100 percent of the energy for the three Guard facilities.
Because of the binding contract, Gov. Sandoval and other members of the Board of Examiners had no choice but to agree to give the Guard $46,284 to cover unforeseen utility costs through June 30. The Legislature's Interim Finance Committee must decide whether to make the actual appropriation.
Guard members told the governor that when the contract was executed, they were paying more than 14 cents per kilowatt hour for energy and expected electricity prices to rise. Sometimes people guess wrong, which isn't a crime. However, how can this expense be called "unforeseen"? The 2009 contract tells the Guard to expect to pay a flat 15 cents per kilowatt hour, and that's what they're paying.
Generally, green or "alternative" energy schemes have proved to be massive flops whenever government agencies stop subsidizing them to make them appear competitive.
With the huge deposits of coal, oil and natural gas discovered or newly accessible on this continent, the day when the alternatives will prove economically competitive has now been pushed back by decades.
And, as usual, it's the taxpayers who will pay.