Even sources of clean energy can get dirty when they sit around for ten, twenty or fifty years. More often than not, renewable energy power plants are upgraded—or their equipment replaced—because their locations were selected for their excellent renewable resource. But stuff happens: businesses go under; policies and incentives change; more efficient technologies are discovered, etc. And as a result, relics of a renewable past are left scattered across the global landscape.
Solar One/Solar Two – Daggett, California, USA
(images via ; bikecam )
Solar One was the first test of a large-scale thermal solar power tower plant in the world. In 1995 Solar One was converted into Solar Two, by adding another ring of mirrors surrounding the tower. Solar One/Two is located in Daggett, CA, about 10 miles east of Barstow. Solar Two was decommissioned in 1999, and was converted by the University of California, Davis, into a telescope. Solar One/Two and other nearby solar projects are plainly visible via satellite imaging software at
Hydroelectric Plant – Enloe, Washington, USA
(images via volkswagenhaven; dugfresh; Columbia Institute)
While some might argue that hydroelectric because dams have a negative impact on fish and wildlife, riparian habitats, stream flows, etc. In the Pacific Northwest in particular, many of the smaller dams and hydroelectric plants are being decommissioned to, among other things, improve salmon access to spawning grounds.
Carrizo Plain Solar Power Plant – Southern, California, USA
(images via Center for Land Use Interpretation)
At its prime, the Carrizo Plain was by far the largest photovoltaic array in the world, with 100,000 1’x 4′ photovoltaic arrays generating 5.2 megawatts at its peak. The plant was originally constructed by ARCO in 1983 and was dismantled in the late 1990s. The used panels are still being resold throughout the world.
Built by Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse in 1896, the Adams hydro station was the first large-scale, alternating current electric generating plant in the world. The plant was also the first to transmit large-scale power a long distance when it brought electricity to Buffalo, New York, 20 miles away.
Tehachapi Wind Farms – Southern California, USA
(image via sky#walker; Center for Land Use Interpretation; Terminal Tower)
There are dozens of wind farms scattered around the Western rim of the Mojave Desert near Tehachapi pass. There are over 5,000 wind turbines in the area thanks to the wind rush of the 1970s and 1980s.
Many companies have come and gone, been bought, or gone belly-up. Some of the hundreds of turbines not spinning have been derelict now for decades. There is no law in Kern County that requires removal of broken or abandoned wind turbines, and as a result, the Tehachapi Pass area is an eerie mix of healthy, active wind farms and a wind turbine graveyard/junkyard.
White River Falls Hydroelectric – Oregon, USA
(images via Jay Lake)
In the early 1900’s, farmers living in the local area put the White River Falls to creative use when they established a water-powered grist mill at the falls. Soon thereafter, the grist mill was upgraded to a hydroelectric plant which provided power until the 1950s when it was decommissioned.
Kamaoa Wind Farm – South Point, Hawaii, USA
(images via wikimedia; Scott Haeffner; Harvey; )
Built in 1986, the Kamaoa wind farm at South Point on the southern tip of the island of Hawaii stopped producing energy for the Big Island’s grid in the last ten years. The 37 battered and beaten Mitsubishi 250 kw turbines essentially went dormant and were recently replaced by fourteen new 1.5 mw at the Pakini Nui wind farm