Economists are more skeptical about the long-term benefit to the county. They point out that solar and wind farms bring in an initial boom of constriction jobs, but require very few workers once they're up and running.
The five projects being built in Imperial County will generate 1,946 temporary construction jobs but only 71.5 permanent ..."Once you build them you don't need many folks to maintain them."
LOS ANGELES -- In a blustery stretch of desert two hours east of here, where many of the world's first power-producing windmills were built, a plan for more turbines has triggered a backlash that echoes a national debate over the merits of wind energy.
A proposal to build 50 windmills next to Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument has aroused passions in a region already dotted with 3,000 windmills, with opponents charging the wind energy industry has neither delivered the promised power nor spared the environment. The industry, born in California, has projects in 40 states and $8 billion in investments over the last two years, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Supporters say wind power has come of age and will help slow global warming, while critics contend that it has delivered only a quarter of its promised energy, proved lethal to wildlife and, in the view of many residents, blighted the landscape.
Daniel R. Patterson, a desert ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity in Joshua Tree, said it's a "common belief" that bird deaths caused by turbines could lead to rat infestations. But he said he hasn't studied the issue.
“There's legitimate debate about a couple of segments,” says Keith Raab, boss of Cleantech Venture Network. In some instances, valuations accorded to firms with no profits—and little chance of making any soon—were reminiscent of the excesses of the dotcom bubble. As Douglas Lloyd, of Venture Business Research, puts it, “There's too much money chasing too few opportunities. How is it possible that this many solar companies are going to succeed? They're not.”
California’s investor-owned utilities are making progress toward a state-ordered goal of increasing renewable power, but technical snags could keep them from meeting a 2010 legislative deadline, the California Public Utilities Commission said in a report issued Friday.
The utilities are facing a mandate to boost their delivery of electricity from sources such as wind and geothermal plants to 20 percent over the next four years. State lawmakers set that target in 2002 out of concern that California’s reliance on fossil fuels could make it vulnerable to another energy crisis.
Exactly how much renewable power will be available by 2010 is difficult to predict, the PUC report cautioned. Some plant construction may be delayed by a limited supply of wind turbines, for example. Transmission lines will be needed to serve new plants.
"Tidal power is an interesting form of renewable energy in that it is predictable. Other forms, like solar and wind energy, are less predictable," said Alex Farrell, assistant professor of energy and resources at the University of California, Berkeley. Because it is predictable, tidal power is a more dependable resource, he said.
These cases remain open, according to a spokesperson for the Tehachapi substation of the Kern County Sheriff's Department. The extent of the problem may also be understated because the incidents fall under the jurisdiction of at least three separate substations in Tehachapi, Mojave and Rosamond.