Library filed under Energy Policy from California

In the Shadows of Windmills

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.
3 Apr 2007

California’s Greenhouse Gas Policies: Local Solutions to a Global Problem?

Californias_greenhouse_gas_policies_csem_thumb California is in the process of implementing a broad portfolio of policies and regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This paper summarizes the initiatives likely to impact the electricity generating sector. We present calculations showing that there is a substantial risk that two of the most prominent policies could simply result in a reshuffling, on paper, of the electricity generating resources within the West that are dedicated to serving California. This reshuffling is different from the conventional leakage problem as it involves no physical changes to the way electricity is generated across regulated and unregulated regions, but is instead driven by a contractual reshuffling of who buys power from whom. The problem is similar to an ineffective consumer boycott. The problem is still present but less severe if more Western states adopt carbon limitations. We also show that some of the least market-based initiatives, the renewable portfolio standards (RPS), are likely to have the biggest near-term impact on the carbon-intensity of electricity generation in the West. Thus the scale of RPS programs may be limiting the potential role of non-renewable options in reducing carbon emissions from the electricity sector.
1 Apr 2007

Renewable energy gains still far off, reports show

California's utilities are falling behind schedule in meeting a deadline that 20% of their electricity must come from renewable resources by 2010, newly issued reports from two energy agencies show. In separate updates, state energy regulators paint markedly different pictures of how California is progressing in efforts to procure power from sun, wind, water and waste. But both indicate that a crucial piece of the state's ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gases is sputtering. The California Energy Commission offered a bleak assessment in its Jan. 3 report, saying there had been little real addition to the power grid from renewable sources thus far. The state Public Utilities Commission, in a much rosier assessment released Friday, said power companies had signed numerous large contracts for major projects and progress was good. But in its charts, the PUC showed the state meeting its goals by 2011 at the soonest.
20 Jan 2007

Less For More: The Rube Goldberg Nature of Industrial Wind Development

Less_for_more_thumb Rube Goldberg would admire the utter purity of the pretensions of wind technology in pursuit of a safer modern world, claiming to be saving the environment while wreaking havoc upon it. But even he might be astonished by the spin of wind industry spokesmen. Consider the comments made by the American Wind Industry Association.s Christina Real de Azua in the wake of the virtual nonperformance of California.s more than 13,000 wind turbines in mitigating the electricity crisis precipitated by last July.s .heat storm.. .You really don.t count on wind energy as capacity,. she said. .It is different from other technologies because it can.t be dispatched.. (84) The press reported her comments solemnly without question, without even a risible chortle. Because they perceive time to be running out on fossil fuels, and the lure of non-polluting wind power is so seductive, otherwise sensible people are promoting it at any cost, without investigating potential negative consequences-- and with no apparent knowledge of even recent environmental history or grid operations. Eventually, the pedal of wishful thinking and political demagoguery will meet the renitent metal of reality in the form of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (85) and public resistance, as it has in Denmark and Germany. Ironically, support for industrial wind energy because of a desire for reductions in fossil-fueled power and their polluting emissions leads ineluctably to nuclear power, particularly under pressure of relentlessly increasing demand for reliable electricity. Environmentalists who demand dependable power generation at minimum environmental risk should take care about what they wish for, more aware that, with Rube Goldberg machines, the desired outcome is unlikely to be achieved. Subsidies given to industrial wind technology divert resources that could otherwise support effective measures, while uninformed rhetoric on its behalf distracts from the discourse.and political action-- necessary for achieving more enlightened policy.
20 Dec 2006

Wind strong enough to doom dams?

Bolstered by new statistics and new leadership in the U.S. Congress, an alliance of environmental groups is preparing for another offensive against four hydroelectric dams on the Lower Snake River. The aim will be the removal of all, or at least some, of the dams so the Snake will flow more freely and help the entire Pacific Northwest salmon population recover to the bountiful levels of decades ago. “At one time, 50 percent of the entire Columbia Basin salmon production came out of the Snake River Basin,” said Trey Carskadan of the Northwest Sportfishing Association. “And we certainly know we are not seeing that production now.” Proponents of dam removal say it’s a clear choice between the dams and the fish, and a new study released by the salmon crowd contends that advances in the development of energy efficiency and wind generation, plus the potential of a revved-up fishing industry stretching from the mountains of Idaho to the Pacific Coast, means no one will particularly miss those dams.
20 Nov 2006

Winds of change blow through state power grid

The whirling blades of 100 giant wind turbines sent a jolt of electricity into California’s power grid as a group gathered in Rio Vista on Wednesday to dedicate the Shiloh Wind Power Plant. Portland, Ore.-based PPM Energy’s plant, which has been coming online gradually over the last year, is the first renewable project in the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. service area since the state’s 2002 adoption of the Renewable Portfolio Standard, PG&E officials said. The plant will help California meet the recently updated goal of getting 20 percent of its power from renewable sources like wind energy and solar power by 2010. And it will help keep lights burning, water flowing and businesses transacting in the Bay Area and across the state, PG&E said......... Though wind energy is better for the environment, it is more expensive. It costs about 6.2 or 6.3 cents per kilowatt hour, compared with current nuclear energy sources or coal, which each run around 2 or 3 cents a kilowatt hour, experts say.
17 Nov 2006

Investing in clean energy

“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.”
16 Nov 2006

New windmills in California fuel global warming fight

California's latest source of clean energy started spinning slowly in the wind above the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta last spring........ The Shiloh Wind Power Plant, which was unveiled to reporters and utility executives this week, represents a new generation of technology for wind power. Each of its turbines can generate the same amount of electricity as 15 older windmills, some of which still dot the same grassy hills....... It is one of the first wind farms to begin operations since California began ordering the state's utilities to use more renewable energy in 2002. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. buys half of Shiloh's electricity. The rest goes to Palo Alto's municipal utility and the Modesto Irrigation District....... The project also demonstrates some of wind power's limitations. It is spread across 6,800 acres, vastly more than a traditional power plant would require. At roughly $220 million, it also cost more to build than a plant burning natural gas or coal.
16 Nov 2006

Prop. 87 not the right road toward alternative energy

The temptation for Silicon Valley voters would be to ignore the intricacies of the proposition and simply decide a ``yes'' vote would send a message to oil companies and to the world that California intends to lead the way in developing alternative energy sources. That would be a mistake. We strongly support the concept of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs helping California research and develop technological breakthroughs that will eliminate our foolhardy reliance on Middle East oil. But two fundamental flaws in Proposition 87 force us to recommend a ``no'' vote.
30 Oct 2006

Kern County wind industry to expand

Forests of turbines march up the foothills west of Mojave into the Tehachapi Mountains, turbines that take Valley winds and turn them into electricity. The power produced by these wind farms and their planned expansion is the basis for Southern California Edison’s proposed Antelope Transmission Line. The high-voltage electric transmission line will deliver this electricity for use elsewhere in Southern California. The proposed transmission line will help Edison meet the state-legislated requirement of 20% of its electrical power created by renewable sources and will allow for further expansion of the wind industry in eastern Kern County.
27 Oct 2006

Power, blowing in the wind

Wind turbines on the Alta-Mesa hill near Whitewater They're elegant, swooping testaments to the promise of clean energy. They're noisy, clanking blights on a once-pristine desert landscape. Opinions on the thousands of power-producing wind turbines spinning in the San Gorgonio pass are as varied as, well, the wind. But one thing is certain. Californians' growing appetite for electricity means more demand for juice from dozens of newer, bigger windmills on the way - whether the people who live beneath them like it or not.
24 Oct 2006

California cools on coal

GILLETTE -- Wyoming officials watched with interest as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday signed into law a sweeping global warming initiative that imposes the nation's first cap on greenhouse gas emissions. When the idea for such a bill was recommended about a year ago, Wyoming energy officials reacted strongly against it -- and even sent a letter to Schwarzenegger's office suggesting it may violate interstate commerce laws. Called for reaction on Wednesday, Gov. Dave Freudenthal's energy adviser, Rob Hurless, said he wasn't prepared to discuss interstate commerce concerns, but said the California law definitely is not a threat to Wyoming's ambitions to export more electricity.
29 Sep 2006

Study touts alternative energy possibilities

STOCKTON - One-quarter of the nation's electricity could come from renewable sources like wind, the sun and the ocean tide within two decades' time, a California conservation group claimed Thursday. But only with strong federal leadership from whoever takes - or keeps - the reins after November's election. Los Angeles-based Environment California released a study Thursday proposing a 10 percent drop in home, business and industrial energy use, as well as a reduction of oil demand by one-third and a commitment to renewable energy.
29 Sep 2006

Plant would boost energy in Hayward

When peak demand hits, as it did during this year's sweltering July, the center would be called into action, the company said. The plant, planned to be built on Clawiter Road near PG&E's Eastshore substation, would only operate during peak demand periods, according to the company...... The Eastshore plant would use less water annually than five residences, the company said, with its engines cooled by a closed-water system. It would be built using state-of-the-art air emissions control technology.
27 Sep 2006

California begins risky war on global warming today

A landmark global warming law that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is scheduled to sign today commits California to the ambitious goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020. How exactly that will be accomplished — and at what cost — is unknown. But it’s clear that if the state intends to meet its goals, Californians will see many changes over the next 14 years, from higher fuel prices to bigger forests.....But California also is taking a big risk. If others do not follow, the state’s residents and companies could end up paying hundreds of millions of dollars to make cuts that by themselves will do little to curb global warming.
27 Sep 2006

Vote down Prop. 87

WHO wouldn't like to hit Big Oil where it hurts - in the wallet? Proposition87, however, could end up costing the state and taxpayers for years to come. While promising to bring in close to a half-billion dollars annually from taxes on oil drilling in California, none of those dollars will go in the treasury. Not one penny will be used to pay down the state's debt, ensure education funding or provide more health insurance to working families. Likely, California's property taxes and corporate income taxes could be reduced if oil producers decide to pump less of the black gold from California fields to avoid the extraction tax. Also, Californians aren't likely to see any immediate benefits from the measure for many years. That's because proceeds from the tax would fuel a $4 billion program for alternative energy research and provide start-up capital for technology companies.
24 Sep 2006

State red tape trips up green energy efforts

As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger prepares this week to sign into law the nation's most ambitious effort to address global warming, a key component of California's push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- increasing the use of renewable power to create electricity -- has faltered. Despite overwhelming public and political support for renewable power, ratepayer contributions of $319 million, and a 2002 law mandating a dramatic increase in the use of sun and wind to create megawatts, California has boosted its use of renewable energy by less than 1 percent of the state's overall electricity use in the past four years.
24 Sep 2006

Wind Generation's Performance during the July 2006 California Heat Storm

So what happened in California during the mid-July heat storm when that electric grid was put to the test, and California avoided rolling blackouts amid a Level 1 Emergency in which Californian’s were asked to raise their thermostats to 77 and many manufactures and business voluntarily shutdown? By most people’s analysis, wind’s performance was disappointing. Specifically during this period of peak demand, statewide wind often operated at only 5% of capacity, or less.
9 Sep 2006
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