Library filed under Energy Policy from California

Renewable-energy push puts all eyes on desert; Federal agency flooded with developer proposals

Speculators have filed applications to develop more than 1 million acres of desert in Southern California with solar, wind and geothermal power plants, setting up a classic clash over land use with environmentalists and off-road enthusiasts. They have submitted at least 130 proposals with the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees all of the territory, in recent years and especially since 2007. The interest is so hot that even if many of the projects fall through, the remaining ones would change the look of the arid landscape. ... "We have worked for decades to protect the desert. . . . Let's not trash what we've saved," said Elden Hughes, who has worked with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups for decades.
3 Jun 2008

Solar and wind duking it out in high-powered battle

It's not a question of whether the state should pursue clean-air strategies -- but rather which ones, and at what cost. Who stands to save money and who stands to pay more? Is nuclear power part of the solution? ...The solar-power industry already lags far behind wind in Texas, which recently leapfrogged over California to become the largest wind-power-generating state in the nation. And many more wind turbines are expected power enjoys several advantages over wind -- advantages that increases the value of sun power for those paying the bills. For instance, because the wind typically stops blowing during the middle of hot summer days, Texas won't get much use from those expensive new transmission lines when it needs the power the most. Obviously, that's not a problem with solar. Wind also presents tough -- and sometimes expensive -- technical challenges. Because wind turbines will stop spinning without a moment's notice, engineers at the power grid must sometimes have more expensive standby power ready and waiting.
13 Apr 2008

Opponents say California power initiative is ill-advised

Should two Arizona billionaires tell California, arguably the nation's greenest state, how to run its electricity business? They're going to try. University of Phoenix founder John Sperling and his son, Peter, are backing a ballot initiative that would force the state to more than quadruple its production of solar, wind and other alternative energy sources by 2025. But the state's major alternative-energy companies and environmental groups say the Solar and Clean Energy Act of 2008 is poorly drafted and riddled with loopholes, and they plan to oppose it. "It could slam the brakes on renewable energy development in the state," asserts a letter signed by the California Solar Energy Industries Assn., the American Wind Energy Assn., labor unions and environmentalists.
8 Apr 2008

Advisory vote is needed for green power

Green power for Marin is a concept that has merit along with a loyal and growing fan base. But before the concept becomes a reality, it needs broad public support. ...One important caveat: While the local authority would sign contracts with green power suppliers, there is no way to promise that green juice actually flows to homes in Marin. Once electricity is added to the grid, it all gets mixed together - like water in a reservoir fed by many streams. Most of Marin's green power would be generated outside Marin. What the local power authority is actually doing is increasing the demand for green energy, which will, in turn, lead to increases in the supply of green power. At least that's the theory. ...We urge county officials and green power supporters to put an advisory initiative on the November ballot.
23 Mar 2008

Solar energy trumps shade in California prosecution of tree owner

The ensuing paper chase through city ordinances, planning commissions, and permit hearings has consumed seven years and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and - through California's obscure 1978 Solar Shade Control Act, which criminalizes the shading of solar panels by trees - resulted in the Santa Clara County District Attorney prosecuting Mr. Treanor and Ms. Bissett. ...The Solar Shade Control Act went unnoticed for 30 years, but since December it has come up in several lawsuits, says Stamen, the tree lawsuit specialist. "The legal system," he says, "will see [more of] these cases in the near future." Treanor and Bissett hope to influence that. "We woke up one morning essentially violating criminal law," says Treanor.
19 Mar 2008

Ritter: A storm is brewing over renewable energy

‘Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! blow!" California may soon rant alongside King Lear as it presses to meet Assembly Bill 32's mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide. To achieve that mandate, the California Energy Commission established an energy action plan calling for the state to generate 20 percent of its electricity with renewable resources by 2010, and 33 percent by 2020.
24 Feb 2008

Four wind-energy projects could hinder residents' views

"The California Bureau of Land Management has had over 100 applications in the desert, many of them in the 1st District," said Apple Valley Town Councilman Scott Nassif, who found out about the projects through concerned residents. "My fear that there was a proliferation of these projects has come to fruition." Once they get a foothold on a certain area, they just multiply from there, Nassif added. ..."My concern is there is other uses for the desert such as mining, cattle grazing, recreation and military operations," Mitzelfelt said. "I don't want to see all of our remaining desert that's available to people covered in windmills and solar plants."
17 Feb 2008

Voices against power path grow

Exclamations of dismay rang among the crowd last Saturday night as Dave Miller of the California Desert Coalition presented his renderings of what Green Path North would do to scenic vistas in the Morongo Basin. Miller superimposed huge transmission towers onto photos of desert panoramas, depicting the lines snaking through canyons and topping buttes. The Los Angeles Department of Power and Water Green Path North project would carve an 118-mile swath through the desert in order to erect transmission towers up to 200 feet tall on public and private land. The towers would deliver renewable electricity from geothermal, wind and solar sources from the Imperial Valley to Los Angeles.
12 Jan 2008

Edison to add up to 185.5 MW of wind, geothermal

The contracts are subject to approval by the California Public Utilities Commission. "We hope to add even more prospective contracts to our renewable energy portfolio from our 2007 competitive solicitation," said Stuart Hemphill, Southern California Edison's director of Renewable and Alternative Power. The deal with Ormat is for energy from a new 30 MW geothermal plant to be built in Imperial Valley, Calif., and expected to come on line by mid 2012. The agreement includes an option to increase capacity at the Imperial Valley facility to 100 MW. "We are very happy to bring more baseload through clean geothermal energy to California," said Dita Bronicki, CEO of Ormat.
17 Dec 2007

No easy answers to energy questions

Although politically popular, technologies such as wind and solar carry heavy liabilities in addition to being two to five times more expensive than average nuclear, coal or gas: -- These technologies are intermittent and volatile - every megawatt will require another megawatt of baseload resources to backfill, support and regulate it. -- They are small-scale and land-intensive - replacing one plant's output (Diablo Canyon) with solar would require more than 25 times the entire U.S. solar output and would require at least 40 square miles of solar panels. -- They require significant new transmission lines across environmentally sensitive and scenic parts of the state.
2 Dec 2007

California Struggling To Adopt Emissions Reduction Plan; Reducing CO2 To 1990 Levels By 2020 Proving Hard

But as California lawmakers take up the nitty gritty task of implementing the law, they are haggling over what the 1990 benchmark even is and exactly who will be asked to make emission cuts. And industry representatives now warning that cutting production may be the only way they can meet its requirements. ...Manufacturers have warned the law could put factories out of business, although the group's trade association could not identify a company that has closed or plans to leave California. What they do argue is that the global warming law will only add to the price of doing business in a state already known for its strict regulatory environment.
30 Nov 2007

Let's not give up fireplace

Evidence is everywhere, though, that the population of California is growing and will continue to grow into the foreseeable future. If we do not create more energy, the per capita amount available will decline. ...Proposed alternate sources of energy - wind, solar or bio-sourced - have their virtues and their shortcomings. To imagine that they would somehow supplant current sources of energy or might be sufficient to supply future demand, is the product of a fervent puerile imagination. (The technical term for this kind of thinking is "scientific sciolism,") ... To date, the execution of the alternate energy resource program has distorted market realities, causing consumer prices to go up directly and indirectly.
25 Nov 2007

Byron King, with a few notes on geothermal energy...

The utilities of the US, if not those in many other parts of the world, have pressing needs not just to supply power to energy-hungry consumers. But more than that they must meet both public and political pressures for using renewable energy sources. Apparently heedless of the impact to the environment of the Middle Kingdom and abroad, China commissions a new coal-fired plant every 5 days. Yet in the US there has not been a new coal-fired power plant permitted in about a year. So over time in North America, the older systems are passing away. The question is, what will take their place? To the extent that the public envisions renewable energy systems, the image it holds is of tall poles with windmill systems on top with blades turning. Or there is an expectation of solar systems mounted on rooftops, facing the sun. But these are intermittent sources of energy production. Some of the time - most of the time, really - the wind does not blow. And at least in the nighttime, the sun does not shine. So for each Megawatt of power that moves through the grid, down to meet the load, the requirement is for three megawatts of installed capacity of wind and solar. Build three, get one. In the big picture, this is not a good use of resources.
19 Nov 2007

Demand, scarcity take air out of wind power; New laws spur run on land, turbines

Looking east into Gilliam County and north into Washington, turbines are strung over ridgelines as far as the eye can see. And there are nowhere near enough of them. ...West Coast utilities and independent power producers are locked in a land rush to secure the best wind sites and the power they produce. Coupled with a worldwide shortage of turbines and a falling dollar, the resulting scarcity is driving up the cost of wind power, a burden electricity ratepayers will shoulder.
14 Nov 2007

The Partly Cloudy Powerlink

When San Diego Gas & Electric unveiled the Sunrise Powerlink two years ago, the company gave three essential reasons for building the 150-mile long power line: Renewable energy, Savings, Reliability. The power line's $447 million annual savings was cut to $142 million a year after erroneous calculations were uncovered. A solar energy project whose fate was once tied to the line has failed to demonstrate that it works on a commercial scale. SDG&E has equivocated about how much renewable energy can be found in Imperial County, where the line will begin. The company has waffled about whether the line is necessary to spark renewable energy development in Imperial County. And the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, a state watchdog, has said SDG&E won't need the power line to keep the lights on until at least 2014.
27 Aug 2007

Calif. emissions laws costly?

As California takes its first baby steps toward implementing the most aggressive climate-change policy in the country, experts debate the economic feasibility of attaining the state`s goals. Its overarching policy lies in the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which requires greenhouse gas emissions in the state to fall back to 1990 levels by 2020. One of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger`s executive orders, S-3-25, addresses long-term goals by aiming at an 80 percent emissions reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. The state`s ability to reach these goals holds implications not only for Californians, but the rest of the nation`s climate-change policy as well, Samuel Thernstrom, director of the American Enterprise Institute`s program on culture and freedom, said at a panel discussion last week.
7 Jul 2007

Windmills’ expansion gets county OK

About 25 windmills in the north Palm Springs area were approved this week by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. The windmills will be part of the Dillon Wind Project, which will have a total of 45 windmills north of Interstate 10, east of Highway 62 and west of Indian Avenue. The windmills will be 327 feet tall, or about 33 stories high.
23 Jun 2007

House rejects amendment to stop power lines

WASHINGTON - The House rejected a resolution Wednesday that would block government plans to spur construction of major new power lines in many states regardless of local opposition. The issue has been contentious in parts of the East Coast and in the Southwest, where two high priority transmission corridors for power lines were proposed. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., warned colleagues that unwanted power lines could come to their district.
21 Jun 2007
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