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Renewable Energy Bill - Still Not Promoting Rooftop Solar


Last updated 9/10/2015 at 11:03am

California lawmakers are anxious to pass a climate and energy plan before the legislature closes the door on another year. Governor Jerry Brown’s priorities include a 50 percent cut in oil use, a 50 percent increase in energy efficiency in existing buildings, and a 50 percent clean-energy mandate. There seems to be overwhelming support of bill SB 350, called the ‘Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act.’ Critics, however, don’t think the solution is further tarnishing the desert landscape with more extensive Solar and wind projects. Utility companies trying to reach the current California renewable energy mandate of 33 percent by 2020 have largely gone for traditional Solar and wind farms because of lower up-front costs. Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, a democrat from Coachella would like to see more geothermal energy plants being built along the Salton Sea as part of the solution. Geothermal and Solar with storage provide electricity around the clock but often have higher up-front costs. Building cleaner energy will lead to higher electricity prices but experts say the costs to public health, the economy and the environment will be much greater if we don’t proceed in some manner. Some of these round-the-clock energy sources are environmentally unacceptable for various reasons. The Ivanpah power plant in San Bernardino County has energy storing power towers but that technology incinerates passing birds. Pumped storage projects, like the proposed Eagle Mountain hydropower plant near Joshua Tree National Park could store clean energy but would drain billions of gallons of groundwater from the aquifer.

According to Bill Powers, a San Diego engineering consultant and rooftop Solar advocate, it’s “overwhelmingly more cost efficient to do rooftop installations in the urban cores themselves. No one who is looking at the big picture, and cared about the economics of renewable energy development, would choose to go with large-scale Solar in the desert that requires new transmission. The real golden egg for the utilities is the transmission lines.” Environmental activists don’t believe California should be building large-scale clean energy plants at all but should be focusing on promoting rooftop Solar, which doesn’t harm desert ecosystems or require unsightly and expensive transmission lines.


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