Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Westlands Solar Park, time to think outside the box?

Up in Kings and Fresno counties lie 47 square miles of used up, bone dry,
selenium riddled, fallow farm land, owned mostly by the Westlands Water
District. Unfortunately due to the salty nature of the land and no water, the
land is worthless for farming crops, but perhaps might be perfect to grow
solar mirrors.

And in the process, this worthless land might be the way forward out of the
fight that is brewing between the governments both state and federal, the
solar industrial complex, vs the environmentalists and others who hope to
retain the deserts as they are, wild and unindustrialized.

According to articles I have read, this property has the potential to supply
5000 megawatts of solar power, and that’s just from using 5% of the land.
That comes from sworn testimony of Bill Powers, consultant engineer, in
sworn testimony to the California Energy Commission.

And the beauty of this also is that since it is private land and not part of any
environmental sensitive or endangered species habitat, Jupiter aligns with
Mars, and voila! the normal regulatory hurdles don’t have to jumped over. By
normal, I am referring to those hurdles that are there in front of BrightSource
Energy, or Tessarro etc- those companies that have sites planned for federal
land that just happens to be home for the desert tortoise for example.

In a nutshell, this is the perfect example of a “shovel ready” project that just
requires contract signing, permitting, and financing to get started. And by the
way, this area alone if developed, per Bill Powers, would mean Ivanpah would
not even have to be built to meet the state’s mandated 33% renewable energy target
by 2020. Fast-tracking development of the Westlands with industrial scale urban and
distributed pv would meet the goals by itself. Just imagine, no Ridgecrest or Cady
or whatever.

Of course the big losers would be the other energy companies and the investment
bankers and lobbyists, unless as part of the negotiations they were allowed in to
share in the pie. The big winners would be this local water company, the investment
group they hired, solar outfits they utilize(perhaps eSolar ;-) and the taxpayers along
with the flora and fauna of the deserts, and electric customers who hopefully
wouldn’t be hit with massive, long term rate hikes to pay for all this.

It seems to me that it’s a win-win all way around. Useless land, sunshine, plus unused
major transmission line capacity nearby and it is centrally located in the state.

I think the CEC should have listened to Mr. Powers and others who have pitched for
projects like this, instead of just going for what they thought were the easiest, raw
land way out in the middle of the desert.

I bet there are many places like this that could be utilized for solar production, and
wouldn’t generate the controversy like Ridgecrest or Ivanpah, that wouldn’t have
such a deleterious effect on wilderness, we just need to hold the policymaker’s feet
to the fire and insist they look for them.

Here are some links to look over:
http://www.pressherald.com/business/ecologists-growers-agree-site-would-work-for-solar-farm_2010-03-21.html

http://www.fresnobee.com/2010/03/15/1859943/valley-solar-plant-would-be-among.html
http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2010/mar/25/solar-power-plan-rooted-in-fallow-soil/?farm
http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/bnelson/solar_in_the_central_valley_th.html
http://solar.coolerplanet.com/News/3171002-solar-panels-the-next-big-farm-crop-for-us.aspx
http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0ByWXr6LCciwVMDgzMzI2NWMtMDliMi00MzU4LTk4ZTgtOWNlYWRlZGNjYjM1&hl=en
The link directly above is to Bill Powers testimony, and is a 755kb download and
well worth a read.

Folks, let me digress and say something about my last post.
I think my comments regarding our governor’s environmental record don’t need any
explanation. However, some may wonder why I went off on Mr. Kennedy who does
have a record on the environment and has litigated on behalf of it numerous times
in his career. All that is well and good and part of history, but what have you done
lately for the California environment, especially the deserts, that is what concerns
this blogger.

Mr. Kennedy is part of the VantagePoint Venture Partners, among whose clients
is BrightSource Energy of the BrightSource Ivanpah fame. When questioned about
this, Mr. Kennedy went off on the environmentalists opposing the project ,which as
far as I am concerned, showed a closed mind as concerns desert issues in California.

So he’s fair game to me.
I am a lifelong Bobby Kennedy admirer and even have a Bobby for president button
from his last campaign here. I can’t prove this and I may be wrong, and often am,
but I don’t believe he’d side with his son on this. Mr. Kennedy, the patriarch, no doubt
probably would, but I doubt Bobby would.

But that just may be my wishful thinking.
I hope this late clarification will shed some light on that post.
Thanks for reading and visiting the backporch.
Morongobill

Please see my latest post on this project here:

http://morongobillsbackporch.blogspot.com/2010/07/anything-new-going-on-at-proposed.html

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