Friday, May 21, 2010

They laughed when we said this “Solar licensing process was rigged…

Then it was proven in the most Kafkaesque way possible.(My apologies to the
writers of one of the most successful direct marketing campaigns in history as I
shamelessly crib their idea, you know the one”they laughed when I sat down to
play the piano.”)

This is the tale of two different players in the large solar camp, Abengoa and Bright
Source Energy, both having made the news this month in a big way and for different
reasons. Out of concern I feel from friends and associates who may think that I might
have been “picking or even piling on BrightSource” I will talk about them last.

So what was the big deal with Abengoa you ask, aren’t they just another one of those
giant solar conglomerates that would like to build a super- sized solar farm on a huge
tract of desert land? Yes, they plan to do that. But with a difference. They propose
to build theirs on used up, depleted farm land in an area where water is scarce and
you’d have a hard time growing a prickly pear cactus there without irrigation. And they plan to invest
$1.2 BILLION of their own money in this deal, and hope to qualify for $300Million
from the taxpayers as a subsidy. This project, and apologies to some, is an environmentalists wet dream. No pristine animal and plant habitat to be sacrificed,
no major transmission lines, lies very close to an existing solar farm, and within 50
miles or so from the existing plant at Kramer Junction. A win- win all around.

Oh ye backporchians, sit down for this next. Never doubt the ability of the California
state bureaucracy to snatch defeat right out of the jaws of victory! I refer you
to these links for the whole disgusting story.
http://www.pe.com/localnews/environment/stories/PE_News_Local_W_energy23.4828a00.html

Here is the next story, I saved it to my desktop and  I don’t have the link. This story is
from the Riverside Press Enterprise:

Lauded solar plan in San Bernardino County hits a snag

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callout_16
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10:19 PM PDT on Wednesday, May 5, 2010

By DAVID DANELSKI
The Press-Enterprise

A 1,700-acre solar power development planned on former alfalfa fields west of Barstow is considered ideal by environmentalists and San Bernardino County officials because it would create jobs and provide clean power without destroying pristine wildlife habitat.

But Abengoa Solar Inc. faces a big hurdle: The California Energy Commission staff has recommended that the company acquire and protect 1,588 acres of farmland elsewhere in California, along with water rights so it can be irrigated.

The requirement is in keeping with the state's farm-preservation policies, which aim to protect farming and food supplies as agricultural land is lost to development.

Supporters of the solar project say the policies make no sense in areas already abandoned by farmers.

Abengoa's project manager, Scott Frier, said he was shocked by the recommendation, though he did not say it would kill the company's plans for vast rows of mirrors and a generating system that would produce enough electricity for more than 90,000 homes. The company is asking the state to reconsider, he said.

San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt said he may push for new county zoning policies that would qualify abandoned farms for renewable-energy development, so that companies wouldn't have to replace the land.

Using former desert farms to meet California alternative-energy needs has many pluses, county officials and environmentalists say.

Renewable-energy development pumps economic life into land that has been vacant for years, if not decades, mostly because of scarce water, said Mitzelfelt, whose district includes the solar property. Abengoa's $1.2 billion investment could bring needed jobs to residents of the Victorville and Barstow areas, he said.

The company estimates its Mojave project would create 1,200 construction jobs and 80 permanent positions.

"This is exactly the kind of project I want to the see more of," Mitzelfelt said.

It also avoids destruction of undisturbed public land inhabited by desert tortoises, which are threatened with extinction, and other wildlife.

"We already have more desert farmland than we have water for," said Elden Hughes, a Sierra Club member who has fought for decades to preserve unspoiled desert land.

Frier said the company now irrigates 128 of its 1,765 acres near Harper Lake. The rest hasn't been farmed for 10 to 20 years, he said.

Frier said acquiring 1,588 acres of farmland would cost the company more than $11 million -- several times the cost of buying the same amount of wildlife habitat. Renewable-energy developers who build on public land are required to protect habitat elsewhere. Abengoa also would have to pay for water rights at a cost yet to be determined.

"The state's farm policy (is) misplaced," he said.

Hughes said the replacement requirement for abandoned farm land is a disincentive for developers. "It forces the use of pristine land, which is an absurdity," he said.

Saving farmland

Craig Hoffman, an energy commission project manager, said state officials are evaluating a proposal from Abengoa to replace only the 128 acres currently farmed at the company's site.

The state's original recommendation was based on several factors, he said. Asked in its application how the land would be used if the solar project wasn't approved, the company indicated that it would be farmed, Hoffman said by telephone.

The state analysis also found that the land has enough groundwater and sufficient soil quality to support farming and that the area has a long agricultural history, Hoffman said.

Charles Tyson, manager of California Farmland Conservancy Program, said the state had been trying since the 1960s to preserve agricultural jobs and secure food sources as farmland has been developed for homes and businesses.

From 1982 to 2006, California lost more than 1.2 million acres of farms to urban uses, Tyson said. From 2004 to 2006, Riverside and San Bernardino counties lost 23,268 and 9,419 acres, respectively, he said.

Carrie Hyke, a principal planner for San Bernardino County, said past farming at the Abengoa site was limited to growing alfalfa for cattle ranches that have mostly left the area.

Environmental documents submitted to the energy commission say the first cattle ranch in the area was established in 1872 and that a succession of land owners raised cattle and alfalfa near Harper Lake into the 1980s.

Lester Lockhart, who acquired the land with a partner in 1925, became a prominent farmer. In 1953, he set up a gas station and general store with a sign that boasted, "We sell everything."

SOLAR PLANT THERE

Part of the former Lockhart ranch already is producing solar energy.

A solar plant built there in the early 1990s is now operated by NextEra Energy Resources. The operation produces 160 megawatts with mirrors that concentrate the sun's energy. On a tour in March, state officials said it is the world's largest operating solar plant.

Abengoa, which is based in Spain and has local offices in Victorville and U.S. headquarters in Denver, wants to use similar thermal-concentration technology, in which curved mirrors focus heat on a liquid that creates steam to power turbines.

The Abengoa plant would be larger, with a capacity of 250 megawatts, and would cover other sections of the former ranch, including the ruins of Lockhart's store.

During the March tour, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger visited the store ruins, where Frier had displayed a map of Abengoa's plan.

At the NextEra plant up the road, the governor signed a bill to help speed up alternative-energy developments on public land. The new law allows energy companies to pay into a fund to compensate for lost wildlife habitat. No one talked about compensating for lost farmland.

Reach David Danelski at 951-368-9471 or ddanelski@PE.com

Mojave Solar Project

Developer: Abengoa Solar Inc., based in Spain

Location: 15 miles northwest of Barstow

Size: 1,765 acres

Investment: $1.2 billion

Technology: thermal concentration using mirrors

Capacity: 250 megawatts, enough for more than 90,000 homes
----end of quoted text---

So do you get it now? Land that was historically farmed only to grow alfalfa for the ranch
which no longer exists as a ranch, and part of which has already become a solar field,
and has not been farmed in almost 20 years, that is the basis for stopping this needed
solar project. You can’t make this kind of stuff up folks! Whatever the CEC has been
smoking lately, I want some. Don’t Bogart it all guys.(I err, 128 acres is still being farmed)

This requirement that they acquire all this acreage to mitigate and offset the valuable
farm land is just so much hogwash, or I can’t help myself, just so much:
ivanpahfieldtrip 011
A crude analogy but appropriate to make my point with succinctness.

Now let’s finally get down to my old fave, BrightSource Energy. You know the company
whose CEO, Mr. John Woolard, in an award winning performance that was first noted
here at the backporch, he of “we move slowly” fame, the company that now has plastered
surveyor flags and markers all over the Ivanpah site, and even driven a bulldozer through
there already, even though the project still has not been approved, in a blitzkrieg move
worthy of Generals Rommel and Guderian, and dare I say of Patton, has lined
up even more millions of venture capital dollars, all designed to make them world
leaders in solar development, without having built a single large scale
project!

Here are the details at these links:
http://green.venturebeat.com/2010/05/20/brightsource-banks-150m-more-to-take-its-solar-thermal-plants-global/

http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/company-news/brightsource-raises-cash-for-solar/19485827/

Man, this ole bus driver thought these kind of speculative moves ended with the collapse
of the housing bubble. Guess I’d better not quit my day job, huh? And according to one of
the articles, this is their 4th round of venture capital raising. Oh, I almost forgot and how
could I, I’m one of the saps whose future taxes went to their $1.37BILLION loan guarantee!

But here’s the real thing that may be going on and I am quoting from one of the articles:
many analysts consider it a likely candidate to go public.”

Let’s see if we all get this now. A successful company putting up over a billion$ of its’
own money gets a king sized monkey wrench thrown into its’ plans at the last minute
by the pointy headed paper pushers in Sacramento and the other which hat in hand
has now stooped to taking the retired teachers money and has never met a VC it
didn’t like, gets the red carpet treatment from the prez’s right- hand man at interior
on down to the Governator and his myriad minions, with nary a care or concern in
the world, already laying dozer tracks down at Ivanpah, despite all their care and concern
as scripted by their handlers, who knows how many tortoises or burrowing owls or gila
monsters, etc were crushed in the burrows---

It’s true what they say, life really isn’t fair sometimes, is it?

Morongobill

p.s. sorry folks, another glitch in this blogging software, this whole article was
in this font and size as you read here, with the exception of the quoted article, and
you see what happened, it came out in small font from the newspaper article to
the end. I am too tired to retype the whole thing.

One of these days, I’ll come across blogging software that isn’t chock full of bugs.
Please keep reading on and keep stopping in here at the backporch!
 



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