Thursday, July 1, 2010

Anything new going on at the proposed “Westlands Solar Park?”

There must be if the traffic to my previous blog post on the subject is any indication.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, this is a proposal by the Westlands
Water District in western Fresno and Kings Counties, here in California, to
build 5 gigawatts of PV solar plants on used up, depleted farmland.
Some of the land has high salt content reaching up to root level and some of
the land has high selenium levels as well. There is no water available as the
water district will be getting only up to 10% of its’ old federal allotments.
So it appears the land may be good only to grow solar panels.

There are 30,000 acres available in the first study area. A private investment
group, Westside Holdings, is working with the water district to get this project
up and running. And in a sign of how beneficial this project appears to be- they
are also closely working with the Sierra Club and the NRDC to get this going.

So all the ducks appear to be lining up for this. Hmmm, what are the normal
challenges to something like this:
costly transmission lines- not a problem as this is right next to the main north to
south as well as inland to coast transmission line networks.

costly environmental challenges- not likely, horrible soil conditions, rarely see any
animals or plants worth speaking of. Major environmental groups working for it.

Nimby concerns- not likely as this area has one of the highest structural unemployment
issues in the state and talk is going around that the solar panels might even be assembled nearby.

Not way out in the middle of nowhere, next to transmission grid and centrally located
in the middle of the state, speaking between the large population centers in the north
and south of course.

With all the tax guarantees etc between bandied about, money should not be an issue,
especially if there will be virtually zero objections from environmentalist groups
and I predict strong support from someone who will have “mucho” clout, I am
referring of course to Senator Feinstein. And support as well from the locals who
should get construction and permanent jobs out of this.

Bill Powers, the renewable energy expert from San Diego, even said that a combination
of distributed rooftop energy plus this 5 gigawatt project was enough to meet the state’s
mandated renewable energy % goal, without building any of the plants in the Mojave
and other desert areas, you know those projects like BrightSource and Tessera Solar and
Solar Millennium in Ridgecrest that myself and others have long railed against.

This is really looking like a project people can believe in. If you were a resident of say, Kettlemen City, for example, you’d feel like you might finally see a way out of the economic
mess there.

Here is what worries me- this makes so much sense, it’s so obviously a win-win that
I am concerned that the government bureaucracy might blow this one too. Remember
my post where the Abengoa project practically right next door to an existing solar field
has been tossed a giant monkey wrench by the state demanding they mitigate the loss
of farm land at the cost of millions of dollars? So called “farm land” that hasn’t been farmed in decades except for a few acres.

Let us hope not. This project could meet the needs of around 1,000,000 homes when built out and in my humble opinion, save an untold number of desert
tortoises and kit foxes, badgers, Mojave ground squirrels, and other wildlife
as well as a huge number of rare and endangered desert plant species, it would help relieve the pressure on the deserts, a priority in
this humble bloggers opinion, simply by not having to build out in the sensitive
desert areas.

Some links to follow on this issue:

Let’s just see what happens. In the meantime if you have any further thoughts or
information on this, please weigh in by way of the comments section.

Thanks very much for stopping by the backporch.