Transmission Politics Hold Up Utility-Scale Solar [update]

  • Published on June 24th, 2008

California plan facing ‘NIABY’ foes (Not In Anyone’s Back Yard)

[UPDATE: I have added a list of the environmental groups that oppose Superlink below] A project being developed by San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Stirling Energy is facing opposition from some environmentalists because the plan also calls for a 150-mile, high-voltage transmission line that would pass through 23 miles of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, a spot known for its hiking trails, wildflowers, palm groves, cacti and spectacular mountain views.

The proposed Sunrise Powerlink would carry energy produced from several wind, solar, and geothermal installations from the California’s Imperial Valley to San Diego. The entire route would be about 150 miles long with 554 towers from end to end. (But with a cheery name like Sunrise Powerlink, how could anyone oppose it?)

While federal and state officials put the brakes on new coal-fired power plants and as investors back out of others, the demand for more renewable energy will only grow stronger. And as it turns out, the spots with the best renewable resources also have the harshest and often least habitable climates – dry, hot, windy, barren, etc. – so the electricity then needs to be transmitted to areas where people have settled (i.e. cities). And that is where some problems are surfacing.

Some environmental groups are not particularly keen about the preferred route in Southern California, and they are using every tactic they can think of to stop it – including working the aesthetics angle. “This transmission line will cross through some of the most scenic areas of San Diego” [my emphasis added], said David Hogan of the Washington D.C.-based Center for Biological Diversity. “It would just ruin it with giant, metal industrial power lines.”

These scenarios are playing out in the Imperial Valley and elsewhere as growing public demand for renewable energy intersects with a localized or generalized desire to protect open spaces and scenic vistas. One need only look to the long political skirmish that has surrounded the Cape Wind project for the last seven years to see exactly how heated these battles have become.

Renewable energy super-highway

Utilities, including San Diego Gas and Electric, argue that utility-scale renewable energy development is absolutely necessary to supply growing baseload energy demands, and that rooftop PV panels will help, but cannot produce enough power to meet the state’s renewables requirement of 20% by 2010.

The Sunrise Powerlink route was preferred by SDG&E because the next best route paralleled the Southwest Power Link along the American-Mexican border and would leave the grid vulnerable to the frequent forest fires that require the transmission lines to be shut down entirely. DG&E has some excellent multimedia resources on its website concerning the selection process, and their efforts to mitigate any environmental impacts of the transmission corridor

stirling energy solar dish

But rarely is everyone happy. The Center for Biological Diversity argues on its website that:

“The primary purpose of the Powerlink is to… import cheap, polluting power from fossil-fuel power plants in Mexico and deliver this power to greater Los Angeles. This means that, besides destroying habitat for imperiled species like the golden eagle, Peninsular bighorn sheep, and Quino checkerspot butterfly, the project would significantly foster global warming by supporting polluting facilities, allowing for evasion of U.S. air-pollution laws, and discouraging renewable energy development.”

The group also claims that they have “worked closely with environmental partners, property owners, and communities” in the Powerlink project but they unfortunately do not list any of them on their website.

[UPDATE: Here’s a list of some of the local and California statewide groups opposed to the]

Environmental Justice Groups:
Border Power Plant Working Group
Environmental Health Coalition

Utility Advocacy Groups:
Utility Consumers’ Action Network (UCAN)
Ratepayers for Affordable, Clean Energy

“Broad Purpose” Environmental Groups:
Pacific Environment
Environment California
Sierra Club, San Diego Chapter

Resource Conservation Groups:
California Native Plant Society
California State Parks Foundation
California Wilderness Coalition
Center for Biological Diversity
Desert Protective Council, Inc.
Friends of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
San Diego Audubon Society
San Diego Cactus and Succulent Society
Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter
Wilderness Society

One of the projects dependent on Powerlink is the 900 MW Stirling Energy solar dish project that will consist of an initial phase of 12,000 SunCatcher 25 kW solar dishes providing 300 MW to the grid. Phase 2 will expand the number of solar dish Stirling systems to 36,000 units, capable of generating up to 900 MW of power designed to automatically track the sun and focus solar heat onto a power conversion unit that converts the intense heat to grid-quality electricity.

That plant would initially feed into an existing power line and provide enough electricity for more than 200,000 homes. But moving into phase two and three, it would need substantially more more transmission capacity.

What is the future of the project? Well, considering that SDG&E would likely fall short of the 20% renewables by 2010 RPS requirement without it; and that the utility already holds a right-of-way through the park that predates the park’s establishment, I would say that CPUC will pass the proposed transmission project.

The California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote as soon as August on Sunrise Powerlink.

Related posts on utility-scale solar

“Mega-Solar: The World’s Thirteen Biggest Solar Thermal Projects”

“Clean Energy Intro: Solar Thermal”

Photo: 1. © Achilles | Dreamstime.com 2. Stirling Energy

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.

13 comments

  • I have to second Paul Blackburn's analysis here. If you're going to tackle a local energy issue, you better research both sides thoroughly.

    If you're concerned about global warming, the Environmental Impact Report on the Sunrise Powerlink concluded that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with building and operating a 150-mile-long power line more than negate the greenhouse gas reductions associated with the solar and geothermal in Imperial Valley (even if the line were to carry 100% zero carbon energy, which it never will).

    If you're wondering why folks in San Diego are so distrustful of SDG&E, just look at the history of the Southwest Powerlink, which also was promised to bring renewable energy from the desert to San Diego when it was built in the early '80s. Today less than 5% of its capacity is devoted to renewable energy. The obvious solution for bringing desert renewables to San Diego is to kick the fossil fuel energy off the Southwest Powerlink, and replace it with the renewables — then you would have a real, measurable greenhouse gas reduction.

    To find out more about that history, see my article "Sunrise Powerlink: A Battle for California's Energy Future," available at: http://www.desertreport.org.

    I agree you should leave this post up, along with the many corrections and discussion. But you could go a long way to compensate for its apparent support for the anti-green Sunrise Powerlink, by giving some coverage to the San Diego Smart Energy 2020 plan and its author, Bill Powers. Info and a PDF of the plan are available at: http://www.sdsmartenergy.org.
    http://www.sdsmart

  • I am unhappy to see the environmental issues here simplified to "the effect of the powerlines on the view". I'm the conservation chair for the California Native Plant Society, San Diego Chapter. We oppose this project because it will create miles of new roads which will be a conduit for invasive weeds and illegal off-road usage which will further degrade disappearing plant populations. Personally, I would love to see more local generation in the city of San DIego, and I stand ready to install solar panels as soon as the laws change so that I receive compensation (not just a credit!) for the power that I generate.

  • WOW! I've been blissfully ignorant of the all the diverse angles in the growing alternative energy movement. How wonderful to have these issues to debate. 10 years ago, these issues were more theory than real, live challenges. I celebrate all you informed people and thank you for engaging so informatively. I write for the eatdrinkbetter, feelgoodstyle and ecochildsplay blogs – fluff compared to this juicy stuff. I'm trying to learn more about these important aspects of creating a more sustainable future. thanks for contributing to my education!

  • Hi Tim —

    Just to be clear, I don’t think that your article was “an intentional attempt to divide the environmental movement.” I did not say that this was your intention (re-read what I wrote). From my reading of your blog entry I think you did intend to boost the Powerlink and diminish the Center for Biological Diversity’s land conservation concerns. However, actions can have results regardless of intentions. I said that the result of your writing, regardless of your intentions, had the potential to cause needless division and acrimony within the environmental community. From what I know of you based on our prior work on the feed-in tariff issue I believe that you did not intend that such a result would happen.

    My intention in this extensive dialogue is to urge you to reconsider how you frame your blog entries about energy infrastructure debates that by their nature are always local.

    I am very sure that the fossil fuel industry is attempting to sow discord among us, and from my personal experience it seems pretty likely that some media outlets (e.g., local conservative press in San Diego, Fox News, the recent Deroy Murdock piece in the National Review, WSJ, etc.) knowingly participate in this effort by actively promoting the industry’s “NIMBY versus renewable energy” frame. One of the industry’s goals is to get journalists to adopt this frame as an automatic response to these situations such that they think that the “NIMBY versus renewable energy frame” is the only and most appropriate frame.

    Obviously, it is possible to use the “NIMBY versus renewable energy” frame, but the question becomes, does this frame empower the public to make informed choices about energy, or does it focus too much on a few actors and their values, telling a story of good guys and bad guys rather than a story about the substance of the incredibly important choices that face us all? The AP article left out so much of the story that it did a disservice to the public.

    They pony I have in this race is empowerment of citizens to make informed energy choices and then to act to implement their choices, whether that be in San Diego, the Midwest, the East, South, overseas, wherever. How the issues in a particular place are discussed by media with a nationwide audience affects how people think about these issues everywhere. Bloggers have the power to help frame these conversations to enhance public debate, so I urge you to use this power wisely.

    Since bloggers are often not just about allowing others to tell their stories, hopefully this dialogue has also helped you and your readers think more about how to work powerfully toward a clean, safe and reliable energy future.

    I look forward to working with you again.

    Paul

  • Hi Tim –

    I understand the approach of recognizing that the “environmental movement” is not homogeneous, but I think this approach does not accomplish anything useful. The fossil fuel world knows that we are not homogeneous otherwise they wouldn’t be able to use divide and conquer tactics so successfully. More informed citizens are also aware that we are not homogeneous, and I think most “independents” also are fully aware the greens sometimes disagree with each other. Greenhaters paint us as a cabal, but they’ll never change their minds. So, who are you messaging for? Are you just accepting that the “environmental movement” is going to fight over this issue and accept merely attempting to minimize the damage from “inevitable” internecine fights? Do you see Cape Wind as inevitable? I don’t.

    In contrast, rather than see divisions as inevitable the people in San Diego worked very hard to create the relationships needed to work together, to integrate differences in values into a proactive regional energy plan. Their efforts culminated in a progressive less expensive energy plan that could be supported by renewable energy supporters, wildlands advocates, consumer advocacy groups, environmental justice groups and local citizen groups (see list below). They converted NYMBYs into renewable and local energy advocates and prevented needless internecine warfare before it started instead of succumbing to to the industry’s divide and conquer strategy. Rather than say, “See we have differences, that’s just natural!”, they said, “See, we have differences but we worked out in a practical way how to protect all of our economic, energy security and environmental values.” Isn’t this a better way to deal with renewable energy disputes?

    What concerns me about your position is that you seem to think that “cape wind” type divisions are inevitable. I disagree, and more importantly the people in San Diego have proven that such divisions are not inevitable. Yes, different groups have different values, but hard work and respect can bring them together. Your blog post will just fuel a needless fight at a national level (that failed to materialize at a local level) orchestrated by a fossil fuel company. How many greens will read your blog and completely misunderstand the situation? How much acrimony will it engender in those who support renewable energy against land protection advocates because they think that the land protection advocates in San Diego County are narrow-minded or less ecological or less globally aware, when in fact the local renewable energy advocates and land conservation advocates avoided this fight altogether? Where are the local San Diego analogues to the local Massachusetts greens who support cape wind? There aren’t any.

    You say that “SDG&E has some excellent multimedia resources on its website concerning the selection process, and their efforts to mitigate any environmental impacts of the transmission corridor.” Who are you to say these are excellent materials? Have you studied the numbers behind their economics, conducted an independent assessment of their renewable energy claims, or discussed the merits of their claims with any of the opposition leaders? It would appear not. SDG&E certainly has glossy materials but that doesn’t mean they have merit.

    Next, you express doubt about the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) claims that it works closely with a wide coalition. Why’s that? You essentially imply that they are hiding something or not telling the truth. You also say that we can’t make everyone happy, thereby suggesting that they are just a disgruntled fringe group. A list of some of the groups opposed to the Powerlink is included below. CBD was one of the key groups that founded the coalition that opposes the Powerlink and they have worked very hard to help form a true community-based campaign that includes a very diverse membership and they have supported real renewable energy solutions rather than PR fantasy. CBD lawyers have been doing remarkable cutting edge work to force consideration of global warming issues in environmental review documents so that we can have models of high quality quantifiable analysis of the global warming impacts of transmission lines so we can more easily determine the merits of future transmission line proposals rather than blindly believe the industry’s “we need more transmission lines” mantra. Some transmission lines are needed to enable renewables and local energy development. Some transmission lines are needed for fossil fuel power plants. Reading an industry website is will not help anyone separate the sheep from the goats. CBD is helping us all learn how to do this.

    Next you repeat a lot of SDG&E and Stirling Energy Systems fantasy talk about the Stirling-dish solar technology, on which I’ve already commented.

    Finally, you wrap up by repeating SDG&E’s half-truth about having a right-of-way through the park into a slantwise encouragement that the CPUC approve this project. Yes, there is a 69kV power line through the park but it’s on little wooden poles similar to those in neighborhoods that really are not noticeable in the landscape, whereas SDG&E wants to put in ~10 story tall pylons that will be visible from 90,000 acres of wilderness parkland, much of which was the backdrop for the desert scenes in the recent movie “Into the Wild”. No, SDG&E does not have sufficient right-of-way width to build this power line without condemning more public and private land. Yes, for what it’s worth, this transmission line would gut the heart of a remarkable state park in a very crowded part of the country. Since there are lower impact alternatives to this route, the violence done to this area would be entirely gratuitous.

    I think that a reasonable person would conclude that you sided with Sempra/SDG&E “folks”.

    To me you are throwing gasoline on a fire lit by others intended to burn the environmental community as a whole. It might not be appropriate for me to ask you this, but I suggest that you take down your blog post and replace it with something else once you have thoroughly researched this issue, because your blog is not based on adequate fact nor is it helpful to our efforts as a whole. I also suggest that before you blog on local energy issues that you talk to both sides.

    As you know, many European countries have pioneered the local energy approach that empowers local communities to decide whether or not they want wind energy. Some do, some don’t but the process is much smoother because the facilities aren’t shoved down local throats by multinational corporations. As the Germans say, one’s own pigs don’t stink.

    The US has so much renewable energy potential that we do not need to put it everywhere it is proposed. The limiting factors in all renewable energy deployment in the US are not a lack of location but a lack of equipment and stable funding. This is particularly relevant to global warming concerns because from a global warming perspective it makes no difference where the renewable energy is installed as long as it is in fact installed. Fighting over controversial locations wastes time and energy, such that renewable energy companies should do a better job of avoiding controversial locations in the first place. We shouldn’t fight about local renewable energy siting; in difficult locations we should set up local planning(!) processes to work out how to move ahead equitably and in the mean time move on to less controversial locations. If a local community doesn’t want renewable energy now, or they want a different form of renewable energy, there are certainly many locations that welcome the types of renewable energy they don’t want. We need to trust that local communities will be responsible for their energy needs. Self-righteous chest thumping by renewable energy supporters is no service to anybody, except perhaps the fossil fuel industry.

    In San Diego, we trusted that local communities would be responsible for their own energy needs and accept local impacts — and they rose to the occasion, just as local European communities have.

    Here’s a list of some of the local and California statewide groups opposed to the Powerlink:

    Environmental Justice Groups:
    Border Power Plant Working Group
    Environmental Health Coalition

    Utility Advocacy Groups:
    Utility Consumers’ Action Network (UCAN)
    Ratepayers for Affordable, Clean Energy

    “Broad Purpose” Environmental Groups:
    Pacific Environment
    Environment California
    Sierra Club, San Diego Chapter

    Resource Conservation Groups:
    California Native Plant Society
    California State Parks Foundation
    California Wilderness Coalition
    Center for Biological Diversity
    Desert Protective Council, Inc.
    Friends of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
    San Diego Audubon Society
    San Diego Cactus and Succulent Society
    Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter
    Wilderness Society

    There are also a number of local citizen groups opposed to the Powerlink that include libertarian ranchers, backcountry hippies, off-roaders, farmers, renewable energy advocates, suburbanites, non-motorized recreationists, etc. Yes, most of the people in most of these groups are along the power line route, but who else is going to expose industry falsehoods? People from far away? National environmental groups? They rarely have the incentive or reason to really dig into local issues. Citizens with the most at stake have a right to investigate projects that threaten them and then hopefully advance better alternatives. Importantly, NO local environmental or renewable energy groups support the Powerlink, and as far as I know NO statewide or national environmental groups support the Powerlink (despite its renewable energy claims).

    I would turn this around on you and ask you whether you know of or can find ANY local, state or national environmental group that actively supports the Powerlink. I’m not aware of any. If this line is so green, why hasn’t Sempra been able to convince even one single environmental group to join its coalition? Just so you know, the two groups that sound like green groups on SDG&E’s website (Californians for Clean and Reliable Energy and the Community Alliance for the Sunrise Powerlink) were both created and are funded by SDG&E/Sempra.

    Thanks for listening. Hope this is a useful dialogue.

    – Paul

  • Paul,

    Thanks again for your comments. And also for listing the coalition of supporters – by how passionately you have written, I rightly assumed you had a pony in this race.

    I think you mistake my reporting of the proposed SD&G project as an intentional attempt to divide the environmental movement, rather than seeing it as an opening into the very real politics occurring in siting utility-scale renewable energy projects all over this country.

    Other than my snarky little NIABY remark, I thought my treatment was pretty even-handed. And while it was not my intention to portray the SDG&E project as one that was only being rejected by a fringe of the environmental community, perhaps it came off that way.

    However, my quote from the CBD about ruining the views near San Diego was still a very real quote from a very real member of this coalition. It may have been "cherry-picked" as you say, but it is nonetheless exemplary of the kind of tactics opponents use to fight utility-scale renewable energy projects – regardless of whether they actively support other renewable energy projects.

    If anything, I see the piece I wrote as an opportunity for you all to tell your story, and I'm glad you've had the opportunity to do so.

    And as far as your suggestion for me that "you take down your blog post and replace it with something else…", I'm afraid that's not the way it works. I will be happy to include an update or even write another post on the subject, but I don't remove stories because they may not be helpful to a specific cause.

    If I were telling untruths, that would be a different story.

  • Tim –

    I have to disagree with your analysis here. Ironically, the broad coalition of traditional enviro, consumer and EJ groups that oppose the Powerlink are saying just the opposite of “Not In Anyone’s Back Yard” (NIABY). They want to generate the energy in their backyards rather than import it. These groups went to the remarkable effort of preparing a ~150 page report called Smart Energy 2020 that lays out a detailed proposal for a mix of local renewable energy, other local energy and efficiency and conservation measures that can achieve San Diego’s RPS mandate and energy needs without the need for a new transmission line through wilderness.

    Also, the project’s 7,000 page Draft EIS analyzed 6 practical solutions to renewable energy needs that would have lower impacts than the Powerlink. The Powerlink, it said, would actually increase greenhouse gas emissions.

    Sempra’s claim that the Powerlink is primarily for renewable energy, as described below, is greenwashing.

    The “aesthetics” quotes you picked up on are only one issue among many and they were cherry-picked by the AP’s editors to frame this debate as a “NIABY” situation. The facts do not support this frame. The appropriate frame for a responsible public debate should be that there are many solutions to our energy needs and we need to determine and implement the cleanest and least expensive of these that also maximize benefits local economies.

    By siting this transmission line through the middle of a state park and claiming it is for renewable energy, Sempra Energy set up a situation designed to result in renewable energy advocates fighting land protection advocates. We must not fight each other — we must not allow the fossil fuel industry to “cape wind” us — because then we fall into a “let’s you and him fight” trap and only the fossil fuel interests win. Rather, we must work for practical energy solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimize other environmental impacts, provide true energy security and reliability and support local economies. A huge transmission line that will serve “maquiladora” power plants burning LNG imported from Indonesia/Russia/Mideast that runs through fire-prone areas to serve energy markets that have some of the best local solar resources in the US accomplishes none of these objectives.

    The following facts demonstrate why it is very important to not take the claims of renewable energy companies or utilities at their face value.

    Fact: The US DOE in an April 15, 2008, research plan on page 107 said that it assumed a mean time between failure (MTBF) for the Stirling Energy Systems (SES) technology of only 200 hours. This means that each of the 12,000 dishes would be expected to break down about 18 times per year (assuming 10 hours of operation a day). Do the math — that’s a lot of breakdowns. In contrast reliable existing energy generators (wind, photovoltaic, natural gas, steam turbines) have a MTBF of less than once per year and they don’t depend on so many individual units. Despite over two decades of research, the SES technology is still no where near “utility grade” in terms of reliability. This technology needs a lot of research money because it is simply not ready for utility-scale deployment. NTR, a company that recently promised to invest $100 million in this technology, has not committed nearly enough money to build any sizeable project even assuming they can get the technology to stop breaking down, so hopefully they will invest their money in the basic research required to get this technology working. The US DOE doesn’t think its engineers will even complete a design for a next generation prototype until June of 2011. Assuming these engineers (who are actually operating SES’s current equipment) are right, this means that construction and testing of these prototypes won’t be completed until the 2012-14 timeframe, which means that construction on a utility-scale 1 MW pilot plant wouldn’t begin until the 2015 timeframe — and that assumes that the scientists and engineers working on this technology can overcome the fundamental materials challenges that have kept this technology from being commercialized.

    Fact: SES currently has only 6 hand-built prototypes of its dish technology undergoing testing at Sandia National Lab, yet it claimed it could scale up to 12,000 operational units in less than 4 years.

    Fact: A 2007 report from Navigant Consulting, Inc. (NYSE: NCI), a firm with more than 1,900 global consultants, estimated that the SES technology would cost about $6/Watt installed capacity, whereas SoCal Edison is estimating that its recently announced roof top PV solar project in the LA region will cost about $4/Watt and would also not require spending money on a big power line.

    Fact: SDG&E’s parent company, Sempra Energy, just completed construction of a major LNG facility in Baja Mexico.

    Fact: Sempra owns a large natural gas fired power station in Mexico just south of the border and a second owned by another company is nearby.

    Fact: Sempra (or one of its LNG customers or affiliates) could build a third and fourth natural gas fired power station in Baja Mexico in less than 4 years, about the time it would take to build the proposed power line, in part because the transmission export capacity from Mexico to the US in this location is about twice what is currently being exported to the US.

    Fact: Current federal law prohibits reserving the use of power lines for any particular type of technology, so SDG&E can’t promise to use its proposed power line only or even mostly for renewable energy — once the line is built Sempra can use it to transmit any type of power it wants. Senator Reid has proposed legislation that attempts to address this problem.

    Fact: During the last firestorm the only reason San Diego didn’t experience blackouts was because of local generation. San Diego’s existing high voltage transmission links (two dual 230kV lines with ~2,000 MW of import capacity from LA and a 500kV ~1,900 MW line from the Imperial Valley) were shut down due to the fire. (By the way, San Diego’s peak demand is around 5,000 MW such that a very large percentage of its power can be imported right now.) If the Powerlink had been in place, it too would have been shut down because SDG&E’s preferred route went right through the fire zone. Moreover, 3 of last fall’s fires were caused by power line equipment, so building more transmission lines and the distribution lines they spawn in this fire-prone region is risky. In San Diego, local power generation is more secure than transmission lines.

    Fact: Current geothermal develeopment in the Imperial Valley is around 400 MW. The local utility built a dual circuit 230 kV line with ~1,000 MW of export capacity to serve future geothermal development needs, so a large proportion of this line’s capacity is not currently being used by geothermal energy. Yet geothermal development is going slowly in the Imperial Valley despite a lack of opposition due in part to the fact that most of the untapped geothermal resource is under the Salton Sea and the resource brine is ~20% to 30% solids and very corrosive, with the result that the plants are expensive to build and operate. There are plans to partially drain the Salton Sea but this would require billions in federal funding, is politically uncertain and at best would not happen until sometime after 2020.

    Fact: According to CA Energy Commission data between 1980 and 2006 SDG&E ratepayers on average paid 23% more for power than the ratepayers in the rest of California, despite the less regulated “business friendly” nature of conservative San Diego.

    Question: Why would SDG&E. the California utility with the lowest use of renewable energy in California, propose to use an experimental solar technology to justify building a ~$1.5 billion fire-spawning powerline from just north of the Mexican border to within spitting distance of the LA electricity market rather than invest this money in rooftop PV or other proven renewable and other locally-based energy generation technologies?

    Answer: Because SDG&E/Sempra would make a guaranteed return on investment on the powerline, make a new market for Sempra’s LNG import plant in Mexico, and get cheap transmission rates to ship power from Mexico to LA. Just because SDG&E/Sempra says this line is good for ratepayers and the environment doesn’t mean this is true. There are cheaper, cleaner solutions to San Diego’s energy needs including local generation, upgrading existing powerlines and using energy more carefully.

    Many of these facts are documented in a CPUC filing at:

    http://kellyfuller.net/Powers_Engineering_CARenewables_Background.pdf

    If you want the background documents for my other claims, just let me know.

  • I wrote a comment yesterday but it didn't transmit? After reading Paul Blackburn's thorough comment above I have to back him up entirely. Regarding the broad coalition, the list is long and all in one place. Perhaps go to the CPUC site to read comments from all who have participated in the various meetings re: sunrise powerlink.

    SOCAL Edison's PV pproject in LA is about real renewables as is Bill Power's report mentioned in Paul's comment.

    Regarding the preexisting electric lines in ABDSP, they are wooden poles maybe 20-30' tal bringing electricity to local users. The sunrise powerlink is about gargantuan towers with the potential for transporting 500Kv to the Los Angeles area.

    The existing lines practically disappear as you distance yourself from them and have no effect on the park's viewsheds, outside the immediate location of lines. The powerlink's proposed towers would encroach on many timeless viewsheds within and outside the park. The requisite erosion from tower footings and access roads would tear up large amounts of cryptomorphic soils and animal habitat, including some endangered ones. Finally the loud buzz,crackle and hum of these high capacity lines would obliterate the solitude and silence currently present at the proposed lines environs.

    Planning is the most important component of any decision we make regarding our energy future. Distributed local generation should be encouraged and transmission lines should be a last resort. When they are required, planning intelligently and placing them in locations which are already developed(e.g. freeways, industrial zones, etc…), leaving our dwindling untouched open spaces and parks to remain in perpetuity, as they were meant to be.

    How can a proposal be considered renewable when it proposes to destroy unrenewable resources such as our state and national parks? SO even if SDG&E's greenwashing wasn't happening and the entire proposal had 100% renewables ready to go online; Cutting across parklands would destroy any renewable status of the project. It is all about the planning something we have been abale to avoid until recently because the vast amount of land we have historically had.

    thanks

    regards gidon

  • Paul-

    Thanks for your informed comment. It is a pleasure to respond to such thoughtful and thorough analyses. Let me first say, that I know from past conversations with you, that you have a much firmer grasp of California energy politics than I probably ever will. This is a very interesting case, and you pointed out some of the nuances that I left out for brevity's sake.

    I strongly support the idea of putting more energy from more distributed sources on the transmission lines we currently have. I think that is what we should do first (or maybe even second, after efficiency).

    With that said, even though I seem to side with the Sempra/SD&G folks, I am not so certain that is the case. What I really wanted to do was to point to some of the divisions that are emerging within the 'environmental movement' to show that it is not (nor ever will be) one homogeneous unit.

    Let me ask you this, you mention a "broad coalition of traditional enviro, consumer and EJ groups" that are opposing the transmission line. Can you tell me more about these groups (i.e. who are they? who do they represent?).

    Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

    -Tim

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