If you’re going to have renewables, you’d better love transmission

The controversy surrounding a proposed high voltage transmission line in El Centro, CA, which would potentially deliver wind, solar, and geothermal energy to San Diego, is instructive on the difficulties that will surround future renewable energy development.

El Centro has 110 degrees plus temperature, high wind, and readily available geothermal resources neat the San Andreas Fault.  All told, there ate 16,000 MW of potential renewable energy in the area. However, some environmentalists want the utility to forego the project and simply develop rooftop solar in San Diego.  Other critics worry about the fact that existing natural gas energy will be transmitted over the same line, and that the renewable energy claims are merely a smokescreen for a government-subsidized investment that will have a large ROI.

Michael W. Howard, president and chief executive of the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit utility consortium based in Palo Alto, Calif., said that while the potential for exploiting renewable energy remains huge nationally, “you’ve got to get it from somewhere,” he said. “If you’re going to have renewables, you’d better love transmission.”

In the end, rooftop solar deserves development, but so does an area as resource rich as El Centro, especially with its low population.  If we can’t build a transmission line in El Centro, we will certainly be unable to do it in more populated areas.

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The glass half full view of Tuesday’s election

If you were to rely on the mainstream media for an analysis of Tuesday’s election, you might think that a Tea Party revolution is about to take hold of Washington.  Yes, Rand Paul was elected; the countdown begins on his vow to eliminate entire Federal Government departments.  Yes, some amazingly effective leaders such as Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold were defeated.  However, in the larger picture, those concerned with creating a sustainable future can celebrate some important victories.

First of all, California voters dealt a resounding defeat to Proposition 23, which would have suspended California’s pioneering greenhouse gas reduction law, AB 32.  Prop. 23 wasn’t just defeated, it was defeated 61-39.  California voters said no to Texas-based oil interests.  They are committed to an energy future that recognizes the externalities of fossil-based fuels, and demand a clean energy revolution.  Try that on for size, Tea Party.

Second, while many sympathetic politicians lost, some stalwarts of sustainability, like Senator Barbera Boxer in California, fought off challengers.  Former Denver mayor, and sustainability advocate John Hickenlooper was convincingly elected Governor of Colorado.  Governor Deval Patrick was re-elected in Massachusetts, and Independent Lincoln Chafee held off a last minute challenge by Republican John Robitaille in the Rhode Island Governor’s race.  Even one Republican victor, Governor-elect Rick Snyder of Michigan, offers hope, as he is a board member of The Nature Conservancy.  Extremists like Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell were defeated.  In short, while no one will confuse incoming House Speaker John Boehner as a champion of sustainability, Tuesday’s midterm election was not a disaster.