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If the Judge's ruling blocking the construction of the Sunrise Powerlink through the Southern Californian desert, due to possible environmental damage, is upheld, it could doom the second phase of a massive 850 MW solar project. The project is among the first Stirling engine-driven solar farms, as pictured here.  (Source: Sterling Energy Systems)
The effort to tap solar energy in California's desert is grinding to a halt

California has long led the nation's solar efforts.  However, it is facing increasing legal pressure as the state's environmentalists clash over whether installing solar power is worth possible environmental damage.

The conflict was brought into sharp focus when activist judge Jean Vieth, an administrative law judge with the California Public Utilities Commission, struck down plans to build a high power transmission line from the remote Californian desert, effectively dooming the massive solar initiatives set to be built in the desert.

The desert project was a joint initiative by San Diego Gas & Electric and Phoenix-based Stirling Energy Systems signed in 2005.  It aimed to install 900 MW of Stirling solar power in uninhabited Southern Californian desert wasteland.  Stirling power is a method of concentrating sunlight with mirrors onto water fueling a Stirling engine, and is thought to possibly yield higher efficiencies than photovoltaic cells.  The plant would feature 34,000 dishes, each generating 25 kW.

Central to the plan was the construction of a suitable power transmission line.  SDG&E had partnered with Sterling Energy Systems to create the Sunrise Powerlink a $1.3B USD power line to bring the solar power to Californian cities.

The project was struck down by Judge Vieth, who argues that its 150-foot-high transmission towers, which would cut through Anza-Borrego State Park, could be environmentally damaging.  The park features many protective species and Judge Vieth calls the power lines impact "frightening".

The project has generated an 11,000-page environmental impact report, which is so long that few have taken the time to read it all.  Judge Vieth's decision alone was 265 pages.  In it she wrote, "The potentially high economic costs to ratepayers and the potential implications for our [greenhouse gas] policy objectives do not justify the severe environmental damage that any of the transmission proposals would cause."

The fight is far from over, though.  The public utilities commission meets in December to vote on whether to accept the Judge's ruling.  A commissioner assigned to review the case created an alternative, which they are also considering.  The alternative would be to move the route of the transmission line slightly, increasing costs, but potentially having less environmental impact.

Opponents of the project have argued that San Diego, the target for most of the generated power, already has enough rooftop space for urban installation of an equivalent solar installation.  The Judge has stated that she prefers this alternative.

COO Bruce Osborn previously stated to The Green Wombat, an online publication, that even if the Sunrise Powerlink was killed, there was still enough capacity to carry the 300 MW from the first phase of the project.  However, this will likely place more stress on California's already badly aging power grid.  Stirling still has its 20-year contract to supply up to 850 megawatts of electricity to utility Southern California Edison, a deal entirely unrelated, to fall back upon.

The case, while far from finished, illustrates an upcoming battle to be waged among once-allies.  As our nation embraces alternative energy, part of President-elect Barack Obama's ambitious national initiative, there will likely be increasing clashes between environmentalists supporting alternative energy installation, and those opposing it for possible environmental damage.



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Deport these people
By arazok on 11/6/2008 10:01:50 AM , Rating: 5
Leave it to an environmentalist to find a way to object to a solar project.

We need to set aside a chunk of land somewhere in the world, and call it Enviroland. Anyone who calls themselves an environmentalist would immediately be deported to this wonderful place. They could show everyone how to build the utopia they envision. A place where everyone holds hands, freezes in the dark, and drinks tea from reusable wooden cups. The added benefit is that the rest of the world would be free to build a society based on reality, where 11,000 page environmental reports aren’t required to build a few towers in a forest.




RE: Deport these people
By DaveLessnau on 11/6/2008 10:37:11 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
...drinks tea from reusable wooden cups.


Except that even though tea is a natural beverage, it's farmed and is (usually, I believe) imported via oil-consuming, damaging-to-sonar-using marine life ships. Plus, the wooden cup, though made from a renewable product and is re-usable, comes from a holy tree of mother Gaia and is not allowed. They'll have to eat local grass and drink water from streams using only their hands as tools. Even then, I'm not sure if it would be allowed: they'll need an environmental impact study and some court cases to figure it out. Until then, they'll need to have an injunction against their eating and drinking.


RE: Deport these people
By arazok on 11/6/2008 10:56:18 AM , Rating: 3
Well in Enviroland, nothing is imported from the outside world. Environmentalism is about sustainability, so they must be 100% self sufficient. The tea would be grown on the roof of their 150sqft bungalows they made from animal dung. You’re correct, a wooden cup would necessitate a human murder a tree, which carries the death penalty in Enviroland. It would be made of driftwood, or stone – and only one cup per dwelling would be provided by the state, as two cups would be excessively wasteful.


RE: Deport these people
By Hieyeck on 11/6/2008 10:46:36 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe we can dump Mick there so he can stop posting this crap.
Then we can stop releasing carbon dioxide in the refining of silicon required for solar cells and keep the critical but toxic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadmium_telluride out of our water and lungs.

Hyppies. In their efforts to 'protect the environment', they only end up either damaging it more or displaying a total disregard for other human lives.

Good riddance to that solar farm. We need SUSTAINABLE, PRACTICAL solutions, not half-cocked ideas.


RE: Deport these people
By JediJeb on 11/6/2008 12:05:55 PM , Rating: 5
Then we can stop releasing carbon dioxide in the refining of silicon required for solar cells and keep the critical but toxic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadmium_telluride out of our water and lungs.

LOL what really so stupid about this comment is that this solar farm does not use solar cells or Cadmium telluride at all. Sterling engines use steam to produce the electricity by spinning a spherical resevoir. So in actuallity you are condeming a bunch of solar powered teapots for polluting the environment. I guess you proved just how badly Enviroland is needed.


RE: Deport these people
By surfponto on 11/6/2008 10:52:48 AM , Rating: 1
Sorry to say that nooone here has any clue about the real issue.

First of all SDG&E wants to put 150 foot steel towers through protected State Park land. This has neve been done before and sets a bad precedent.

Second Sempra and SDG&E have green washed this entire issue. It is not about renewable energy but in fact will give Sempra a market for its' imported LNG gas that it is bringing into Baja Mexico.
Please do a little research before you guys start knocking environmentalist.

Bob B.
Leucadia (San Diego)
http://www.anzaborrego.net


RE: Deport these people
By arazok on 11/6/2008 11:08:01 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
First of all SDG&E wants to put 150 foot steel towers through protected State Park land. This has never been done before and sets a bad precedent.


I grew up beside a hydro transmission corridor. I never once saw any of those towers eat a bunny, or kill a tree. In fact, they quite predictably did nothing but remain exactly where they were build, doing nothing. I don’t need an 11,000 page document to tell me they are completely harmless.

quote:
Second Sempra and SDG&E have green washed this entire issue. It is not about renewable energy but in fact will give Sempra a market for its' imported LNG gas that it is bringing into Baja Mexico.


I like Natural Gas. It heats my home and cooks my food. It’s also very clean burning. What’s not to love?


RE: Deport these people
By 9nails on 11/6/2008 7:58:25 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I never once saw any of those towers eat a bunny, or kill a tree. In fact, they quite predictably did nothing but remain exactly where they were build, doing nothing.


LOL! After several special effect movies, I can actually picture animated towers running a muck and trying to stomp on California Desert Rats and the wild rabbits.

I think that the physical structure of the tower is sane and stable. If only a bit ugly. But the problem is that they've taken blame for starting multiple California Wild Fires, which have crisped a few wabbits and trees. Wires wiggling in the wind create sparks. Those transmission lines are to blame. Which makes me wonder, if it can't be done above ground... Can these transmission lines be horizontal bored underground?

I know it's going to cost more but our trend for energy consumption isn't going to slow down. Green power generation must be considered. It's disturbing that a short sighted judge is missing the point in order to protect land so spartan that nobody visits. Therefore we all lose out. Instead putting the energy into writing these huge documents, an amicable solution could have been agreed upon.


RE: Deport these people
By on 11/6/2008 11:23:38 AM , Rating: 1
It would be easier to shoot a-holes like you off into space.


RE: Deport these people
By arazok on 11/6/2008 11:27:33 AM , Rating: 2
And the campaigning for President of Enviroland begins…


RE: Deport these people
By TSS on 11/6/2008 3:29:40 PM , Rating: 2
for a change i agree with *these* paticular enviromentalists.

creating a huge solar power plant in the desert to get rid of enviromental damage, only to run the power lines through a protected piece of forest? cmon.

this decision by the judge to not allow it looks to me like the sensible one. building the plant in the first place, doesn't.

i wish we could start living in a politically uncorrect world again. so we can stop calling everybody enviromentallists and start drawing a line again between stupid and smart proposals.

and use 11.000 page reports to find out everything about the impact when the project is designed, not 11.000 page reports on what's wrong with the design. it could help.


RE: Deport these people
By Ringold on 11/6/2008 9:03:26 PM , Rating: 3
We already have an Enviroland. This place is known as Zimbabwe. We also have a backup over-flow location; North Korea. Lowest carbon emissions in the world! WOHOO!


"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation














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