Print 90 comment(s) - last by TheSpaniard.. on Nov 24 at 8:05 AM

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.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: All I can do
By austinag on 11/6/2008 11:03:40 AM , Rating: -1
Seriously? You think it's OK to make a joke about someone having cancer?
Sorry to be that guy, but that seem off limits to me.

RE: All I can do
By Raidin on 11/6/2008 11:52:26 AM , Rating: 2
If you knew this guy, you'd understand.

RE: All I can do
RE: All I can do
By teldar on 11/6/2008 2:00:22 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, I think it was a pretty reasonable response. FIT has no way to know for sure that he doesn't have some sort of cancer. It's not necessarily completely obvious. Cancer can grow for YEARS in a person before it's known about. Slow growing cancers do NOT kill a person a few months after they start to grow in the body.

As a medical professional, I didn't think he was making fun of cancer, just pointing out the obvious.

RE: All I can do
By FITCamaro on 11/6/2008 2:49:33 PM , Rating: 1
He can hope, pray, and sacrifice small animals towards me and my family all suffer horrible, painful deaths all he wants.

For all he knows, the tumors I develop will give me super powers and let me explode his heart with a thought.

RE: All I can do
By andrinoaa on 11/6/2008 4:42:06 PM , Rating: 2
Fit, or glow boy, must be all of what, 15yrs of age? Just check his shoot from the hip responses in the last year or so. Every issue is black and white with these guys. They like to chant "I am right your are wrong" mantras all the time. Thats why I like to get stuck into them. I can't think of a single issue that is black and white, there is always a second side to everything. What can make a difference is using our intelligence to navigate carefully.

RE: All I can do
By andrinoaa on 11/6/2008 5:02:24 PM , Rating: 1
I meant to say, there is always a hint of gray that allows us to navigate carefully. Sorry, my confused brain at work, lol

RE: All I can do
By Ringold on 11/6/2008 9:05:32 PM , Rating: 4
Someone who absolutely rejects any notion of nuclear power at all wants to whine about someone with white and black views?

Oh boy.

RE: All I can do
By FITCamaro on 11/7/2008 7:57:20 AM , Rating: 1

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki