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There's a storm brewing the Mojave Desert -- environmentalists are fighting green power advocates to block construction of 13 alternative energy projects.  (Source: New Cover Magazine)

Led by Senator Dianne Feinstein, environmentalists have succeeded in essentially killing the projects, before the bill to protect the land has even passed.  (Source: Fox News)
Senator is concerned that the plants would damage wildlife

The alternative energy, battery, and alternative fuels movement has been largely guided and advocated by environmentalists over the last couple decades.  However, another important guiding force are those who merely want to improve efficiency and move us, for economic reasons, from depletable resources to sustainable ones.

As the greentech movement gains traction, those forces are finding themselves clashing more often, and some environmentalists are finding it hard to reconcile their loves of green technology and the environment.  A prime example of this is a brewing solar power mess in California.

The Mojave Desert is located in southeastern and central California, as well as Nevada.  The desert is home to Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park.  The region also receives a tremendous amount of sunlight and wind, so California, in its push to embrace alternative power approved multiple projects to be built in the desert.

Now thanks to Senator Dianne Feinstein, 13 solar and wind projects in the region may see their hopes dashed.  She has authored a bill which seeks to block the projects, which she says is critical to protect millions of acres of land.  The bill would also create two new Mojave national monuments.

Even before the bill sees a single vote, it's already ruined many of the projects.  Many of them have been delayed indefinitely, and the Californian government has changed its mind about routing new "green grid" power lines towards the monument.

Karen Douglas, chairwoman of the California Energy Commission comments, "The very existence of the monument proposal has certainly chilled development within its boundaries."

The land covered in the debate was originally owned by the Catellus Development Corporation.  It was then purchased by environmentalists and donated a decade ago to the government to protect.  Sen. Feinstein says she's just making good on that promise.

She states, "The Catellus lands were purchased with nearly $45 million in private funds and $18 million in federal funds and donated to the federal government for the purpose of conservation, and that commitment must be upheld. Period."

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the environmentalist and a partner with a venture capital firm that invested in a solar developer called BrightSource Energy, blasted Sen. Feinstein's actions, stating, "This is arguably the best solar land in the world, and Senator Feinstein shouldn’t be allowed to take this land off the table without a proper and scientific environmental review."

He says that the proposal will make it much more difficult for California to achieve its goal of having a third of its power provided by alternative energy by 2020.  BrightSource has canceled a large project planned for the monument area.

The Mojave desert, besides being ultra-sunny is home to a host of critters including the desert tortoises, bighorn sheep, fringe-toed lizards and other rare animals and plants.  As green power advocates seek to tap the abundant sunshine and wind energy across the country and the environmentalists fight to block development to protect local species, it seems that these kinds of conflicts will only be growing more heated in the near future.

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RE: Large-scale green power
By daemonios on 12/22/2009 12:20:26 PM , Rating: 2
I know a little about the energy industry, although my contact with it has been as a lawyer. Your post really hits the mark IMHO. But there are some solutions:

1) Price: mass production of small generators will provide economies of scale. Also, more efficient equipment will further decrease the price-per-watt. Finally, incentives may be put in place to lower the total cost of ownership (e.g. the right to sell power to the grid).

2) Legal constraints: these are often associated with lobbying by incumbents and large independent producers. It'll never be a fully liberalized thing since there are technical hurdles such as grid capacity to receive electricity from decentralized production, but I believe other permitting hurdles will be progressively removed. There are already wind turbines designed for roof-top mounting and with smaller visual impact (e.g. horizontal blades that take advantage of turbulence caused by wind hitting the building).

RE: Large-scale green power
By Ringold on 12/22/2009 1:02:00 PM , Rating: 2
1) Price: mass production of small generators will provide economies of scale

The fatal flaw in this entire idea; larger commercial installations already have economies of scale in terms of getting equipment, and can achieve even better ones in terms of generating power, because they're producing megawatts, not kilowatts. Utility companies spend all their time specializing in delivering electricity, where as mom and pop have a million other priorities, from their own jobs to walking the dogs.

Not sure how this will ever change, or why we'd even want it to, because the current arrangement seems economically the most efficient to me. Self-sufficiency is a cute idea that seems popular with environmentalists, but I grew up and never had much taste for fantasies anyway.

RE: Large-scale green power
By goz314 on 12/22/09, Rating: 0
"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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