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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Temporary pause in policy schizophrenia

On Wednesday, the California Energy Commission approved the 250MW Beacon solar plant . This 2000 acre project about 17 miles north of Edwards Air Force base is in Kern County, at the West edge of the Mojave Desert.

The plan is the first utility-scale solar thermal project approved in California since 1990, and when complete would nearly double the 350 MW of solar thermal capacity near Kramer Junction.

On the one hand, I’d like to be encouraged. The CEC claims to care about greenhouse gasses, renewable energy, keeping generating capacity (and operating jobs) in state, etc. etc.

On the other hand, it’s far easier for a government agency to say “no” in our litigious, regulation-driven society. Whether it be the impact of wind generation on luxury home views or migrating birds, competing values often are used to sabotage reasonable efforts to create long-term green energy infrastructure.

The CEC is hardly done, as there are many other projects planned for the Mojave, with ideal insolation due to low humidity and low latitudes, and located near the demand (and transmission facilities) of the LA metropolis.

Even if the CEC is reasonable, there is still the threat of federal regulators (or politicians) making land use decisions to rule out these ideal locations for what should become gigawatts of RE capacity.

So this week's outcome is a step in the right direction. But it’s only one step of many.

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