Collaboration is Needed for Responsible Renewable Energy Development

“It seems there is no dearth of negative articles about insensitive solar developers and here is yet another one in in the LA times this week. The article says that, because of the impacts of very large solar projects on the desert environment and on Native American burial sites, solar developers, federal and state governments and Native American tribes are headed for a showdown of complicated and competing values.

These developers are giving all developers a bad name. We don’t need fast track permitting from the government to push gigantic solar developments in environmental and historic areas. And we actually don’t need Federal loan guarantees. What we do need is an understanding that we are tied together with the same goal of respecting the world we live in. And, we need to come up with policies that will support the generation of renewable energy where we need it: close to load centers, in or near urban areas, on roof tops, parking lots, landfills and brown fields. We need generation close to where the power is to be used, in areas that are already developed, which aren’t ecologically, culturally or historically sensitive.

The article raises a false dichotomy, a Hobson’s choice, framing the question as if we can have renewable energy or be sensitive to Native American concerns or environmental concerns. By developing solar and other renewables in urban and suburban areas, we can have our renewable energy without sacrificing other important needs and interests.

Government, tribes and developers can and should work together to come up with the best solution …distributed renewable energy generation done with the least possible negative impacts.”

— Peter Weich, Absolutely Solar Inc.

Discovery of Indian Artifacts Complicates Genesis Solar Project by Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times

The Feb. 27 letter from the chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes was pleading and tough. It asked President Obama to slow the federal government’s “frantic pursuit” of massive solar energy projects in the Mojave Desert because of possible damage to Native American cultural resources.

The Obama administration didn’t respond. But four days after Chairman Eldred Enas sent the letter, the Indians say they found an answer, delivered by spirits of the desert.

Howling winds uncovered a human tooth and a handful of burned bone fragments the size of quarters on a sand dune in the shadow of new solar power transmission towers. Indians say the discovery is evidence of a Native American cremation site not detected in Southern California Edison’s archaeological survey before the towers were built.

Read more.

Can Small to Medium-Sized Solar Projects Answer California’s Renewable Energy Concerns?

By Peter Weich, CEO Founder, Absolutely Solar Inc.

This Sacramento Bee article (March 26, 2012), “Gov. Jerry Brown’s solar power campaign,” highlights some important issues in California’s quest for renewable energy.

First and foremost, it confirms Governor Brown’s serious commitment to solar PV development and to providing a large percentage of California’s power needs from renewable, clean sources. He’s involved and active and seems to understand the importance of the goals and the difficulties that must be overcome.

The story emphasizes large projects and their high potential for failure (difficult permitting, often from multiple governmental agencies; very long and expensive development cycles; environmental impacts on desert ecosystems, flora and fauna; costly and lengthy transmission upgrades and grid interconnection issues; and the complexities of securing capital and financing).

What the article fails to point out is that smaller projects that provide widely distributed generation avoid most of these pitfalls, have a much higher success rate with less environmental impacts and greater benefit to the ratepayers. Smaller projects that are closer to load don’t require grid upgrades, don’t cause long distance transmission power losses, are faster to build and provide more opportunities for community benefits.

California’s New Gold Rush Is Not Necessarily a Silver Lining


By Al Rosen, Director, Absolutely Solar Inc.

Starting this month, the Los Angeles Times published the first two articles in an occasional series about the impacts of large scale-solar projects on California’s desert. This most recent article, published last week, covers rising expectations for growth and its potential for inflated prices, with plenty of room for disappointment. Here’s our take on it.

Like so many land rushes and bubbles of the past (including the recent housing bubble and crash), the current solar land rush isn’t going to last. In bubbles, people invest based on half-truths, lack of information, rumors and the powerful emotions of crowds–essentially, enough hot air to leave that market vulnerable to a sudden burst.

Continue reading “California’s New Gold Rush Is Not Necessarily a Silver Lining”

Interesting article on the value of old landfills as solar-energy sites:

The most valuable distributed generation is located “closest to load”. The closer the power production facility is to the load (where the power can be used), the lower the transmission losses and easier it is to interconnect without transmission upgrades. The problem with locating utility scale PV production close to load is the dearth of affordable sites of an appropriate size.

Using “bad” land that has limited use and little value for other purposes is one way to make it easier to build PV projects closer to load. Brownfields and former landfills are good examples of low cost land that can be recycled to be used for renewable energy cites. Absolutely Solar is currently in preliminary discussions with a solar developer that is working on three closed landfills and with a county government that has similar sites available.

5 old landfills to be studied as solar-energy sites


The old Vincent Mullins Landfill at Speedway and Kolb Road is one site that will be studied for use as a possible solar-energy farm.

The city is aiming to find out whether solar energy farms might be a reasonable use for its old, closed landfills.

Tucson is one of 26 cities across the country selected to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Read more