“Clean energy is our greatest hope for improving the quality of life for all creatures. There is a learning process to all new technological advancement. We need to collaborate and focus on ways to help renewable energy be developed in ways that are scalable to our communities and our environment.”
The negative environmental impacts of desert solar are mostly caused by very large solar farms. Smaller, widely distributed PV on rooftops, landfills, parking lots and other wasteland CLOSE TO LOAD will bring all the benefits of distributed renewable energy without damaging our natural resources.”
April Sall gazed out at the Mojave Desert flashing past the car window and unreeled a story of frustration and backroom dealings.
Her small California group, the Wildlands Conservancy, wanted to preserve 600,000 acres of the Mojave. The group raised $45 million, bought the land and deeded it to the federal government.
The conservancy intended that the land be protected forever. Instead, 12 years after accepting the largest land gift in American history, the federal government is on the verge of opening 50,000 acres of that bequest to solar development.
Even worse, in Sall’s view, the nation’s largest environmental organizations are scarcely voicing opposition. Their silence leaves the conservancy and a smattering of other small environmental organizations nearly alone in opposing energy development across 33,000 square miles of desert land.
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.
In November, California regulators made some long-awaited changes to the CREST PPA offered by SCE, with a potentially more favorable climate for developers to finance their projects. This article from the January 2012 issue of Photon magazine features an interview with ASI’s Al Rosen and offers some additional background and views. How does it climate for solar development in California look to you – sunny and bright or slightly cloudy?
Note: After this article went to press, SCE withdrew its request for a CPUC rehearing and is signing these PPAs without reservation of rights or protest. Projects which will produce an estimated 70 MW signed the modified PPA before the end of 2011 (including two projects developed by ASI).
PPA fix beat the clock
Photon Magazine, January 2012
Al Rosen knows all about patience. Two years ago Rosen and his business partner, Peter Weich, who together operate California-based solar developer Absolutely Solar Inc., began installing photovoltaic (PV) projects under the CREST program from Southern California Edison (SCE). The program was created through the state’s Assembly Bill (AB) 1969, which was passed in 2009. Designed to spur the development of wholesale renewable energy projects 1.5 MW and smaller, CREST is SCE’s version of the feed-in-tariff program that was mandated for investor-owned utilities (IOUs) by the same legislation.