4.06.2009

Los(t) Angeles: Where Should Our Solar Panels and Wind Turbines Go?

In the United States, utilizing renewable solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources compared to nonrenewable coal and oil for energy is instrumental if the United States wants to cut its climate change contributions and sustain life on Earth today along with life in the future. In order to lead by example, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s passed strict climate change legislation by requiring that 20% of California’s energy come from renewable energy sources by the end of 2010. With 2010 right around the corner, and only 12% of California’s energy coming from renewable sources, energy companies have been coming out of the wood work to create renewable energy projects in California before government subsidizing funds run dry after 2010. Recently, The Bureau of Land Management has received 163 applications to build renewable energy sources on 1.6 million acres of federal land in California, most of which are being planned for the Imperial Valley. While housing one of the largest renewable power plant in the world near the Imperial Valley will definitely help conserve energy and therefore decrease California’s and the United States contributions to climate change, environmentalist lead by California Senator Dianne Feinstein are rejecting such plans in order to conserve the natural habitats and wildlife in California’s deserts.

While currently three of the largest renewable power plant companies have signed deals with Pacific Gas and Electric (Topaz Solar Farm, California Valley Solar Ranch, and Carrizo Energy Solar Farm), only one will be chosen to utilize the Imperial Valley to collect its sunshine, wind, and geothermal steam. While these renewable energy methods will be able to generate enough renewable electricity to power millions of homes in California, this power plant will degrade California’s deserts, its wildlife corridors, cactus gardens, the Amboy Crater, and destroy the habitats of countless animals. In order to investigate if the allocation of Southern California’s desert for renewable energy power plants is worth its possible environmental degradation, I have turned to the blogosphere to search for the pros and cons of both sides. In the NPR article: California Desert Becomes Home For Renewable Energy, author Rob Schmitz feels that the proposed renewable energy plants in the Imperial Valley will be more than a source of renewable energy, and that is employment. In the Los Angeles Times article: Feinstein Wants Desert Swatch Off-Limits to Solar, Wind Projects, it is clear that Senator Feinstein likes the idea of renewable energy but is taking a NIMBY (not in my backyard) stance on this idea. In other words, Senator Feinstein does not want to degrade California’s deserts to make way for renewable energy plants. My comments on both articles can be seen below.


California Desert Becomes Home For Renewable Energy: Comment

Thank you for this article, for it brings hope that California can actually start generating and utilizing renewable energy. With “high-tech sunflower” satellites that track the movement of the sun in order to optimize the sunlight captured to the un-tapped 2,300 megawatts of geothermal steam, it is very feasible that California will be able to reach Governor Schwarzenegger’s goal of generating 20%, California’s energy from renewable sources, even though it may be after 2010.

When reading this article, a few questions came up. How will the proposed renewable energy power plants, satellites, and geothermal steam turbines affect the environment? While it is clear that switching to renewable energy sources will ultimately help the environment by curbing climate change, are there any considerations being made on the immediate environment, habitats, and wildlife around the proposed power plants?

It is also a valid point to bring up that these renewable energy power plants will also create jobs within the Imperial Valley. The installation of 38,000 solar satellites, along with their maintenance and management will bring in hundreds of jobs to this small city and thus help Imperial Valley thrive. I feel that even if these renewable energy power plants do degrade Imperial Valley’s immediate environment, it would be a worthy sacrifice for the longevity of the overall environment. The Imperial Valley and California would act as a role model placing pressure on other cities and countries around the world to rely on sustainable and renewable energy and therefore help create a more sustainable world.


Feinstein Wants Desert Swath Off-Limits to Solar, Wind Projects: Comment

Thank you for posting this article. It is very interesting to see that environmentalist and the renewable energy industries do not see eye to eye on this issue. While President Obama has made renewable energy sources a priority, and Governor Schwarzenegger has required California to receive 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2010, it is interesting that Senator Feinstein may not want these projected renewable energy power plants “in her backyard.”

I can see that allocating the Imperial Valley to renewable energy sources can degrade the immediate environment, but is it not important to utilize renewable energy sources? While the “desert tortoise habitat, wildlife corridors, cactus gardens, and the Amboy Crater,” may be disrupted, these desert habitats would be disrupted for the right cause: helping curb climate change by using sustainable methods of living. There are many more animals, and wildlife habitats that are being disrupted due to climate change, drilling for oil, and burning coal for energy, and to disallow renewable energy power plants to set up shop in California’s deserts is selfish and can definably be seen as a NIMBY approach.

Bill Kovacks sums the situation up perfectly. If Senator Feinstein is not going to allow these power plants to inhabit California’s deserts, “where are you going to allow it—Los Angeles?” Renting the rooftops, or requiring all of Los Angeles’ residents to place solar panels on their houses and buildings without any sort of subsidization is unfeasible. This is why Senator Feinstein needs to allow the allocation of the vacant desert to the renewable energy companies.

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