Indexed News on:

--the California "Mega-Park" Project

Tracking measurable success on efforts across California to preserve and connect our Parks & Wildlife Corridors

1. long detailed stories on blogspot (here!)
2. short messages on Twitter
3. automated news feeds from CA enviro websites in the right-hand column which change frequently and are not archived by our website (that's why we now have a twitter account to permanently capture the memorable feeds)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sixty-mile solar panel corridor proposed in Riverside County's Desert

(CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE. Map is from the state's website, NOTE: this map does not show the 60-mile Riverside solar proposal)

color shading on map shows:
GREY: Competitive Renewable Energy Zones
BLACK: Protected wilderness areas--no projects allowed
YELLOW: Public parkland and environmentally sensitive private lands
PINK: existing wind energy proposals
ORANGE: proposed solar projects


Plan would make valley renewable energy leader

By Erica Solvig • The Desert Sun • November 16, 2008

Imagine a sea of glass lining the 60-mile stretch of Interstate 10 from the edge of Joshua Tree National Park to Blythe.
That's what's being envisioned in a statewide renewable energy plan that identifies sections of Palm Springs, Twentynine Palms and eastern Riverside County as key for California's solar and wind development.If ultimately approved, it could propel the Coachella Valley — already home to geothermal and wind energy — to the forefront of the state and the nation's renewable resource efforts.“Renewable energy is big in this valley,” Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley said of using the valley's resources.“It creates jobs to build and then creates a tax base and it's giving us new energy and reducing our reliance on foreign oil.”The plan, still in draft form, identifies 37 zones as key to the state's efforts to boost renewable energy development across California.The three local sites rank as the best options — economically and environmentally — and when combined would generate 6,748-gigawatt hours per year.That's about a tenth of what is needed statewide for energy-hungry California to meet its green goals.While many locals praised the idea of broadening the valley's green energy base, some concerns linger.To get the new, green energy onto the grid, transmission would have to be expanded.State officials handling the energy plan have just started tackling the issue, but some worry that covering large chunks of untouched desert is unwise and that officials should consider breaking it up over larger areas.“We don't want inappropriate (locations),” said Joan Taylor, head of the local Sierra Club.“It could give a black eye to renewable energy.”Renewable energy goals Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pushed to increase California's renewable energy sources to 20 percent by 2010 and to 33 percent by 2020.In an effort to identify areas to build the necessary wind turbines and solar panels, a coalition was formed from publicly owned utilities and the California's Public Utilities Commission, Energy Commission and Independent System Operator.The group — known as the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiate (RETI) — has embarked on something similar to what cities do when they create master plans.Officials are identifying key locations for green energy development, weighing the economic and environmental concerns and then prioritizing them.Their hope: By laying the groundwork, energy developers will be encouraged to build here.“If it can speed the application and review process, we can get renewables online faster,” said Jim Bartridge, a transmission planner with the initiative.In a draft report released this month and up for public review through Wednesday, RETI officials identified three local areas — wind development in Palm Springs and solar development in Twentynine Palms and the “Riverside East” zones — among the best bang for the buck.The idea is drawing the interest of local stakeholders who want to ensure the development right.Riverside County Supervisor Roy Wilson's office also is studying the RETI plan and is considering sending a letter before Wednesday's comment deadline.Many of the sites align with an existing map created by the federal Bureau of Land Management that identifies federal land that would be prime for green energy development.
It's not known how soon the area could see the wind and solar plans projected on the map.The state and federal officials have memorandums of understanding in place that would allow energy corridors to be built on BLM lands.According to the BLM, the Palm Springs regional office already has 19 solar and four wind applications pending.Despite the obstacles that may lie ahead — including costs and fights over locations — Ashley said compromises must be made to develop the vital green industry.“If they work at it, they'll find a way,” he said.“We have to start doing this.”


With state officials finalizing a report naming key zones for green energy, a possibly larger fight looms:

The battle over where to place transmission lines.
Officials say the transmission issue will be studied in the next phase of state Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative's analysis.
Traditionally, transmission issues are the biggest barriers to developing green energy.
While the Interstate 10 stretch of eastern Riverside County didn't rank as high environmentally as some other areas, experts noted in the report that other transmission projects aimed at linking the areas already are in the works.
Notably, officials mention Green Path North, a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power proposal to build a transmission corridor through local wildland preserves that has angered Desert Hot Springs and the high desert residents.
Sierra Club's Joan Taylor said she is pro-solar if it's “the right kind and the right place.” But she argued that planners should look at land that is already disturbed instead of “pristine desert.”
“Does this really reflect what's best for the consumer?” she said. “The consumer is going to wind up paying for these big transmission lines, one way or the other.”
But, transmission planner Jim Bartridge pointed out, such environmental concerns are being weighed.
“We're concerned about sensitive areas throughout the state,” he said. “We're trying to avoid those.”


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