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Showing posts with the label CPUC

How Much Is Rooftop Solar Worth?

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While we were focused last month on reviewing thousands of pages of proposed land management plans that would encourage utility-scale renewable energy projects across the California and Nevada desert, a seemingly obscure ruling by an administrative law judge quietly dismissed a key argument activists use in defense of wildlands and wildlife - that distributed generation is a better alternative to utility-scale renewable energy because it does not require the destruction of intact wildlands.  The ruling (.pdf) was part of an initial step by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to determine the price utility companies pay for energy generated by rooftop solar projects, known as net-metering.

Reading the statements and briefs submitted by various interests involved in CPUC's effort to determine how much rooftop solar is worth can seem almost perfunctory and sober to someone who cares a lot about the landscapes affected by large-scale energy generation of any kind - fossil…

Silver State South Solar Nears Approval; Problems Loom

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Tbe Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in September released the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Silver State South solar project, which would destroy approximately 3.7 square miles of intact desert habitat. Although the direct impact on wildlife may not compare to BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah Solar project, the Silver State South project almost certainly will have significant long-term effects on the ability of the desert tortoise to maintain habitat connectivity.



The BLM’s preferred alternative supports the solar project, and secondarily designates an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) to protect the desert tortoise habitat that First Solar does not want to destroy.  The ACEC is a welcomed sweetener, but still does not override the bitterness that arises from the fact that destruction of habitat for the solar project is completely unnecessary since the solar panels would be just as happy on already-disturbed lands somewhere else in the state.  Tortoises,…

Conservation Groups Weigh in on Destructive BrightSource Projects

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The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and NRDC have expressed concerns about BrightSource Energy's choice of project sites on desert habitat, recommending that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reject power purchase agreements (PPA) between BrightSource and Southern California Edison (SCE), according to letters filed with CPUC.  The CPUC was already looking into concerns that BrightSource's projects would sell electricity to the utility company at highly uncompetitive prices when compared to other renewable energy options. BrightSource Energy, which is responsible for displacing or killing hundreds of desert tortoises for its Ivanpah Solar project in the northeastern Mojave Desert, may have trouble financing and building two of its projects if CPUC rejects the PPAs.

Rio Mesa Solar Project Would Batter, Blind and Burn Birds The Sierra Club's submission to the CPUC expressed concern that BrightSource Energy's proposal to build  the massive Rio Mesa solar…

Distributed Generation Can Save the Desert

According to an interview of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) president Michael Peevey by mydesert.com, the State of California supports distributed solar generation (such as rooftop solar) and is in favor of policy changes that makes it easier for taxpayers and businesses to benefit from distributed generation.  The State's support for distributed generation is critical to the preservation of desert wildlands, since solar installations in our cities and on our rooftops are far more efficient and economical than massive facilities in the middle of the desert.

Clearing the Way for Distributed Generation
According to CPUC president Peevey, he is staunchly in favor of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), which allows a homeowner to finance a rooftop solar installation over time through their property tax.   Rooftop solar generally increases property values, and cuts down electricity costs over time.   Peevey criticized the Federal Housing Finance Administration…

Government Favors Destructive Layout of Solar Facility Near National Park

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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reviewed three different alternatives for the proposed Desert Sunlight Solar power project, and expressed support for a 6.8 square mile layout that includes an area with a dense desert tortoise population.  The Desert Sunlight solar project would be built by First Solar and Desert Sunlight Holdings LLC on public land less than two miles from Joshua Tree National Park.  The project is still in the initial stages of review, and you can read the draft environmental impact statement and offer comments on the BLM website.

Among the three different alternatives, layout "C" would have the least impact on desert tortoises and other sensitive plant and wildlife, but the BLM and CPUC expressed support for layout "B," which contains at least 22 active desert tortoise burrows.  Surveys of the smaller layout "C" only found 7 active burrows.  The draft Environmental Impact Statement d…