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Category — California

Solar Land Blues: The Eco Reality of Dilute Energy

“As citizens, we need to call on our leaders to make thoughtful choices about where to site industrial-scale development and renewable energy projects, and to create a legacy for our national parks and to public lands everywhere.” - Mark Butler, “Saving the Mojave from the Solar Threat,” Los Angeles Times , March 25, 2014. “‘Soft’ energy sources are horribly land intensive…. The greenest possible strategy is to mine and to bury, to fly and to tunnel, to search high and low, where the life mostly isn’t, and to leave the edge, the space in the middle, living and green.” - Peter Huber, Hard Green; Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists (New York: Basic Books, 1999), pp. 107–108.

Hard-green energies (fossil fuels, uranium) have a major ecological advantage over politically-correct soft energy (wind, solar): less infrastructure requirement, including land. This was recognized by the father of energy economics, William Stanley Jevons, in his 1865 tome, The Coal Question. Mainstream environmentalists are waking up to the problems of central-station solar now that they can physically see it and have operational results. California’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) is “the world’s largest gas-fired power plant (largest in physical size, not gas consumption),” said one eco-critic. And now Mark Butler in the Los Angeles Times has blown the whistle on the national showcase of Big Solar (full op-ed below). [Read more →]

April 7, 2014   No Comments

Kenneth P. Green: 20 Years in the Energy/Environmental Movement (Part II)

[Editor note: Part I yesterday described Ken Green’s current responsibilities at the Fraser Institute and Canadian energy/environmental issues. Today’s post covers Green’s early interest, education,  and career in environmentalism.]

MR: When did you first become interested in environmental science?

KG: I was always interested in nature as a kid. I remember catching frogs at a nearby golf course when I was 5, and I grew up in California camping in the various state parks, where I was always interested in catching critters and playing with them. Lizards, horned toads, snakes, small rodents, whatever I could catch. I also loved science, and remember the name of my 6th grade science teacher, Mr. Jahn, who made studying science fun.

I used to go out to the Mojave Desert a lot with my mother, who was a real character. She was an amateur “treasure hunter,” and loved prospecting for gold in the rivers and streams of California, as well as out on a placer mining claim we had in the Mojave. I’d tool around on a motorcycle, and do the shoveling for the sluices boxes and dry-washers, she’d pan out the gold, and spend time chatting with friends around the motor home. For a short time, she had a shop that sold prospecting equipment in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles.

Prospecting with my mother would turn out to be influential on the way I came to view environmental policy. My mother was a member of the Prospectors Club of Southern California and hauled me along to meetings with her when I was in my early teens. It was there that I was first exposed to the tension that was growing with environmentalists, who were laboring to ban things like prospecting in state parks, or in areas they viewed as fragile, such as the Mojave.

They were also beginning to push for bans on motor vehicles in parks, and things like that. It was seen as a huge threat in the mining community, and my mother, who absolutely adored the desert (where her asthma eased up and she felt healthier) invited people to the club to speak about the threats that environmentalists posed to prospecting, and to encourage people to write their representatives.

MR: So you were a ‘naturalist’ before the term ‘environmentalist’ began to be used?

KG: I suppose that’s a fair characterization – I was always somewhat fascinated with nature, and I enjoyed watching insects and animals, and speculating about why they did the things they did, wondering how water-striders could walk on water, wondering how desert iguanas could run so fast, that sort of thing. But I did develop some strong environmental beliefs as well – growing up as a kid with asthma in the smoggy San Fernando Valley in California did sensitize me (literally) to the reality of pollution.

MR: And was your mother a naturalist…as well? [Read more →]

March 7, 2014   No Comments

Wind Turbine Bird Killings, Disinformation Continue in California (Golden eagles, bald eagles, and more)

“The grim reality is that fewer than 500 golden eagles remain in California. When will authorities wake up to windpower?”

The golden eagle is a vital species in rapid decline, and most of this demise has been relatively recent. Although it has never been publically acknowledged, the primary reason has been the development of wind energy in the middle of the eagle’s foraging habitats.

Ironically, during this golden eagle population crash, bald eagle populations have increased dramatically because, up to now, their habitats have been spared the ravages of wind development. This too will soon change, however, as wind energy installations are built in their wetland habitats across America.

Missing Studies

Proper studies would easily document and explain the decline of golden eagles. But the studies are not being conducted – deliberately, so as to hide and obfuscate what is happening. The clear history of eagle nesting failures and habitat abandonments near wind projects has been hidden from public view, as wind projects have expanded across California and our western states.

Among the undisclosed impacts are those that occur when adult eagles are killed by a turbine during the egg and downy stages of a nesting cycle. During this critical 8-9 week period, there is a 100% probability of a complete nest failure if one adult eagle is lost. A single parent cannot possibly hunt, incubate eggs, and protect its young from the elements.

This history of golden eagle nesting failures near California wind turbines is never clearly stated, but the evidence is there for anyone who wishes to observe or read about it. Some of this impact is revealed in the last environmental impact documents submitted to support expanding the Shiloh wind project in California’s Montezuma Hills Wind Resource Area, although those documents also suggest that a turbine-related nesting failure recently occurred in this area.

Bald Eagles at Risk

The same fate is coming to our bald eagles. This great bird’s population has been expanding in the wetland habitats of California, and the Sacramento River delta provides good foraging and nesting opportunities for them. Adult bald eagles have been seen near the Montezuma Hills WRA turbines, and a possible (never verified) bald eagle nest site was reported nearby on Grizzly Island. [Read more →]

February 26, 2014   No Comments

California’s Cap-and-Trade Water Proposal: A Planner’s ‘Market’ (Part II: Sky high water auctions)

“The real problem is that the price of water in California, as in most of America, has virtually nothing to do with supply and demand…If water was priced to reflect scarcity, a decrease in supply would lead to an increase in price, and people would demand less… My system is designed to reduce demand rather than cover costs.” – David Zetland, The Water Shortage Myth (Forbes, 2008)

In Part I of this series we discussed how a proposed Drought Environmental Water Market does not meet the criteria of a market nor would the prices produced from such a system reflect Fair Market Value. The proposal for an environmental water market by a group of experts from the University of California, Davis, the Public Policy Institute of California and law schools at the University of California and Stanford (the “U.C. Davis-PPIC Proposal”) would end up double charging farmers for water they already paid for, including $180 million in river restoration fees.

In this second part of the series we discuss the implications of wholesale water auctions currently in vogue in California, ostensibly as a drought relief mechanism.

We previously discussed the eminent domain property appraisal rule called the “Project Influence Rule.” This rule means that any increase or decrease to property values due to a public project must be excluded from any appraisal for Fair Market Value. This rule is typically applied in redevelopment project areas where the upzoning, road improvements and utilities brought about by redevelopment have to be excluded from any property valuation. Appraisers usually control for project influence by searching for sales data outside the defined project area.

Below we will compare agricultural water sales prices from outside the Central Valley to cross check if there is any premium in water prices caused by government withdrawing over half of the supply of farm water to restore “fish flows.” In general, government does not have to pay for an enhancement of private property value it created. This rule should work in reverse when government wants to sell back to farmers water at environmentally-inflated prices. [Read more →]

February 21, 2014   No Comments

California’s Cap-and-Trade Water Proposal: A Planner’s ‘Market’ (Part I)

The U.C. Davis proposal to establish an environmental water market partly induced by environmental regulatory drought does not hold water.  And we find pricing environmental water sales by auctions to reflect inflated non-market prices derived from the “project influence” of inducing a water shortage as a result of the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Project of 2009 …. Nonetheless, we welcome the opportunity to open up a discussion of how markets might alleviate drought hardship on farmers and, wherever possible, on the environment.”

Road sign on rural highway in Kern County, California, erected in 2010:

for their State Water Allocation
but only received

35% in 2008
40% in 2009

50% in 2010
0% in 2014

Farmers Lost Over $200 million on Water Not Delivered!
(up to 2010)

WaterForAll.com – Families Protecting the (Central) Valley.com

With implications for the huge hydropower and natural gas powered market in California, on Feb. 11, 2014, a team of water experts[1] associated with University of California at Davis, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), and the University of California and Stanford law schools, called for the creation of a “special water market.” [Read more →]

February 20, 2014   No Comments

California Energy Update: Part IV

• Effort to Expand California Green Power Mandate to 51% Fails
• Will California’s Green Energy Policies Fail Like Germany’s?
• Three Cities Oppose Gas Powered Plants to Replace San Onofre Nuke Plant
• Scientist Says No Reason to Shut Down San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant
• California Drought Means Less Hydropower and Higher Electricity Prices

Effort to Expand California Green Power Standard to 51% Fails

“Amendments made yesterday to state Assembly Bill 177 clarify that the 33 percent by 2020 current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is intended to be a floor, not a ceiling, for energy procurement. It directs all retail sellers of electricity to adopt a long-term procurement strategy to achieve a target of procuring 51 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by Dec. 31, 2030.”

– State Senator V. Manuel Perez of Imperial County

A key provision in State Assembly Bill 177 sponsored by Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez (Democrat, Coachella), to raise California’s green power mandate from 33% to 51% was opposed by the Large Scale Solar Association, the California Wind Association, ratepayer advocates The Utility Reform Network, and had no support whatsoever from any environmental organization. The reaction may have been driven by the appearance that AB 177 had another agenda: creating a green economy in Imperial County where the unemployment rate still hovers around 26%. Imperial County is in the southwestern corner of California. Its most notable landmark is an agricultural irrigation drain that is so big that it is called the Salton Sea. [Read more →]

January 30, 2014   2 Comments

$5.4 Billion in Solar: California Goes All In

“The government support — which includes loan guarantees, cash grants and contracts that require electric customers to pay higher rates — largely eliminated the risk to the private investors and almost guaranteed them large profits for years to come. The beneficiaries include financial firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, conglomerates like General Electric, utilities like Exelon and NRG — even Google.”

- Eric Lipton and Clifford Krauss, “A Gold Rush of Subsidies in Clean Energy Search,” New York Times, November 11, 2011.

A recent article by Pete Danko, “Solar Power Hitting New Records in California” (Earthechling.com) documents the dramatic growth of solar energy generation facilities in California. Three large-scale solar PV installations recently on-line or underway are: California Valley Solar Ranch; Antelope Valley Solar 1, and Topaz Solar Farm, together representing a nameplate capacity of over 1,000 megawatts (1 gigawatt).

Because of their size and cost, it is worthwhile to take a look at these three facilities in greater detail: [Read more →]

January 13, 2014   13 Comments

California Energy Update: Part III

  • California Valley Solar Ranch Mothballed Morro Bay Gas-Fired Power Plant
  • California Shifting Power Rate Increases from One Set of Customers to Another
  • California Cap and Trade Accused of Double Counting Emissions
  • Will Warren Buffet’s Hydro Prevent CA Electricity Crisis? Part 1;
  • Will Warren Buffet’s Hydro Prevent CA Electricity Crisis? Part 2
  • Will California’s Small is Beautiful Sink Water (and Energy) Plan?

Morro Bay Power Plant Mothballed by California Valley Solar Ranch – Trading Fish Larvae Kills for Bird and Insect Kills

“Another giant Dinosaur has gone extinct.
An ugly power plant that looks like one, I think.
For 58 years, it has been unnecessary.
Sucking all the fish out of my Estuary.
It took a bank of people who were not afraid to fight.
We punched it in the nose and sent it off into the night.
The final straw was when a pod of Dolphins strayed in.
Got stuck and would up leaving without two of their kin.
Now we can protect our State Marine Reserve.
And have the kind of estuary we deserve.”

- Joey Racano, Morro Bay homeowner and activist, the San Luis Obispo Tribune News, November 8, 2013. [For the readers of MasterResource, Jerry Graf presented an excellent cash-flow analysis of the California Valley Solar Ranch located in inland San Luis Obispo County.]

What is not well known is that the California Valley Solar Ranch is designed to serve customers in the coastal City of Morro Bay where Texas’s Dynegy-owned gas-fired power plant is to be decommissioned by California’s ban on power plants using ocean water for cooling steam turbines. The ban on using “once-through cooling” water is to prevent harm to millions of fish larvae sucked into the 3/8th inch wide water inlet tubes to the plant. [Read more →]

December 17, 2013   1 Comment

‘Energy Imbalancing Market’: Bailing Out California Green Power Two Hours/Day

“An Energy Imbalance Market would mainly have to rely on cheap hydropower in the Western U.S. to offset high green power prices and high peaker power prices during the sunset hours of the day. Ironically, California banned hydropower as “renewable energy” under the California Global Warming Solutions Act …. Now, cheap hydropower has to come to the rescue of the green power grid.”

California is trying to do a quick splicing job to its green energy grid by creating an “Energy Imbalancing Market” to cut off an emerging daily two-hour energy-pricing crisis. The crisis isn’t so much an imbalance of the availability of electrons but imbalanced electricity prices during the sunset hours of each day.

In today’s California energy market, the grid operator must balance loads and resources within its borders. In an Energy Balancing Market, the grid operator schedules resources across regional balancing authorities to balance energy. An energy imbalance is the difference between live demand and prearranged scheduled resources. California is part of the Western Interconnection Coordinating Council (WECC), which includes 33 control areas shown here. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved California’s implementation of an Energy Imbalancing Market by October 2014.

California’s “Duck Chart” Problem Can’t Be Ducked

An emerging problem with California’s new green power grid is how to ramp up enough conventional power each day when solar power is sunsetting and mostly nighttime wind power isn’t spinning enough yet to take over. [Read more →]

November 13, 2013   4 Comments

California Energy Update: Part II

  • CA’s Green Energy Swan Turning Into Ugly Duckling; $5 Gas in CA? Lack of Cap-and-Trade Price Ceiling Could Bring It;
  • Santa Barbara Picks Drilling Over Greening;
  • Green Actions Cause One-Third of Human Caused Earthquakes; Study Questions Whether Fracking Causes Earthquakes;
  • New Fracking Website Posted Online by Western Petroleum Association

California’s Green Energy Swan Turning Into Ugly Duckling

In the upside down world of California energy, no longer are the hot summer months or the occasional winter cold snap the only peak period of hourly risk to the state’s electric grid. The new daily peak hours of each day from 4 pm to 7 pm during the “shoulder months” of March, April and May and September, October, and November are the new peak month/hour times. What is causing this shift in peak time power is California’s transition to solar energy as the major source of base load power during day. California is in the process of transitioning up too 33%, and eventually to 51%, of its power from green energy sources under the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (also called Assembly Bill 32).

Of particular concern to California’s Independent System Operator (ISO) are three hour periods in the Spring and Fall. It would be the sunset period of each day, not mid-day, that is already beginning to present a critical challenge to the reliability of electricity for customers. The problem during the critical hours from 4 to 7 pm is the steep ramp up of conventional gas-fired power as solar power winds down at sunset. [Read more →]

October 30, 2013   3 Comments