ENERGY PANEL NEEDS TO FIRE UP CALIF SOLAR POWER PLANTS
A California state auditor concluded that new solar power plants for the state’s sun drenched deserts are not getting approved because costs for the hardware, the installation and the land make the undertakings of dubious profitability against wind energy installations and other types of power plants. The auditor added, however, that current rising costs for power may alter the equation in solar energy’s favor.
Over the audit period, the average solar energy price bid was 19% higher than the average price bid for wind energy installations.
The audit was requested by a state Assemblyman because California passed a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) in 2002 requiring utilities to obtain 20% of their power from New Energy sources by 2010. With only 2 years to go and New Energy’s share of California power presently at 11% (and the state’s world-famous sun only contributing 1%), legislators want to know what the hold up is.
The audit produced finger-pointing from responsible bureaucracies. The California Energy Commission (CEC) says the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is slowing the process down. But if the audit is correct and it is all a matter of cost, then the CEC must bear the bulk of the responsibility because the RES passed in 2002 required the CEC to cover costs until New Energies could reach market price parity.
Whoever is to blame, V. John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, said it best: "I'm disappointed…California needs to do better matching the rhetoric to its actions."
The good news: Wind energy is building in California. More good news: Google just gave Pasadena’s eSolar $10 million for solar power plant development.
California's Mojave Desert has had a solar thermal power plant producing electricity since the 1980s. But only Spain is presently building new ones. (click to enlarge)
Little energy behind state solar plant efforts; Audit finds that any such projects would face major bureaucratic and economic hurdles
Patrick McGreevey, January 25, 2008 (LA Times)
California Auditor Elaine Howle, Assemblyman Paul Krekorian (D-Burbank), the California Energy Commission (CEC) (Terry O'Brien, deputy director), the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Howle’s audit, requested by Assemblyman Krekorian, found that no solar power plant has been approved by the CEC or the BLM in 18 years and new projects are ensnarled in delays.
- The last project approved by the BLM was in 1990. There have been 50+ applications in the interim. 2 applications are currently being processed and 8 are expected in 2008.
- From 2002 to 2006, the CEC average 2 years for approvals of non-solar projects. One application took over 3 years.
There is just no good excuse for not developing solar resources like this. (click to enlarge)
Solar power plants must go through multiple agencies for permit approval and there is no agency or source to facilitate the process.
- The CEC’s O’Brien says many delays are caused by applicants’ failure to pursue the projects. He also claims BLM environmental reviews have taken as much as 2 years.
- The audit said most delays were from things CEC could not control. It noted that applicants often change plans or fail to provide informantion.
Google is funding eSolar's breakthrough solar thermal power plant concept and will keep funding solar concepts in pursuit of bringing costs down. (click to enlarge)
- Krekorian: "The current delays in power-generation are not meeting California's needs, and we need to find a way to expedite approvals…"
- Howle: "These factors include the lower cost of electricity generated from other renewable sources, the need for large investments in land and infrastructure, and an unproductive incentive system designed to help firms that generate power from renewable sources meet their costs…"