Energy chief stuns environmentalists with renewable energy approach

Nevada’s energy chief wants to take Federal Lands and hand them over to energy companies.

Jim Groth, an appointee of Governor Jim Gibbons, published a declaration which calls for turning the State of Nevada into an energy colony and he doesn’t think it should be subject to National Environmental Policy Act requirements.

“The greatest thing holding Nevada back from achieving economic success right now is the need to satisfy onerous policies or laws and have the ‘right’ paperwork in order,” Groth writes in his “declaration.”

Nevada has become the latest target of energy producers and transmitters of all stripes. Gigantic solar and wind plants as well as geothermal plants have been proposed on public lands. El Paso Corp’s Ruby Pipeline has received preliminary permission to pass through northern Nevada’s most pristine sage grouse and pygmy rabbit habitat. There are also a number of proposed transmission lines to support these developments.

Public lands are not a renewable resource and the kind of development proposed in Nevada will have devastating impacts on wildlife there. It is time to make a major push towards rooftop solar and conservation rather than these centralized power plants on public lands which require transmission lines that lose power getting the electricity to where it is used.

Energy chief stuns environmentalists with renewable energy approach.
Las Vegas Sun

Distributed renewable energy makes economic & ecological sense

No need for much Renewable Energy development on Our Public Lands

Imperiled Desert Tortoise © Dr. Michael J. Connor, WWP

Imperiled Desert Tortoise © Dr. Michael J. Connor, WWP

In early April, we discussed planned massive solar development projects on public lands underway in Southern California with Basin & Range Watch‘s splendid native plant & wildflower photo essay Last Spring at Ivanpah.  The essay bloomed across environmental listserves everywhere and, combined with many other factors, prompted internal debate among local and national environmental groups concerning the wisdom of the modern day land rush to develop massive renewable energy projects on our public lands.

More recently, the Protect our Communities Foundation weighed in, pointing out in a letter to Congress that the least cost, both in economic & ecological terms, production solution (conservation’s still at the top – ex: paint your roof white) may be distributed renewable energy solutions – solar panels on roof-tops, parking lots, i.e. already developed places that are close to points of use.  Producing energy closer to where it’s used minimizes astonishing transmission costs and preserves our remote public land wild places & wildlife which, ironically, are the very members of our communities in most need of protection given global climate change.

The Protect Our Communities Foundation Comment Letter on May 11, 2009 Field Hearing on “Solar Energy Development on Federal Lands: The Road to Consensus”  – courtesy Basin & Range Watch

The least-cost solar resource in 2009 is in California’s developed urban and suburban areas, and this resource is vast. All urban solar deployments would be compatible dual-use of existing rooftops and parking lots, avoiding the dilemma you noted in your opening remarks at the hearing – “Solar power is very land-intensive, and siting a solar plant means that most if not all of the other uses of that land are precluded.” 
Read the rest of this entry »

Renewable energy sparks a probe of a modern-day land rush

New technology, same uninhibited ambition

You had better watch this, now and from now on.  The land grabbers are on the loose again and they can be stopped only as they were before, by the effective marshaling of public opinion.  Your property is in danger of being alienated, your interests and those of your children are being threatened[…]

Bernard DeVoto
Two-Gun Desmond is Back
~ 1951

They say history repeats itself.  At nearly every point in the history of western colonization there was an industry that was all the uproar among the well-intentioned.  Europeans moved West and trapped away the beaver, mined, laid claim to the land with homestead, sheep and cattle – don’t forget the logging.  That was no problem, the resource was infinite back then.  We did the impossible in harnessing rivers with dams and harvesting its inertia as our own, bringing power to cities and agricultural production to a western arid landscape that would not support such dense human habitation otherwise.  Hydroelectric dams were supposed to be the next perfect, “clean” source of power – remember ?

At each point in this history, calls for restraint, even timid caution against the unforeseeable consequences of the next great, faultless enterprise were brushed aside – dismissed as ‘nay-saying’ and the personalities behind the calls were labeled enemies of progress by even the most forward thinking and well-intentioned voices leading the charge.  The allure of human ambition has always enjoyed more volume than the practice of restraint.  ‘The land is infinite’ ~  ‘we’ve found the perfect technology, the perfect innovation’ ~ ‘we just need to make sure there’s good housekeeping’ ~ ‘you can’t stop progess’.

But, unfortunately – it seems to me, depending on how one looks at it, “progress” keeps happening over and over again in the same way as before.

Renewable energy sparks a probe of a modern-day land rushThe Los Angeles Times

A rush to stake claims for renewable energy projects in the California desert has triggered a federal investigation and prompted calls for reforms to prevent public lands from being exposed to private profiteering and environmental degradation.

China Mountain/Brown’s Bench Wind developer wants to keep its deals secret

Browns Bench © Katie Fite 2008, (Click to view Slideshow)

Brown's Bench © Katie Fite 2008, (Click to view Slideshow)

You might remember the controversial project that resulted in an IDFG regional supervisor to lose his job after pointing out the obvious – namely, that energy developments (yes, even ‘blessed’ Wind) on public lands impact wildlife and habitat in southern Idaho.  The wind company at issue on China Mountain/Brown’s Bench is RES Americas Inc., and recently it looks as if the only thing “renewable” about RES Americas is the questionable contracts it keeps producing.

They seem to want to keep their contracts secret. For example, they prevented a daughter from blowing the whistle on an RES wind-contract that her mother was asked to sign in South Dakota.  Mom asked her daughter to look over the contract because she worked as a lawyer for NV Energy, RES Americas Inc.’s partner on the China Mountain project :

Wind companies want to nix contract disclosuresAP

Sannes asked her daughter to look over the lease, and when she did, she “called me and said, ‘This is the worst contract I have ever seen,'” Sannes said in an interview. She said company representatives told her 80 of her Barnes County neighbors had signed it.

It just goes to show, Wind’s got good PR people – but with the same investors and business model as before is it really fair to call them “clean”.  It looks as though folk are getting blown over all over the country. Let’s not let our public lands be next.

Read the rest of this entry »

New Grid for Renewable Energy Could Be Costly

The Wall Street Journal Reports on a study that indicates a new grid could cost $100 billion.

This article says that 15,000 miles of new transmission lines would be required and that federal intervention might be used due to lawsuits.

New Grid for Renewable Energy Could Be Costly – WSJ.com.

My feeling is that we might want to consider other models before plunging headlong into this decision.

KC

Transmission lies

Against the so-called ‘need’ for new long-distance, high-voltage transmission lines

Transmission lies Grist Environmental News and Commentary

Carol A. Overland posits the idea that a new electrical grid is “an enabler of dysfunctional energy planning and profit-driven projects that are against the public interest.”