The Road To A Renewable Energy Economy Is Bumpy In California


photo via flickr

California utilities must get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2010 and 33 percent by 2020. The 2020 target looms large as utilities tryi to line up contracts with suppliers of renewable energy and set up their own projects. Pacific Gas and Electric had a deal with a Portuguese company for 106.8 megawatts of power from a solar and biomass plant, but local opposition and cost have shelved the plant. The plant, which would have generated power from solar during the day and biomass at night, was slated to go up on 640 acres of agricultural land in Fresno County. The biomass was to be collected from local farms and trucked into the plant, but locals said that the trucking would contribute to air pollution problems and they expressed concerned over the amount of water the plant would use.

The plants operator, Martifer, wrote in a letter to the state's utility commission that there were just too many obstacles to overcome.

On behalf of San Joaquin Solar 1 LLC and San Joaquin Solar 2 LLC, I am writing to withdraw the application for certification of the Joaquin Solar 1&2 Hybrid Project.

We were not able, at this time to resolve some of our issues regarding project economics and biomass supply amongst other things. We greatly appreciate the effort you put into processing this application.

I hereby attest, under penalty ofpeIjury, that the contents ofthis Notice ofWithdrawal are truthful and accurate to the best of my knowledge. San Joaquin Solar 1 LLC and San Joaquin Solar 2 LLC are special purpose entities, each created to develop, construct, own, and operate one solar thermal hybrid power generation plant and supply the electrical output to PG&E; under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

The plant's undoing shows some of the tensions between California's renewable goals and the reality of constructing actual projects. Local land use issues, capital investment, local control, and more have all contributed to some contentious fights around the Golden State.

However, in one bit of good news, California voters beat back a ballot measure last month that would have prevented communities from buying and selling their own local energy. The defeat was a bad one from PG&E;, which was seeking monopoly control, and helped to increase the likelihood that California will have more distributed grid with more renewables in it.

More on this plant:
Hybrid Solar Thermal-Biomass Power for California