Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Obama Renewable Energy Plan Targets LA, San Bernardino and Kern Counties

The White House has pushed for approval of an additional 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy production on public lands (BLM Bureau of Land Management). The Obama administration says the 25 utility-scale solar facilities, nine wind farms, and 11 geothermal plants it has approved on federal lands so far will provide enough juice to power 4.4 million homes. According to the National Geographic magazine, The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) so far has issued permits or is conducting environmental reviews for solar, wind, and geothermal projects covering about 310,000 acres (125,450 hectares) an area about the size of Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. Many projects require that electric transmission lines be built over miles of open space to connect the remote renewable generating plants to the grid that serves population centers. There have been recent lawsuits against the plan to use so much public land and land that has delicate environmental ecosystems. Also, Federal and State Funds for these projects come with strict deadlines to break ground, a rush to buy land with an abundance of endangered plants and animals like E-Solar did in Antelope Valley. There are also regulations from County governments. This all created speculative investments, lawsuits, canceled projects, and other complications. The Solar Millennium project in Death Valley was abandoned by its bankrupt developer, Other projects have been cut back in size and some like Beautiful Earth in Del Sur in Antelope Valley have asked for extensions to complete their plan. Separately, birds have been found dead including three brown pelicans who may have thought the solar panels were a water source from several hundred feet. We have also reported Bright Source Energy’s issue with relocating desert tortoise found living on their Ivanpah Solar site. This site takes up 3500 acres. News reports indicate that the company paid up to $22 million to relocate the tortoise and they will have to spend $34 million in mitigation costs to offset their project. It is likely that projects approved just a few years ago would not have been approved today because of the environmental impact. Solar projects are the biggest targets for BLM land as they produce more megawatts than wind or geothermal and they use less land. The debate is not over and with all the legal challenges we expect more back and forth as these projects proceed or don’t. Some investors can benefit as speculative investment land and mitigation land will be targets for these environmental projects.

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