Tuesday, March 13, 2012

California Assembly Bill 2474 Targets Rural Property Owners Disproportionately

Governor Brown this year has waged a campaign to charge rural residents for the costs of fire protection since an increasing number have moved into wildland areas. And state fire officials say the greater the number of homes in rural areas, the higher the cost of fighting fires.

Assembly Bill 2474 (Chesbro) was introduced in the California Legislature on February 24, 2012 to address some of the concerns facing Californians who own real property in the state fire responsibility areas (SRA), and who will start seeing bills (in the amount of $150 per habitable structure for fire prevention fees) show up in their mailboxes this June.
AB 2474 will require the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection to take into consideration: (1) any amounts that an owner of a structure in a SRA already pays for local fire prevention services, and (2) the severity of the fire zone where the structure is located. If this bill is signed into law it should comfort homeowners who already actively engage in fire prevention measures on their own, and those who own property in SRA zones where the fire severity rating is lower.

The current existing law requires the Board to adopt emergency regulations to establish a fire prevention fee in an amount not to exceed $150 to be charged on each structure on a parcel that is within a SRA. The Board is required to adjust the fee annually using prescribed methods. The fees (tax) will provide $85 million to State coffers. This is another way to slowly increase the cost of living to homeowners and land owners. Rural property owners have less support and clout than urban property owners, and they call it a fee instead of a tax to reduce its attention. Nevada County Supervisor Hank Weston was quoted as calling the $150 charge "a farce to fill a budget gap created by the state."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Alta Wind Energy Center in Tehachapi Kern County is Moving Along

There are a number of wind farms operating or under development in Kern County near Tehachapi, Ca. The largest one under development is the Alta Wind Energy Center (AWEC) which is located in the Tehachapi-Mojave Wind Resource Area.
Terra-Gen Power is the developer AWEC, and it will be California's largest wind energy project. They have a 20 year power purchasing agreement with SoCal Edison to sell 1550 megawatts of energy produced by these towers. These towers are 400 to 500 feet, which is about the distance the Golden Gate Bridge is from the Bay. It was partially approved based on tax incentives to the community, its environment reduction of energy, and low use of water compared to some solar projects. $55 million was invested by Google, and Terr-Gen’s raised $1.2 billion from Barclays Capital, Citibank and Credit Suisse.

It also has been a bit of a boondoggle for residents and land owners. Landowners get a royalty for wind towers to operate on their property. If you think about it this land is primarily rolling hills at a distance from development without city services. The main use for this land has been cattle grassing or nothing until AWEC stepped in. The royalty rights are targeted to be $20 million to the land owners. There has been $2 billion invested in this area the last two years. Perhaps one of the drawbacks is the limited employment as only 50 jobs have been created with several hundred temporary construction jobs. Residents have complained at least those who have not personally benefitted as these large towers dominate the landscape. It certainly changes the views in the horizon. According to the American Wind Energy Association the two initial projects were completed in fall 2010. There are other projects were targeted to be completed in early 2011. They are projected to produce 4550 megawatts of energy once all projects are complete. There have been proposals to triple the wind energy in this area to eventually encompass 50 square miles. This is part of SoCal Edison’s transmission line expansion.
According to reports Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP) is the initial phase at a cost of almost $2 billion. The plan is to send 4500 megawatts to Los Angeles about 80 miles from Tehachapi, Ca.

There is certainly Wind Gold in them thar hills as there are also a number of other wind farms in the area such as NextEra, Cal Wind Resources, Coram, Oak Creek Energy Systems, GE Energy, AES, Mogul Energy Windland, and enXco. The vacant land investor can now say buy slopping windy land and wait as it too has paid off.