Pharyngula

Californians, it’s your turn

There is currently a proposal before Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to rip through desert wilderness in your state to put powerlines. Chris Clarke makes the case against it; you don’t have much time to respond, so phone or email your protests IMMEDIATELY. Let the state government know that there is a dedicated bloc of environmentally aware voters in the state who are not going to sacrifice what makes California a state worth living in for power company profits.

Comments

  1. #1 beebs
    October 20, 2008

    I’m sorry, but we need more power in California. If a flatfooted redbellied pond sucker is displaced, so be it.

    beebs

  2. #2 PZ Myers
    October 20, 2008

    Read Chris’s post. These powerlines do not create new power for you.

  3. #3 scrabcake
    October 20, 2008

    I’m a lot more concerned about prop 8 which bans gay marriage. It’s supporters are comming out of the woodwork like pine beetles.
    Secondly,people who work for power companies are people who need to put the bread on the table,too–they’re not all fatcats. I’m sure that,this being California and all,the whole process will be dogged by lawsuits the entire way which will ensure that the implementing companies follow the letter of environmental law.
    It’s not like I hate the planet or anything, I just think that with all of the injustice in the world and all of the horrible environmental catastrophies, that throwing a bunch of phonelines up in the desert isn’t the biggest deal.

  4. #4 scrabcake
    October 20, 2008

    and by phonelines I mean powerlines. If I am going to be snarky I had better get it right.

  5. #5 spgreenlaw
    October 20, 2008

    Wow, beeb. Selfish much? Not to mention wrong (which you could have avoided had you read the article).

  6. #6 spgreenlaw
    October 20, 2008

    scrabcake,

    So I take it your time is so caught up in fighting the insidious Prop 8 that you can’t spare five minutes to call the state government about this? Otherwise I fail to see why you can’t care about both issues.

  7. #7 Chris Clarke
    October 20, 2008

    Thanks, PZ.

    scrabcake, I agree that Prop 8 is a nightmare and reflects the worst aspects of our society and must be defeated, and that its passage in California would be devastating for civil rights in the US.

    But we’re not in a position where we have to pick and choose. You can oppose both intrusions on civil rights AND environmentally destructive projects. We’re talking about a phone call here, or sending an automated email. I know a couple people deeply involved in the fight against Prop 8 who’ve called re: the Powerlink.

    Also, if you take a little bit MORE time to read the San Diego Smart Power 2020 plan I link to, you’ll see it’s pretty much a job creation machine. Installing rooftop solar is fairly labor-intensive.

    [Insert joke about solar panels being under the umbrella of job creation here.]

  8. #8 ekb
    October 20, 2008

    I flat out do not believe Chris Clarke’s claim that rooftop solar panels would be better than the big plant in the Imperial valley. This is because, while thin-film solar panels are cheaper, they also produce far less electricity than conventional versions. So you have to take into account with his amortization shedule the fact that it still won’t generate adequate power. Also, he neglects the fact that the solar thermal “big power plant” will be able to generate electricity for six hours after nightfall, because it stores excess energy in molten salt (that’s in I think Popular Mechanics).

    As for the LNG, yeah, that totally stinks.

  9. #9 Chris Clarke
    October 20, 2008

    I suspect, ekb, that Southern California Edison took thin-film’s output into consideration when they decided to spend nearly 900 million bucks on it for rooftop installation in Los Angeles. The cost and power output numbers I use are theirs.

  10. #10 Marcus
    October 20, 2008

    Funny, if they’d gone for visual impact I’d support them. Maybe talked about desert tortoises and possible impacts and you’d have an issue, although to be honest the tortoises seem to like the service routes along existing power lines. Instead we end up with some political clutching at straws and some rubbish about solar panels for everyone. There is some really good solar energy work going on down there that will need these power lines.

    I guess it had to happen sooner or later, something showed up on Pharyngula that I don’t agree with. Next ol’ PZ will be trying to persuade me there is no god, or something wacky like that.

  11. #11 scrabcake
    October 20, 2008

    I don’t care about this issue. I think left wing
    Blogs like this one are no better than their right wing counterparts. The author states that solar energy would be a viable alternate. Has solar been viable on a large scale anywhere? Last I checked, it was still pricy and unreliabe,though less so in recent years. The author states that the lines are a hazard in dry forrests. My family lives in Colorado where it’s hard to find a powerline NOT in a tinderbox, yet dumb teenagers, pyromaniac ex-lovers, and lightning seem to cause most of our fires.
    Then the author brought somehow tied this in with terrorism and that is when I stopped reading.
    I think that the problem here is that every time we lose the Forest for the trees and make much ado about little things we run the risk of being tuned out when we raise big issues. And that is why,after reading that article,in full lolcat English I have to say….
    Do. Not. Care.*

    *you,of course are welcome to.

  12. #12 Scrabcake
    October 20, 2008

    By left wing blogs I meant the coyote one not pharyngula.

  13. #13 techskeptic
    October 20, 2008

    Well while we are at it: They are trying to poke holes and cut roads all over the gorgeous wyoming national forests also.

    http://www.sdsbt.org/

  14. #14 Sven DiMilo
    October 20, 2008

    There aren’t any tortoises in the Anza-Borrego. The wildlife issue is bighorn sheep habitat. Read the post.

  15. #15 Amiable Dorsai
    October 20, 2008

    I’m a little confused; isn’t the occasional forest fire a good thing?

  16. #16 Sven DiMilo
    October 20, 2008

    The author states that the lines are a hazard in dry forrests.

    It’s chapparal, not “dry forrests [sic].” It’s not Colorado. Read the post.

  17. #17 John
    October 20, 2008

    Proposition 8 is far worse than just about everything else on California’s state ballots this year. Not only would its passage be a devastating blow to civil rights, but it means organized religion gets yet another foothold in government and in everyone’s lives.

    Vote No On Prop 8! Equality For All!

  18. #18 Ron Broberg
    October 20, 2008

    I very much enjoy the anti-creationist politics of this blog.

    But I strongly agree with the need to develop solar and wind energy source within this country both to control CO2 emissions and as a hedge against peak oil. Effective deployment of alternative energy will require new transmission lines. New lines in the southwest deserts to bring solar to the cities. New lines in the midwest to bring wind to the cities. The idea that “localized solar” can substitute for large solar or wind plants is nonsense.

    http://www.sdge.com/sunrisepowerlink/

  19. #19 Rat Bastard
    October 20, 2008

    I saw those ugly blue-noses on every streetcorner here in “Mayberry” with their “Yes on 8″ signs. We’ll see how it goes.

    As far as solar goes, the viability rests on cheepniss. Free eCookie to person recognizing reference.
    Solar is going to be way cheaper in a few years (production is going to exceed demand within 4 years and the cost is going to tank), but the utilities are used to amortization of expenditure based on time periods longer than the memory of your significant other…believe it or not.

    Solar currently makes no sense inside the power grid, if it weren’t for tax credits. However, the cost is going to be at about the level of the grid in a few years. Then what? Hard to say. But I’d gladly use the sunpower pounding on my roof here in Sunny Cal to generate cooling from that same radiation.

  20. #20 Jim1138
    October 20, 2008

    The transmission lines that started the Witch Creek fire are not comparable to a modern high-tension transmission line that would be used for the Sunrise Powerlink. The Sunrise would not slap together, they would not have guy wires, and they would not have trees overgrowing them. I consider the comparison to be fear-mongering.

    Why would power from a LNG power plant be routed from the Baja Peninsula all the way east to the Imperial Valley and back over the Sunrise? That seems rather ridiculous to me.

    My understanding is that solar power from the Imperial Valley is limited because there are no transmission lines. Roof top solar is great until the sun goes down. Imperial Valley solar plants will probably have storage/overnight capability.

    In no way am I pro Sempra. I think they are a bunch of crooks and liars. However, this Coyote Creek article is deceptive and I am not calling Arnie.

  21. #21 Patricia
    October 20, 2008

    I’m callin. Even though I live in a different state, this will effect me.
    Don’t Californicate Oregon!

    For those of you that have had a really bad day today – how about some twirling, flying, and chickens?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsS4Tk-lrxo

  22. #22 Nick C
    October 20, 2008

    This seems like a trivial issue, PZ. Proposition 8 is a much more pressing and important issue for California and the United States. I’m in the Central Valley and there are Yes On 8 losers all over the place. It makes me angry and sad at the same time. And the only argument for 8 that I’m seeing stems from the Bible. Which, in many cases, is just being used as an excuse for bigotry and prejudice. They’re also under the assumption that churches will be sued if they refuse to marry a same sex couple. Which is an interesting tactic.

  23. #23 Jim1138
    October 21, 2008

    Vote Yes on 8! You are next on the list to lose their rights.

  24. #24 Larry Hogue
    October 21, 2008

    For the economics of PV vs. Solar Thermal, see this article from Public Utiliies Fortnightly: http://tinyurl.com/5dqeyv. The article also addresses the molten salt storage issue, saying it hasn’t been implemented on a large commercial scale yet.

    What’s not to believe about Sempra’s LNG infrastructure? For a map showing the existing LNG infrastructure Sempra has built stretching across Baja, check here:
    http://tinyurl.com/6nua5b
    Sempra opened its Costa Azul LNG terminal this summer. It connects to pipelines stretching across Baja to Mexicali. Sempra and Intergen built two gas-fired power plants there several years ago, avoiding California’s air pollution laws. Transmission lines were approved and built across the border to the Imperial Substation, which is where the existing Southwest Powerlink heads on to San Diego. The Sunrise Powerlink would also originate from this substation (so much for redundancy and security). A recent report by the California Public Utilities Commission said the Sunrise Powerlink could help bring gas-fired power across the border from Baja.

    Sempra has also invested in additional pipelines that take the natural gas up to more gas-fired power plants in Arizona and Nevada that create a ring around Southern California.

    Finally, the San Diego Smart Energy 2020 plan Chris talked about would achieve a whopping 50% carbon reduction by 2020 through a variety of means, not just PV. If we can get that kind of reduction without destroying the desert, backcountry and wilderness areas, why wouldn’t we?

    In comparison, the EIR on the powerlink finds that the GHG emissions from construction and operation of the 150-mile power line would outweigh any expected savings in GHG emissions from renewables (a statement that calls into question the whole project of relying on large, distant sources of renewable power.)

  25. #25 Sphere Coupler
    October 21, 2008

    Independant power production by the home owner is one step in gaining your freedom, don’t stop now. The mega-power producers are very afraid to lose their POWER base.
    If subsidizing the little guy is needed,then so be it,Lord knows the massive corperations have been subsidized for years.What do you want…freedom and independance or subjectivity.your choice.

  26. #26 Burrow Owl
    October 21, 2008

    Mr. Clarke appears to be a Rebel Without A Clue.

    Having been the owner of land in southern Oregon through which approx 1/2 a mile of BPA powerlines (Columbia river to California) crosses through for nearly 2 decades, I’ve had a unique opportunity to observe the effects of such an installation up close and personal.

    As Marcus pointed out, there is the visual impact. No argument there.

    As for the impact upon wildlife- in the high desert country where my place is located- it seems to be more of a boon than a bane.
    During spring breakup- and again as the first snowstorms begin in late fall- you are far more likely to find deer, elk and pronghorn feeding in the roughly 75 meter wide corridor around the power lines than in the surrounding forest lands. The same goes for coyotes, badgers, marmots, and various species of ground squirrel during the summer months.
    Yes, during the construction phase, there was some disruption- but that was temporary, and it didn’t take long for the native vegetation to re-assert itself.
    The common practice of overgrazing range cattle has had a much more detrimental impact on the ecosystem in this area than the powerlines are ever likely to have. (Sorry- my pet peeve. I could go on and on- but this is neither the time or place.)

    As for the fire danger, the only time that became a problem was when some inbred pig-fuckers thought it’d be fun to get drunk and shoot at some of the insulators on the towers.

    Bottom line: Despite the ill-informed rantings of a few hard-core tree-hugging Luddites amongst us, the truth is that technology can co-exist with nature.

  27. #27 Chris Clarke
    October 21, 2008

    With all due respect, Burrow Owl, Oregon’s wonderful high desert has little in common with Anza Borrego where vegetative recovery is concerned, and bighorn sheep pose far different wildlife management issues than coyotes, marmots, or even pronghorn, which I have seen grazing on motel lawns for Jebus’ sake. In Anza Borrego, *tire tracks* can last a century or more, and bighorn are shy enough that they may not return for generations. If they last generations, with increasing fragmentation of what is supposed to be legally designated wilderness habitat.

    As for the triviality of the issue, if your choice really is between making this phone call or voting no on Prop 8, by all means pick the second one. Some of us can multitask.

  28. #28 Burrow Owl
    October 21, 2008

    With all due respect, Mr Clarke, your pathetically snide remark about multitasking adds nothing to the discussion- except, perhaps, as reference to your true character.
    I am familiar with the area that you are referring to. I spent a good part of my life growing up in the areas around Julian and Portrero. My points still stand. You obviously have an agenda and more power to ya- but excuse my if I refuse to swallow your particular flavor of Kool-aid.

  29. #29 Burrow Owl
    October 21, 2008

    Meh! my = me

  30. #30 Quiet_Desperation
    October 21, 2008

    Anywhere I can get the other side of the story? We *are* supposed to be skeptics here, yes? The site was a little hysterical, and that generally triggers red flags for me.

    As for solar, I was waiting for these guys to get a residential offering.

    http://www.nanosolar.com/index.html

    But they are already sold out 12 months in advance. I’d like to take advantage of California’s subsidy for solar system before the state goes completely bankrupt thanks to the collective femtobrains in Sacramento.

    Oh, and this straight male says NO on 8 as well. :-)

  31. #31 DCA
    October 21, 2008

    I think the major issue here is that they are building a generation plant in Mexico to provide power to California as a way to bypass environmental regulations in the state. To this point, I agree with a protest. I would also agree if there were better routes available and they chose this route to save costs.

    However, there’s a lot of garbage on the Coyote Crossing website though that’s irking me (I’m a young engineer working for a power utility and notice the same issues where I work):

    – They reference another transmission line in the area, but just because the line is there does not mean it has capacity. You try to pump too much power through the line and it will melt, which I think itself would cause a pretty major environmental hazard. Plus, it has been indicated that this line is the only link outside of California. System reliability is a huge factor in these decisions.
    – The Solar Power alternative isn’t as simple as they are presenting it. They seem to think that all they have to do is tell everyone to install solar panels on their houses and the problem is solved. This is unrealistic.
    – The references to “possible terrorism” is fear mongering. I don’t have much more to add to that.
    – The alternative of “Don’t build it at all” sounds short cited and uninformed. I hate to say it, but the only real way to understand the needs of the system is to operate it, and it doesn’t sound like Chris Clarke does.

    Anyways, as this is my first message, I just wanted to say that I love the blog PZ. It’s funny that it takes a disagreement to finally bring me out of lurking. : )

  32. #32 DCA
    October 21, 2008

    I just wanted to respond to comment #2, the new line technically does not “create” new power, but it does bring the new power being generated to the grid. It’s like saying that a highway doesn’t produce cars.

  33. #33 Janek
    October 21, 2008

    Wow. I’m a Southern Californian. Too many of the comments so far sound like astroturfing to me.

    When did a private company building a power line in a state park become a good idea?

  34. #34 Sphere Coupler
    October 21, 2008

    @31-DCA

    “The Solar Power alternative isn’t as simple as they are presenting it. They seem to think that all they have to do is tell everyone to install solar panels on their houses and the problem is solved. This is unrealistic.”

    Please be more specific.

  35. #35 Sphere Coupler
    October 21, 2008

    In my following comment I will include wind power as solar since the wind is generated by the sun.
    While it is true solar power can not replace base energy production (due to the storage issue), it can however supplement base power AND solar power CAN replace a significant portion of intermediate and peak power production if this avenue is aggressively pursued by industry, government and the individual home owner.

    One question,Can the existing power line be upgraded?

  36. #36 Jim1138
    October 21, 2008

    The way Larry Hogue writes it, it sounds like a bunch of coal fired power plants across the Mexican border belching soot and mercury across the boarder. This is simply not the case.

    The Mexicali power plants appear to all be natural gas fired gas turbine generators. One unit that did not have a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) unit was shut down in 2004, but the rest have SCRs.

    The pollution from a natural gas fired gas turbine generators is way better than a coal fired power plant with scrubbers. Coal plants still put out mercury, thorium, other heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and massive quantities of scrubber waste. I do not believe that the power plants were put across the border to subvert California atmospheric pollution controls. Probably more for cheap labor, safety, permit, land prices, and local pollution regulations.

    Environmentalists lying and distorting facts to achieve their agenda, even if truly for good, is despicable. The same is true when Sempra distorts the facts for their gain. I do not trust any side. People will make decisions with their emotions, not with fact and reason. The environment, our lifestyle, and our children’s future will be fucked. Thank you everyone for your short-sightedness.

    P.S. I am doing the best thing to reduce carbon footprint that anyone can. My wife and I do not nor will have children. Anything environmental achievements will soon be destroyed by population.

  37. #37 DCA
    October 21, 2008

    @ #34 – I guess I mean that a widespread change like that doesn’t happen over night. The assumption seems to be that everyone would have access to the technology and it would be affordable for everyone.

    On top of that, timelines to implement these types of plans would be a huge issue. Even if the San Diego Smart Energy plan for 2020 goes perfectly, that likely won’t be fast enough to negate the need for this power line.

  38. #38 Jim1138
    October 21, 2008

    Given the likely number of species that will go extinct in the near future, the Bighorn Sheep is a trivial, unnecessary player. There are many species that have a critical impact on our environment and lifestyle, such as the honeybee, insects, amphibians, and birds. It would be nice to have the Bighorns around, but having the former is necessary for the ecosystem.

    It would be nice to keep all species, but nobody seems to have a plan that will even keep most of them. There certainly is no cooperation of rational thinkers with the authority and power to put such a plan into place. Maybe with the election of Obama, more will happen. But probably not enough.

    Get it. You’re screwed.

    ***

  39. #39 alcari
    October 21, 2008

    Wait, is he suggestion they use solar power for an industrial site operating 24-7?

    While I do support solar power, it takes quite a bit of modification to the grid in order for distributed power production to work. And there’s the small fact that you do need aditional production facilities, because (gasp) the sun isn’t out at night.

  40. #40 Jim1138
    October 21, 2008

    There are solar power satellites which supply power for about 23+ hours per day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_satellite This idea was shot down by both the nuclear power industry and environmentalists.

  41. #41 Amplexus
    October 21, 2008

    Why should I care about the desert?

  42. #42 Sven DiMilo
    October 21, 2008

    Why should I care about the desert?

    You shouldn’t. Please continue to care only about your own parochial concerns. Wilderness of any kind has no relevance to your own personal life, so you should remain oblivious to the greed-fueled destruction of the pitifully few remaining areas of anything-like-natural ecosystems. You should spend your valuable time and mental energy caring about poisoning the crabgras in your yard and getting a good parking spot at the Wal-Mart.

    the Bighorn Sheep is a trivial, unnecessary player

    Right on. Species that have no direct effect on “our lifestyle” are expendable. We need to prioritize our conservation efforts to be sure that we’re not wasting money on trivial, unnecessary, pointless animals that don’t pull their weight in helping people make more money. Surely we know enough about ecological systems that we can pick and choose which species are “necessary” and which aren’t–that guy Aldo Leopold was full of shit.

  43. #43 Sven DiMilo
    October 21, 2008

    But seriously. What is the point of designating “wilderness” if we’re going to just give it up later to any corporation that wants to profit from fucking it up?

  44. #44 Sven DiMilo
    October 21, 2008

    oo…almost forgot to mention the FZ reference in #19. I can haz eCookie?

  45. #45 Alan Kellogg
    October 21, 2008

    I was going to comment, but it got long. So I’ll be posting the thing at my blog, and posting a link in this thread.

  46. #46 Ron Broberg
    October 21, 2008

    When did a private company building a power line in a state park become a good idea?

    About the same time the implications of the Hubbert Peak sink in.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubbert_peak_theory

    If we are serious about moving a large percentage of the US vehicle fleet to electric plug-in, that will require new US electrical production and transportation.

    When did treating private companies as the enemy become a good idea?

  47. #47 Paul
    October 21, 2008

    Question for PZ:

    Did you really research this issue, study both sides of the argument from independent sources and reach an informed conclusion or did you reach a conclusion from this one source?

  48. #48 fatherdaddy
    October 21, 2008

    Speaking as someone who does not make a lot of money and was hit with some very high electricity and gas costs during the last electricity crisis here in California, I ask you who is going to pay for these solar panels you want me to put on my roof? Oh, wait. You didn’t have blackouts where you’re from so you don’t care. Who cares about the poor as long as you can point to a corporation who’s getting less.

  49. #49 Natalie
    October 21, 2008

    Fatherdaddy, the blackouts weren’t caused by a lack of power, but rather by a manipulation of the deregulated energy market.

    That said, I assume that if the country is serious about generating more solar power, there will be grants or tax credits for installing solar panels.

  50. #50 Sven DiMilo
    October 21, 2008

    I am not oppsoed to private corporations making money.
    I am not opposed to alternative sources of energy, even including Big Solar (though I agree that small solar is in general a better way to go; as for paying for it, read the post).

    I am opposed to trammeling a designated wilderness area held in the public trust just because it is more convenient and/or profitable to a private corporation than alternate plans would be.

  51. #51 NickG
    October 21, 2008

    First off, California has to have wildfires occasionally. Its a natural process and we paid this year for too many years of to strict fire control. So I am not certain what the net positive or negative impact of a fire in the lands the lines are on has but his knee jerk response that Fire=Bad is up there with Frankenstein’s monster.

    Secondly, LNG is the cleanest of the petroleum products. And if kids in Baja are having burgeoning respiratory ailments, you’re probably more likely to find the answer in aerosolized roach feces than in burning natural gas. There is potentially even a beneficial effect because if LNG is imported into the area, there would likely be more local usage of natural gas. In developing nations use of natural gas rather than biomass for cooking is associated with decreased respiratory illness in children. So I suspect some heavy patchouli flavored woo on that blog.

    Thirdly, its not selfish to say CA needs power. We do. My partner and I have solar panels and a solar water heater in our home. I live a mile from my job and drive there in a hybrid civic I’ve had for 6 years. However I also have worked in the summer in CA where we had to take a flux of nursing home patients into my ER who had severe heat related illness because the AC in the SNF in which they lived lost power. Its not just a question of greed… certainly make people pay the real costs of the electricity that they use and encourage home generation. However the answer that we’ll just run short is dangerous. And if power lines through a desert will keep that from happening that may be necessary.

    Though for something less complex: Vote No on 8!

  52. #52 NickG
    October 21, 2008

    Natalie @49: “That said, I assume that if the country is serious about generating more solar power, there will be grants or tax credits for installing solar panels.”

    CA is pretty generous. We installed ours last year and paid about half of the 25K cost after tax breaks and rebates from PG&E. However most people don’t have 12.5K sitting around. And given that we generate about $60-70 monthly it will take a while for that to break even. Fortunately we live in a liberal-hippy area where just having the panels improves the value of our home, so it was win-win for us now. That may not be the case though if an area is saturated with solar (as would be good.)

  53. #53 Larry Hogue
    October 21, 2008

    Jim1138:
    Did I say the plants in Mexicali were coal-powered? My comment made it clear that they are gas-powered, and you’re right that one of the units is dirtier than the others. However, the imported LNG is twice as polluting and burns hotter than domestic natural gas, and California is about to make it a requirement that imported LNG be cleaned up to domestic standards. So that’s one way these power plants will be more polluting than their domestic counterparts.

    Another way is that, had they been built just a few miles north, in California, the companies would have had to pay for mitigation for the increased air pollution they caused. This is because Imperial Valley is a non-attainment zone for air quality, and any additional pollution has to be mitigated by doing things like paving dirt roads. This is an area with one of the highest asthma rates anywhere in the nation. But the utilities’ line was, “It’s already polluted, what’s a little more going to hurt?”

    If Sempra/SDG&E were honest about this being a natural gas-powered transmission line, that would be one thing. But they originally proposed this line expressly to carry their gas-fired power, and it was denied. So a year later they come back with the renewable energy angle. To see how they hit on this bright idea, see this article from the San Diego Union-Tribune: http://tinyurl.com/58sxv8.

    DCA (#31) “Just because the line is there does not mean it has capacity.” The Southwest Powerlink has been stated to have capacity for about 300 MW of additional power. Further, this line was promised to carry renewable energy when it was proposed back in the 80s. Today, it carries less than 5% renewables (see why we’re skeptical about the Sunrise Powerlink?). The point of California’s renewable energy goals is not to supplement fossil-fuel energy, but to replace it with renewables. Boot some of the fossil-fueled power off Southwest Powerlink if it runs out of capacity and there really is a lot of renewable power available. (It’s funny that no one has commented on the feasibility/infeasibility of the experimental dish-Stirling system SDG&E wants to link to. They’re intending to go straight from hand-built test models at Sandia National Labs to commercial production of thousands of units, even though the hand-built units have reliability problems that make them problematic.)

    Oh, and Fatherdaddy: If you buy your electricity from any California public utility, you will be billed for the Sunrise Powerlink ($1.3 billion, but likely to rise to as much as $2 billion), even if it never carries any amount of renewable energy.

  54. #54 fatherdaddy
    October 21, 2008

    Natalie @49: Actually, lack of power does cause blackouts. The lack of power was due to manipulation by the likes of Enron. That manipulation was made oh so much easier because of our lack of infrastructure.

    Solar power would be nice. What most people don’t understand is that you can’t just go around throwing solar panels on any old roof. My roof was designed to hold it’s own weight and little more. Most homes need substantial reinforcement to hold the weight of solar panels. Yet another cost I can little afford. Another problem I have is that I would have to reduce my tree coverage to keep the sun hitting those panels. Trees eat carbon dioxide and provide cooling shade. So, I guess my choice is to go into signifigant debt and cut down my carbon sinks to allow for the solar that would possibly pay for itself in a couple of decades, or I could let some “evil” corporation do it where there are few trees and fewer people. I prefer the one that doesn’t require my money or taxes.

  55. #55 AtheistAcolyte
    October 21, 2008

    Actually, I don’t have that much of a problem with this. SDG&E is trying to up its’ renewable energy portfolio through their solar and wind plants in Baja, as well as increase energy supply with the LNG plant. Their energy portfolio is mandated to be 20% renewable by 2010.

    It all just seems to be “They’re replacing powerlines through a state park with higher capacity powerlines? Not on MY watch!”

    The claims about LNG tankers being terrorism targets are confusing, the bit about Sempra being a co-conspirator made my eyes roll, and the conflation of LNG with coal just made me think it was a silly mindless environmentalism which will only be happy if the desert is carpeted with solar panels.

    The simple fact is, we need power in California. Unequivocally. Which means we need to get power from wherever it’s generated to wherever it’s consumed. And solar power cannot solve that problem. At SoCal Edison’s rates, ~$3.5/W-h, we’d need $35 BILLION to replace just one major power leg, Path 46, to the population centers. That’s the Hoover dam + Palo Verde nuclear power. And then what happens at night?

    Solar power cannot be the answer, unless extra power is stored for night-time consumption. Wind power is better, hydroelectric is better still. But seriously? I’d rather see environmentalists push for nuclear power plants.

  56. #56 Sven DiMilo
    October 21, 2008

    They’re replacing powerlines through a state park with higher capacity powerlines?

    No, that’s not what is being proposed. Read the post.

  57. #57 fatherdaddy
    October 21, 2008

    I read enough of the post to realize that some people have no clue as to what our power needs really are or how we are going to get it.

  58. #58 AtheistAcolyte
    October 21, 2008

    I did read the article, Sven. But it lost credibility with me as soon as it smeared Sempra as a “co-conspirator” in the “Enron-era” energy shortage, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

    http://www.sdge.com/sunrisepowerlink/myth_v_fact.html

    “Myth: The Sunrise Powerlink will impact “designated wilderness” areas of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
    Fact: SDG&E has redesigned the line to stay within the existing 100 foot transmission corridor in the Park where a power line has stood for decades. This option will require no additional Park land and result in zero permanent impacts to “designated wilderness” areas. “

  59. #59 Sven DiMilo
    October 21, 2008

    Hmmm. I seemingly stand corrected. Humble apologies.

  60. #60 AtheistAcolyte
    October 21, 2008

    I’ve been reading “pro-” and “con-” sites for the California Propositions lately, trying to decide what I think about them all, and I think I’ve become quite good at recognizing when a side has a valid point, and when they are using “code words” to activate certain subconcious lines of reasoning. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is notorious for this, in my eyes, and the Humane Society of the United States (see ERV’s take on them) is guilty as well.

    Now, I’m not saying that I take SDG&E at their word that there will be “zero permanent impacts”, but I do see it as an upgrade, rather than fresh building through the park. And without that major claim, I think the anti-Sunrise Powerlink groups don’t have much to go on. Local solar can only get us so far, industrial solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, etc. in remote locations would seem to be more cost-effective.

  61. #61 DCA
    October 21, 2008

    @ Larry #53: “Just because the line is there does not mean it has capacity.” The Southwest Powerlink has been stated to have capacity for about 300 MW of additional power.”

    That does seem to be a significant amount of capacity left in the line. If that’s true, it definitely weakens their argument of need. There could be a steep growth curve in the area though. As part of a transmission project, you have to project the growth of the system over 5 to 10 years. Does anyone know where the line is going to?

  62. #62 AtheistAcolyte
    October 21, 2008

    #61 (DCA) –

    Two points to bring up:
    Sunrise PL brings power to the northern section of SD County, whereas Southwest PL brings it to the southwestern side. If we want to get energy from Southwest to the northern part of the county, additional transmission capacity must be built.

    Second, another big reason for this is energy reliability. Southwest has been brought down 20 times over the last 15 years due to some form of natural or man-made disaster. An additional line would also be brought down at the same time. The name of the game is distribution; if you have multiple legs traveling through different parts of the country, your supply is more secure.

    A map of the line can be found here:
    http://www.sdge.com/sunrisepowerlink/SPL_Media_MAP_090408.pdf

  63. #63 DCA
    October 21, 2008

    @#62: Can’t agree more with your second point. I mentioned the same thing above. Do you know what the growth is like in the area that this line will be going to?

  64. #64 Austin
    October 21, 2008

    Why can’t someone be against Prop 8 AND against Prop 7 ????

    If you read Prop 7 it fast-tracks industrial-scale power plants (but NOT smaller ones) and makes it so desert residents can not fight the approvals.

    Why must I lose my land for LADWP to put 200-ft tall power lines? Why must (at least) two Nature Preserve be sacrificed “for the greater good”?

    Here’s a controversial proposal: The City of Los Angeles should look to solve it’s own garbage problem without dumping it at Eagle Mountain, should solve it’s own water problem without sucking it out of the Cadiz aquifer, and should solve it’s own power problem without wrecking our homes. It’s LA that is guilty of “NIMBYism” by making others pay the cost of their greed.

  65. #65 AtheistAcolyte
    October 21, 2008

    @#63-
    According to the San Diego Union Tribune, “Growth” is the major issue for the 3 candidates looking at 2 open San Marcos City Council seats:

    San Marcos has been moving ahead with plans to create a $1 billion downtown area, with housing above stores, offices and parks, along the San Marcos Creek. Much of it would be paid for by private developers.

    It also has been drafting ideas for a proposed mixed-use development called University District, with student housing, retail and office buildings, near California State University San Marcos.

    All three candidates embrace the downtown plan and support the concepts of University District.

    @#64 –
    Prop 7? Who’s talking about Prop 7? This is a public utility proposal which, apparently, needs to be approved by the Governor.

  66. #66 Ichthyic
    October 21, 2008

    Wow. I’m a Southern Californian. Too many of the comments so far sound like astroturfing to me.

    When did a private company building a power line in a state park become a good idea?

    about the time the coastal commission was bought out by developers.

    Amazing what has happened in CA, and the change in attitudes, over the last 20 years.

    People in this state used to think the “mitigation” thing was the bad end of things (and they were right), now apparently mitigation is the “acceptable” compromise. I guess only going as far as strip mining the local ski paradise would draw much consternation any more.

    did I mention I am moving to NZ at the end of the month?

    I’m sure I did.

  67. #67 Sphere Coupler
    October 22, 2008

    Are you serious? Save a hobbit hole for me.

  68. #68 Janek
    October 22, 2008

    Re: #46

    When did a private company building a power line in a state park become a good idea?

    About the same time the implications of the Hubbert Peak sink in.

    I must have missed that. Was it the legislature or a voter initiative that changed the mission of the California state park system?

    When did treating private companies as the enemy become a good idea?

    I don’t see how denying a private company the right to develop public lands equates with “treating them like the enemy.”

    “The purpose of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is to make available to the people forever, for their inspiration, enlightenment, and enjoyment, a spacious example of the plains, hills, and mountains of the western Colorado Desert, embracing extensive zones of unimpaired natural integrity, and representing all the varied scenic, historic, scientific, and recreational resources of the region.”
    link: http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/795/files/purpose_statements.pdf

    Sounds to me like keeping out power lines, for one example, is the point of the park. So much of California is fucked up already, we need to actually preserve what we promised future generations we would preserve, not sacrifice it to short term greed. And yes, keeping the AC going is short term greed, when you come down to it.

  69. #69 Luis Dias
    October 22, 2008

    For a scientist, you sure are sounding like a redneck in reverse, PZ! This comment of yours is hilarious:

    Read Chris’s post. These powerlines do not create new power for you.

    Well, forget that he didn’t post any evidence whatsoever backing his ridiculous claim that solar rooftops are economic (hint, they surely aren’t), and that his other arguments are laughable.

    But the notion that someone had even said that “powerlines create power, is hilarious in itself.

    These powerlines are essencial to the quite ecological alternative solar and wind power stations in the southeast. To claim otherwise is bullshit. To say that rooftops in a fragmented way is more economical than centralized power is ideology of the worst sort, it’s simply not true, and it’s quite possible that it will never be. If prices of rooftop solar panels lower, so will the price of centralized stations.

    Economy of scale, anyone?

    Well, I love your blog, PZ, and I often don’t comment until I disagree, like this time.

  70. #70 AtheistAcolyte
    October 22, 2008

    @#68 (Janek) –

    I understand the knee-jerk reaction to having power lines through a state park. It’s ugly, and seems anathema to the state park system. But it’s only a knee-jerk reaction.

    There are currently power lines going through Anza-Borrego. They do not have the capacity needed for Sunrise, but they are legally there. Not much will change by replacing them with higher-capacity lines. And the power they bring to the northern part of SD County will be very valuable in building up their economy.

    Just because a public utility is stringing new lines over old ones doesn’t mean the end of state parks as we know them. We’re not throwing the doors open for strip malls and roller rinks. Maybe the knee-jerk reaction isn’t the right one. Stop. Read. Think.

  71. #71 Ichthyic
    October 22, 2008

    Save a hobbit hole for me.

    will do, though I have to say it looks so beautiful that I doubt I will be looking for places to live below ground.

    ;)

    actually, a hobbit hole would be ideal for where I’m living now out in the desert SW.

  72. #72 gsinger
    October 23, 2008

    SoCal Edison is leading the way,in California, for renewable in basin solar electricity generation. Mr. Clarke & Mr. Hogue have very clearly and intelligently explained the problems with the Sunrise Powerlink Proposal. Unfortunately SDG&E is pushing hard to get their transmission lines built to insure investor’s profits(transmission lines are one of the best ways for them to get a high return on their money) and continue their plan to transport unregulated and hence dirtier fossil fuel generated electricity from their new Baja LNG facility. This is greedy company is trying to profit off the destruction of our parklands.
    This proposal lacks any semblance of planning!!
    Recently Mike Niggli, of SDG&E, changed his tune and suggested that SDG&E might be open to Southern Route. Previously Mr. Niggli said this route was impossible due to Indian Land holdings. This desperate gesture to keep the Sunrise Powerlink alive, is no reason to rejoice, the Cuyamaca Mountain viewsheds and Boulder Creek drainage environs,would replace Anza Borrego Desert Park as the parklands and wilderness on the chopping block

  73. #73 AtheistAcolyte
    October 23, 2008

    Sempra’s LNG plant in Mexico, Termoelectrica de Mexicali, was built to be the cleanest LNG plant in North America. Not only does it run cleaner than many traditional plants in the Imperial Valley (which can be closed once TdM is at full capacity, reducing the net pollution), but Sempra is spending $1m per year to process raw wastewater from Mexicali to run through its cooling process.

    You see, Mexicali cannot process all of it’s sewage, and it finds its way into the US. Sempra is helping ‘recycle’ that water into something useful. Just because TdM is under less regulation doesn’t mean it’s dirtier. Get your causation right.

    Just realize for a moment that demonizing the other side as a “greedy company” or questioning their motives as just “insur[ing] investor’s profits” might just be counterproductive to actually getting what needs to be done, done. Division is so mindless fundamentalism. Be a part of the solution rather than try to make the other side out to be the devil.

  74. #74 gidon
    October 23, 2008

    Mea Culpa in my haste I confused the Southern Route with another alternate route proposed by SDG&E which would directly affect Cuyamaca Mountain viewsheds and the Boulder Creek area. The Southern Route is less detrimental than this other alternate or the Northern Route but it still isn’t necessary. Abandoning sound planning for guaranteed profits isn’t demonizing SDG&E it is simply stating the mileu we are in.The current financial debacle makes a decent analogy, regarding corporation’s bottom line pushing rationality to the wayside

  75. #75 gidon
    October 23, 2008

    Mea Culpa in my haste I confused the Southern Route with another alternate route proposed by SDG&E which would directly affect Cuyamaca Mountain viewsheds and the Boulder Creek area. The Southern Route is less detrimental than this other alternate or the Northern Route but it still isn’t necessary. Abandoning sound planning for guaranteed profits isn’t demonizing SDG&E it is simply stating the mileu we are in.The current financial debacle makes a decent analogy, regarding corporation’s bottom line pushing rationality to the wayside. I beleive I mentioned alternatives as well: IN BASIN, SEE BILL POWER’S SMARTENERGY 20/20 PROPOSAL. REGARDING CURRENT PROJECTS, SEE SOCAL EDISON’S IN BASIN ROOFTOP SOLAR PROPOSAL

  76. #76 AtheistAcolyte
    October 23, 2008

    You make assertions that there was unsound planning. What evidence do you have for such claims?

  77. #77 stop the greenwashing
    October 31, 2008

    Wow. It’s worse than I thought here. A lot of good people are fully indoctrinated into the Big Energy Is Good mindframe. What is this, Stockholm Syndrome?

    First of all, let’s get the facts straight. As Larry Hogue mentioned, the OFFICIAL FINDINGS OF THE BLM were that building and maintaining these powerlines would emit so many GHGs that no matter how much “renewable” power it connected to over its entire 40 year lifetime, and no matter how many carbon offsets and other mitigations SDG & E did, they could NEVER come close to offsetting the massive GHGs just from the line. Hopefully that is enough for anyone here who cares about the planet to take a second look at their dogma.

    Secondly, and relatedly, our SW deserts, including the Mojave have been found to be very effective carbon sinks, comparable to a temperate forest, but only when left undamaged. Thirdly, a CSP Solar Thermal system will use BILLIONS of gallons of scarce desert water every year if it is water-cooled (which is critical to get even close to the efficiency levels that would make it worth building). Tens of millions just to rinse mirrors, even if they build a low-efficiency air-cooled plant. Big Wind? Destroys 50 acres for every MW. For contrast, Google has a 1.6 MW system on their roof in Palo Alto. 90 acres of dead wilderness not required.

    I understand how people can be totally mislead, especially when people we “trust” like NRDC’s Robert Kennedy, Jr. are telling us how great giant industrial remote wind and power projects are (not in their viewsheds, of course), but when the curtain is pulled back? He’s heavily invested in Big Solar – Bright Source, to be specific, which completely discredits their position.

    Because re-centralizing power monopolies in a renewable era is strictly a profit play. There is NO technological reason to build giant, wilderness-killing combustion plants obscenely far from demand loads, along with wasteful, lengthy lines, and it is the WORST option for taxpayers and ratepayers who pay 100% of the cost but own NOTHING, and are subject to supply and pricing manipulations (which, yes, Sempra has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for!!).

    You know these lines lose 10% off the top, just in mid-distances, right? And local, point of use renewables actively DECONGEST the existing infrastructure, relieving current loads and making way for excess clean power to be fed to the grid from our properties. NO salt or other industrial storage system is proven, and all this renewable stuff is focusing on PEAKER POWER, which is exactly what rooftop solar produces (12-6). Only rooftop PV does it with no wilderness dead, no water wasted, no gas combusted (yep, CSP and Big Wind use fossil fuels – ooops!), no eminent domain, no GHG emissions, no expensive infrastructure, and no missed opportunities for skilled local jobs, improved property values, and FEED IN TARIFFS to be paid to ratepayers. Like in 40 countries? Germany, Spain, Japan? Paying PEOPLE for producing harmless power and conserving. Payback times are super fast because people are getting PAID, usually 5 years or less.

    Yeah, I said a lot here, I apologize, but it is incredibly frustrating to hear how many people are trying to do the right thing and are being so severely misinformed. This is not about one powerline in one park – this is about our (taxpayer-owned) open spaces being under SIEGE by Big Energy mercenaries – millions and millions of acres are under the gun, here, and unless we divert our Renewables Paradigm to point of use, where it belongs, we will regret it forever. We will be ADDING huge amounts of GHGs to the atmosphere, depleting groundwater, killing off carbon sinks, and supporting a scary Robber Baron future. Haven’t we had enough of that with Big Oil and Big Banks?

    Free yourself! Energy independence means independence from Chevron AND Bright Source AND Pickens, not just swapping out one dependence for another.

  78. #78 Sven DiMilo
    November 22, 2008

    Thanks for #77. A few links to back up the assertions–which I want to believe–would be very helpful.

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