Obama-Backed CA Solar Plant Literally Incinerates Itself

Ivanpah solar energyThe world’s largest solar energy plant known for incinerating birds just got a taste of its own medicine. A fire at the plant Thursday morning, which may have been caused by “misaligned” mirrors used to reflect sunlight at boiler towers, broke out in the facilities interior — literally scorching parts of the plant.

NRG Energy, the company operating the Ivanpah solar plant in southern California, was forced to shut down one of its generating towers and is investigating if mirrors, or heliostats, failed and torched a boiling tower. Now, the plant which got $1.6 billion from the Obama administration, will only be able to generate electricity from one of its three towers.

An NRG spokesman said it’s too early to say exactly what caused the failure, but it’s likely due to misaligned heliostats, according to Gizmodo. Whatever the cause, workers and firefighters literally went through hell to douse the flames.

Gizmodo reports:

A small fire was reported yesterday morning at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) in California, forcing a temporary shutdown of the facility. It’s now running at a third of its capacity (a second tower is down due to scheduled maintenance), and it’s not immediately clear when the damaged tower will restart. It’s also unclear how the incident will impact California’s electricity supply.

Putting out the blaze was not easy task, either. Firefighters were forced to climb 300 feet up a boiler tower to get to the scene. Officials said the fire was located about two-thirds up the tower. Workers at the plant actually managed to subdue the flames by the time firefighters reached the spot, and it was officially extinguished about 20 minutes after it started.

The scorched tower is currently shut down, according to the Associated Press, and it’s not clear when it will come online again. It’s also unclear if this setback will affect California’s electricity supply.

This only adds to Ivanpah’s troubles. The plant was nearly shut down by California regulators for not producing nearly as much power as it was supposed to. Regulators have given the plant until the end of July to meet its power quotas, but this fire may make it hard for the plant to meet its goals.

Ivanpah only generated 45 percent of expected power in 2014 and only 68 percent in 2015, according to government data. And it does all this at a cost of $200 per megawatt hour — nearly six times the cost of electricity from natural gas-fired power plants. Interestingly enough, Ivanpah uses natural gas to supplement its solar production.

It wasn’t long after the plant opened, its operators asked the federal government for a $539 million federal grant to help pay off the $1.6 billion loan it got from the Energy Department.

Environmentalists quickly attacked the project for killing thousands of birds since it opened. Many birds were incinerated by the intense heat reflected off Ivanpah’s heliostats.

The Associated Press cited statistics presented by environmentalists in 2014 that “about a thousand… to 28,000” birds are incinerated by Ivanpah’s heliostats every year.

“Forensic Lab staff observed a falcon or falcon-like bird with a plume of smoke arising from the tail as it passed through the flux field,” according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report from 2014.

Ivanpah — which is owned by BrightSource Energy, NRG Energy and Google — uses more than 170,000 large mirrors, or heliostats, to reflect sunlight towards water boilers set atop 450-foot towers that create steam to turn giant turbines and generate electricity.

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This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Solar Energy Gives Investors a Shock

Ivanpah solar energySolar energy is full of surprises.

The operators of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System were recently surprised by state air quality regulators, who informed them that the $2.2 billion solar energy plant is a carbon polluter.

Solar energy doesn’t emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s the whole point of California’s increasingly mandatory and wildly expensive push to replace fossil fuels with solar and wind energy.

But as it turns out, the sun does not shine at night. This is what happens when governors don’t do any research before they sign legislation.

The Ivanpah plant is located on five square miles of the Mojave Desert near the Nevada border. You can see it from Interstate 15 — it’s that alien-looking landscape of shiny circles surrounding three skeletal towers topped with black-and-white capsules.

The shiny circles are hundreds of thousands of mirrors that aim sunlight at boilers mounted on the towers. The sun boils the water, and the steam rotates turbines, which generate electricity.

But only during the day.

At night, and on cloudy days, Ivanpah burns natural gas to keep the water hot.

And that attracted the attention of the California Air Resources Board, which gave Ivanpah’s operators until Nov. 4 to comply with the state’s cap-and-trade program by cutting the plant’s carbon emissions 10 percent or purchasing pollution credits from somebody who has cut carbon emissions someplace else.

Ivanpah, a “clean energy” plant built with $1.6 billion in federal loan guarantees and $600 million in federal tax credits, now has to pay for being a “polluter” in California.

Solar panelsAnd that’s not the only surprise in the solar business. Some people who invested tens of thousands of dollars in rooftop solar panels have been disappointed by the revenue from net metering — the money they’re supposed to receive for selling surplus electricity back to the grid.

West Hills residents Barbara and Bob Schoenburg are beyond annoyed that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is holding more than $1,000 of their money. The Schoenburgs’ solar panel array, for which they paid about $20,000 after rebates and credits, consistently generates more electricity than they use. But LADWP will not write them a check. Instead, the credit on their bill just grows, year after year. It can’t even be used to pay the rest of the DWP bill for water, taxes or sewer and sanitation charges.

Here’s the surprise: California’s net-metering law, which requires utilities to pay their customers for surplus electricity generated by solar panels, applies to all utilities in the state with one exception — the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Yet some customers of Southern California Edison are equally aggravated. Hidden Hills resident Dr. Daniel Gross invested more than $20,000 in solar panels and was surprised when the installer told him the electricity generated by them could not be used to power his own home.

The electricity from the rooftop panels flows to the grid, and the home is powered with electricity drawn from the grid, as before. Once a year, the utility settles up. “The rate they pay you is markedly less than the rate you pay them,” Gross said, adding that he’d like to install batteries and be off the grid altogether.

“I thought I was doing something good for the country, for the community, for the economy,” he said, “and instead I’m a peripheral provider of electricity that Southern California Edison sells to make money.”

Southern California Edison is concerned about losing customers like Gross. In its most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, SCE disclosed that future revenues could be negatively affected by “possible customer bypass or departure” if new technologies, government subsidies or higher rates made self-generation “economically viable.”

LADWP made a similar disclosure in a recent statement to bond buyers. Self-generation was listed as one of the factors that may “materially affect the operating and financial position of the department.”

SCE and other investor-owned utilities are now asking the California Public Utilities Commission to lower the rate they have to pay their power-generating customers for surplus electricity. And they say the CPUC must approve new fees on solar customers to prevent the existing system from collapsing due to declining revenue.

Gross has no patience for their argument. “That’s the same concern the wagon wheel makers had,” he said.

Maybe that will be the final surprise. If California lawmakers and regulators continue to pretend there’s no longer any need for fossil fuels, wagons could make a comeback.

Unions Clash With Enviros Over NorCal Wind Farm

Usually reliable allies for three liberal causes – renewable energy, environmental protection and labor unions – clashed recently over whether to grant a three-year extension for a wind farm in the Altamont Pass on the eastern fringe of the Bay Area.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved the extension for 828 wind turbines, despite concerns that they have killed thousands of birds, including golden eagles, over the past decade. According to a staff report, an additional 1,692 to 1,847 birds could be killed – including 15 golden eagles, 82 red-tailed hawks, 108 American kestrels and 142 burrowing owls – before the turbines are replaced with safer, more efficient models in late 2018.

Altamont Winds Inc. officials deny that its turbines are the sole cause of the bird deaths. They told the supervisors at the March 24 hearing that many fatalities may have been caused by rodent poison put out by the California Department of Water Resources.

Company officials also contend that mitigation measures, such as retrofitting PG&E power poles to prevent bird electrocution, along with the health benefits of wind power, will actually result in the saving of birds, including a net benefit of five or more golden eagles that might otherwise have perished if not for the wind farm.

But the dozens of environmental activists and bird lovers who spoke at the meeting weren’t buying those arguments.

Environmentalists speak out against wind farms

“For years when I’ve gone past there, my heart has been broken when I’ve known about the piles of birds that have been massacred underneath those wind turbines,” said Nancy Friedman, who described herself as an environmental activist, passionate birder and union supporter. “I passionately believe in wind turbines. But there has to be a better way. The horrible siting of those turbines originally and the number of birds they have killed, that has to be stopped.

“The company talked about various mitigations they have put in place. Why were those mitigations not in place years ago? Why didn’t they figure out how to stop the massacre of those birds years ago? We now have better choices with improved technologies. It’s time to stop the killing now, not in another two or three years when another thousand of these fantastic creatures are murdered.”

That sentiment was echoed by Nancy Weninger, who is the conservation chair of the Mt. Diablo Audubon Society.

Golden Eagle“My father had a saying: fool me once – shame on you, fool me twice – shame on me. AWI already fooled you once obtaining a two-year extension in 2013, agreeing to shut down all of its turbines by the end of this year. They have made no significant progress toward repowering [with next-generation windmills]. And now they want to fool you twice by seeking another extension until 2018.

“They have known for almost 10 years that they would need to shut down and replace their old turbines. In the meantime the birds have been paying the ultimate price. Hundreds of golden eagles, burrowing owls, American kestrels and red-tailed hawks have died while AWI dragged its feet on repowering and continued to profit from their old turbines.

“Please don’t let them fool you again. Granting them another extension would be two giant steps backward in the county’s efforts to make the APWRA [Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area] a model for safe, green energy.”

Unions favor turbine extension

While most speakers were opposed to the extension, several labor union representatives argued for it, pointing out that the repowering will create union jobs.

“We have just come out of a major recession; thousands of our members out of work; home foreclosures; strong economic difficulty,” said Andreas Cluver, representing the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council. “It’s projects like these that are going to put the people back to work. We still have significant unemployment. We are looking for you to re-permit this to provide the opportunity for those members to work.”

That argument was countered by Tara Mueller, representing the state attorney general’s office, who said there is “no substantial evidence that there would be jobs that would outweigh significant and unavoidable adverse environmental impacts of this extension. …

“Removal of these turbines in 2015, as required by the current AWI permits, will actually result in faster repowering, which will result in more efficiently produced renewable energy and more jobs. This repowering has all the same economic and environmental benefits as the old turbines without the unacceptably high cost to wildlife and avian resources.”

Fish and WildlifeAlso weighing in against the project is the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Wrote USF&WS agent Jill Birchell in Feb. 19 letter to the county:

“The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act prohibits a variety of actions with respect to eagles, including unauthorized ‘take.’ Since January 2010 … approximately 31 unpermitted eagle fatalities have been recorded at AWI in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area. Although companies are not legally required to seek or obtain an eagle take permit, the take of an eagle without a permit is a violation of the Eagle Act, and could result in civil or criminal prosecution.

“The Service continues to recommend that Alameda County … enforce AWI’s current permit requiring removal of its 828 existing wind turbines by Oct. 31, 2015. To do otherwise will likely result in more eagles being killed by AWI’s turbines, further increasing AWI’s liability and possibly subjecting the County to increased scrutiny for having approved the CUP [conditional use permit] extension proposal.”

Extensive regulations to blame?

AWI officials blamed California’s extensive environmental regulations for delaying the repowering project.

“The process to obtain interconnection rights has prevented us from repowering as soon as we would like,” said AWI legal counsel Ashley Brown. “AWI has been working with the Cal ISO [California Independent System Operator] since 2012 to secure transmission and interconnection rights after repowering. We were ahead of schedule, only to be faced with the realization in 2014 that we would have to follow the two-year cluster study process, which won’t be complete until 2016.

“Repowering is a complex process. And the Cal ISO interconnect study is only one step. Repowering is much more than taking down old wind turbines and putting up new ones. It is basically developing a brand new project.

“Just like building a brand new wind farm, repowering requires new land leases, permits, environmental studies, wind studies, project engineering, new power purchasing agreements, wind turbine procurement and construction, among other tasks. However, we are on schedule to repower in 2018.”

But the company might have to pack up and leave if it’s not granted the three-year extension, warned AWI President Rick Koebbe. “I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but it would be very difficult to do,” he said. “Just because the staff that I’m using for repowering is the staff I’m using to operate the wind farms. So if there’s no revenues after this year, most of the staff would have to go away.”

Benefits of wind power

Koebbe concluded his presentation to the board by touting the benefits of his operation.

“The benefits of this wind project include $100 million in economic benefits, about 40 high-skilled jobs, 75 union jobs,” he said. “Our clean wind power displaces/avoids 609 million pounds of greenhouse gas and toxic air pollutants. There we save and avoid $12 million in health costs, including premature death, heart attacks and asthma.

“We save over 950 birds, including a net five more eagles. And mitigation is more than sufficient to account for the potential impacts, including over $16.5 million in mitigation costs that we’ve spent so far since 2007. We’re a small business based in Alameda County. We want to continue to provide the climate, environmental and economic benefits of clean wind power through 2018 until repowering.”

The three supervisors who approved the extension echoed Koebbe’s remarks. Supervisor Richard Valle said he sides with jobs over birds. Twenty-three of AWI’s employees have 27 children, he said, basing that on a 1.2 child-per-parent ratio.

“Not too many people spoke for those children,” he said. “Their mothers and fathers lose their jobs if AWI does not get their permits. Those are important numbers. I care about the environment, jobs, people, clean water. As of now my office has received over 75 emails, letters and phone calls from constituents asking us to save birds and golden eagles in the Altamont. Very few calls have come in about saving these children’s parents’ jobs.”

Cause of death skeptics

Supervisor Nate Miley spoke for 15 minutes defending the three-year extension for AWI’s wind farm. He’s skeptical that the turbine blades are causing bird deaths.

“I think everyone agrees that wind power is a good thing,” Miley said. “I don’t think there’s any disputing that. So what people are saying is that AWI is responsible for the avian mortalities. And I just find that incredulous. Because even when the turbines are turned off [in the winter], the birds are still dying. So I don’t understand why folks are putting all of that responsibility on AWI. It baffles me.

“I’ve been on the side of supporting environmental issues. But I’ve also been on the side of supporting labor. I respect people’s right to advocate for their positions. I have a responsibility as an elected official to try to balance the equities and look at what I think is in the public good. And if I can’t make a determination that a company is responsible for all of the bird deaths that folks seem to attribute to them, it’s like you’re playing me for a fool. And I’m not going to be anybody’s fool.

“Wind power is a clean source of energy, and it’s green energy. I think some people would like to see us magically go from where our society is to a society that’s perfect, pure and no problems. I’d like to see that in the city of Oakland where we don’t have any pathologies or shootings or muggings or anything like that. When my constituents who live in east Oakland can take the bars off their windows and feel comfortable walking the streets at night and in the evening. I’d like to wave a magic wand and make that happen. But we’ve got to get there incrementally.”

Wilma Chan, one of the two supervisors who voted against the extension, believes AWI has been too slow to fix its problems.

“I’m not trying to point a finger at AWI,” she said. “I don’t know the number of bird deaths. But I think everyone in this room does agree that repowering is an acceptable practice in reducing bird deaths. I would have preferred if we were going to extend, that we do it for a shorter period of time. Because I don’t think there’s been enough progress. This has been going on for 10 years.”

Campaign contributions

The supervisors who voted for the extension may have been influenced by campaign contributions, according to a Contra Costa Times article. Since 2006 AWI has contributed $19,750 to board chair Scott Haggerty, $5,306 to Miley and $764 to Valle. The supervisors and a company official denied any connection between the contributions and the extension approval.

Originally published on CalWatchdog.com

Elon Musk May Have Even More Cash To Roll In Thanks To Solar Subsidies

Elon Musk has made millions from government solar panel subsidies, and may have found a way to make even more if rumors Tesla will soon introduce a whole-home battery are true.

Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and chairman of solar panel manufacturer SolarCity, set off a wave of anxious speculation Monday when he tweeted that “[a] major new Tesla product line—not a car” would be unveiled on April 30.

Neither Musk nor Tesla have confirmed any details about the new product, but according to The Motley Fool, many observers believe the new product will be a home battery capable of storing electricity produced by solar panels.

Musk told investors during a February conference call Tesla would begin production of a home battery within about six months, and further reinforced expectations with a second tweet, in which he said, “With all that solar power being generated, it almost feels like something is needed to complete the picture …”

Many experts, however, claim much of the reason for all that solar power being generated is that state and federal subsidies make rooftop solar panels affordable in the first place. (RELATED: Solar Industry Demands Extension of Subsidies)

In an op-ed for Townhall, for instance, Ken Blackwell asserts that, “Very few people would install these rooftop solar systems at all if not for the federal tax break that comes with it,” which takes the form of a 30 percent non-refundable tax credit known as the solar investment tax credit.

Even the Solar Energy Industries Association, a national trade group, acknowledges as much on its website, noting that, “the residential and commercial solar ITC has helped annual solar installation grow by over 1,600 percent since the ITC was implemented in 2006.”

Another program that acts as an implicit subsidy for solar is net metering, which requires power companies to purchase excess solar from homeowners at the same price they charge their retail customers. Most states have their own net metering policies, and since 2005, federal law has required all public electric utilities to offer net metering to their solar customers on request.

Electric companies complain that net metering ignores the cost of operating and maintaining power grids, which they say accounts for about one-third of the price they charge for electricity. Because solar customers use the grid whenever they buy or sell power, the utilities argue net metering allows solar users to use the grid as a battery without contributing toward operating costs, forcing them to raise rates on other customers. (RELATED: Low-Income, Minority Households Bear Costs of Solar Subsidies)

According to a study from the University of Colorado at Boulder conducted by Chrystie Burr, “most of the investments in solar power systems wouldn’t have been made without the … upfront subsidy and the residential renewable energy tax credit.”

Similarly, a study by Kenneth Reddix II of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill concludes that in California, “over 54 percent of all purchases would have not occurred … in the absence of government subsidies.” (RELATED: Europe’s Green Energy Industry Faces Collapse as Subsidies are Cut)

If Tesla’s new product does turn out to be a home battery, as is widely expected, Musk will stand to profit twice from those subsidies—once from SolarCity’s sales of the subsidized panels, and then again from Tesla’s sale of home batteries to the same customers.

“Elon Musk is making a big play for American solar and all the subsidies that go along with it,” an energy industry consultant told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “If you’re getting millions from the federal government and a subsidized power grid, you might as well keep offering related products.”

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Senator de Leon’s Green Vision Has Valley Seeing Red

Senator Kevin de Leon, the same Los Angeles State Senator who proclaimed that “no one lives out there in the tumbleweeds” when referring to the Central Valley, has proven that he still doesn’t understand the realities faced by hardworking people who live here.

His recent op-ed in the Fresno Bee pitching Senate Bill 350 was an unconvincing argument for an economy-stifling nightmare that might excite people living in San Francisco or Newport Beach but would actually be a burden to people living in the Central Valley. This irresponsible mandate includes plans to force cuts to gas and diesel use by 50 percent, as well as increase renewable energy 50 percent in the next 15 years. Many people in the Central Valley, like thousands of farm workers who Senator de León says he is trying to help, have no choice but to gas up and drive long distances to and from work. Any small improvements to the environment would be overshadowed by the strangulation of the oil and gas industry, not to mention the financial impacts on every driver in this state as the cost of filling up cars, trucks or tractors skyrockets.

Families who have chosen to make their living in the Central Valley don’t have the mass transit options like those in the Bay Area and the great majority certainly don’t have the extra cash to spend on a new hybrid or electric car. Had Senator de Leon bothered to concern himself with the differences between the Central Valley and L.A. or the Bay Area he would know that one-third of all electric vehicle owners in California live in just two counties: Los Angeles and Santa Clara. Less than one percent live in the Valley’s two most populated counties: Fresno and Kern, according to the California Air Resources Board. And almost 70 percent of these elusive, electric car owners make more than $100,000 a year – far more than Fresno County’s median annual income of $45,500.

Californians are struggling to afford the highest cost of living in the nation thanks to high taxes, regulations and a growing dependence on new fees like those collected from cap-and-trade. We must continue to be wary of plans intended to help save the environment that aren’t based in reality and don’t offer any markers for success. California’s families, farmers and business owners can’t afford to foot the bill for Senator de Leon’s extreme energy and environmental policies.

Originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily

Assemblyman Jim Patterson represents the 23rd District, which includes portions of Fresno and Tulare counties.

Fracking: California Newspapers Aren’t Telling the Whole Story

Anti-fracking sentiment is growing in California. In November, voters in Mendocino and San Benito Counties voted to ban the energy-extraction process, which involves injecting a pressurized mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into rock to release the natural gas trapped inside. In all likelihood, Golden State voters will be asked to consider a statewide fracking ban in November 2016. Not only do California’s environmentalists want to make a statement to the world; they also believe an anti-fracking ballot initiative would help boost turnout among voters sympathetic to liberal causes and politicians. This sentiment—along with sharp criticism by activists of Governor Jerry Brown’s relatively moderate views on hydraulic fracturing in California—led U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in January to call proponents of local fracking bans “know-nothings.”

In an interview with Northern California PBS affiliate KQED, Jewell said the proposed bans on fracking were misguided. “I think it’s going to be very difficult for industry to figure out what the rules are if different counties have different rules,” she said. “There are a lot of fears out there in the general public and that manifests itself with local laws or regional laws. … There is a lot of misinformation about fracking. I think that localized efforts or statewide efforts in many cases don’t understand the science behind it and I think there needs to be more science.”

A full-throated defense of fracking’s safety from an Obama administration cabinet official would seem newsworthy. But a Nexis search reveals that the only mention of Jewell’s pro-fracking remarks in a California newspaper came in my own editorial for U-T San Diego. This was no fluke. With the exception of a handful of stories in the San Francisco Chronicle, the state’s largest papers almost never report the administration’s view that—with prudent regulation—fracking can be safe.

At a May 2013 press conference, Jewell discussed new regulations governing fracking on public lands. She delivered her by-now standard endorsement of the practice and criticized misinformation about the energy-extraction technique peddled by environmentalists. “I know there are those who say fracking is dangerous and should be curtailed, full stop,” she said. “That ignores the reality that it has been done for decades and has the potential for developing significant domestic resources and strengthening our economy.”

That quotation appeared in the New York Times. The Los Angeles Times omitted Jewell’s quote and chose instead to turn to a spokesman for the Western Energy Alliance, a Denver-based trade association, for the pro-fracking view. If a pro-fracking comment appears in a California paper, you can be sure it will be from one of the Golden State media’s favorite bogeyman—either an energy trade association representative or an oil company executive.

Environmental-beat reporters at the L.A. Times, the Sacramento Bee, the San Jose Mercury-News, and other large state newspapers have reported on the Obama administration’s other energy policies, including its opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. But even as the president campaigned for reelection in 2012 with boasts about all the natural gas and oil produced by fracking during his first term, these reporters have somehow decided his views aren’t worth sharing with their readers.

In 1980, Arnaud de Borchgrave and Robert Moss published a thriller about a Soviet plot to subvert the United States called The Spike. It was inspired by de Borchgrave’s years as a journalist and his belief that stories that didn’t reflect news organizations’ liberal political views often got “spiked” (pulled from publication)—even really juicy and provocative stories.

It’s almost impossible to look at California newspapers’ coverage of fracking and not see it as “The Green Spike.” The narrative that the greenest president in history thinks fracking is safe doesn’t fit with the narrative that fracking is dangerous. So in newsrooms across the Golden State, the real views of this president and his administration are considered irrelevant—even as his interior secretary throws down the gauntlet with California’s greens.

Understanding the Meaning about Green Jobs

Given the upcoming proposals on the next generation climate policies, it is critically important to start understanding exactly what the green economy means to California’s long term jobs future. According to a recent review from the Center for Jobs and the Economy, multiple studies indicate that 2% of all California jobs are classified as green jobs.  There is evidence that California has gained temporary jobs around construction and installation of solar facilities and consulting work for government and private employers, but it appears that the green sector has not yet developed substantial permanent, middle income jobs for a long term employment base.

We need to put the numbers into perspective and understand the unique role they will play and how we can develop state policies that recognize their importance while growing the other 98% of our current jobs in other sectors.

For example, the only hard green jobs data from the state was a California Employment Development Department (EDD) survey from May 2009 to January 2010 which found that “the results also showed no discernable difference in the likelihood that a green or non-green firm would experience a net job gain.” The state should have the latest and most transparent green jobs data to help the Governor and policymakers in their decision-making.

While some green industry sectors are growing, many studies rely on reclassification of traditional jobs such as those in garbage, public transit, utilities, and government regulatory positions as “green” in order to arrive at their numbers.  This issue is critically important because major environmental and energy policy decisions will be based on these classifications and incomplete numbers. The Center noted that some reports on green jobs build their numbers by including indirect jobs, including supporting services such as “consulting, finance, tax, and legal services.”

The analysis also found that nuclear, hydro, and natural gas power jobs are treated as green jobs, including in the most recent higher estimates, although those facilities are not designated as such under the AB 32 program.  If we expect to have an accurate accounting that will guide policy-making, then we need to start with a reasoned and practical definition of a green job to be used by government and private entities.

You can find the study here.
Rob Lapsley is President, California Business Roundtable

Solar Energy Will Produce Less Than One Percent Of US Power In 2015

Despite millions in subsidies and government loans, solar power is projected to remain a tiny portion of overall electricity generation in the U.S., according to Energy Department figures.

Utility-scale solar power generation is projected to increase in 2015, but it will still make up only 0.6 percent of total U.S. electricity generation, according to the Energy Information Administration. Utility-scale solar has more than doubled in 2013 and EIA expects solar capacity will nearly double again in 2015.

Federal, state and local subsidy regimes and green energy mandates have helped the solar industry grow in the last few years. In the third quarter of 2014 alone 1,354 megawatts of photovoltaic (PV) solar power capacity was installed, a 41 percent leap over the same time period in 2013.

There is now 16 gigawatts of operating PV solar capacity in the U.S., according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The group says that 36 percent of the new generating capacity that came online in 2014 has come from solar.

Most of the growth in solar comes from the PV market, SEIA reports. But concentrated solar generation saw huge growth earlier this year when the Ivanpah solar facility in Southern California finally came online.

Ivanpah, the world’s largest concentrated solar plant, uses 173,500 heliostat mirrors to reflect sunlight onto centralized towers. The sunlight heats up water in the towers which turns into steam to generate electricity.

The project is co-owned by Google, NRG Energy and BrightSource Energy and was given a $1.6 billion loan by the Obama administration in an effort to incentivize more utility-scale solar projects.

“It’s going to put about 1,000 people to work building a state-of-the-art facility. And when it’s complete, it will turn sunlight into the energy that will power up to 140,000 homes,” President Obama said.

But Ivanpah has not lived up to its expectations. Not even a year after it began operations, the project’s owners have asked the federal government for a $539 million grant to help pay back its federal loan.

Apparently, Ivanpah has only been generating about one-quarter of the energy it was said it could produce. Why? Because the sun hasn’t been shining as much as studies predicted it would.

Because of the lack of sun, the plant has had to increase its use of natural gas to heat up its water towers. Natural gas is used to prime the steam boilers before the panels come online so the plant can quickly generate power. Gas is also used to keep power going during times of intermittent sunshine.

“This is an attempt by very large cash generating companies that have billions on their balance sheet to get a federal bailout, i.e. a bailout from us – the taxpayer for their pet project,” Reason Foundation vice president Julian Morris told Fox News. “It’s actually rather obscene.”

Despite Ivanpah’s problems it has still been named the “2014 Renewable Energy Project of the Year” by Renewable Energy World – a green energy news publication.

This piece was originally published at the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Brown fuels incentives for alternative-energy cars

Convinced carbon emissions pose an “existential threat” to the human race, Gov. Jerry Brown just signed a set of bills designed to push ahead an environmental agenda dependent on automobiles that don’t run on gas. Among other new rules, regulations and programs, the new legislation set three changes in motion.

Assembly Bill 2013, by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, expanded the sticker program that authorizes drivers of low-emissions vehicles to use High Occupancy Vehicle lanes regardless of whether they carry any passengers. The bill raised the total number of stickers authorized for DMV issuance from 55,000 to 75,000.440px-Electric_car_charging_Amsterdam

Aware of the symbolic political value of statistics, Gov. Brown has sought to use memorable numbers to capture the environmental imagination of elites and the public alike. That approach was evident in an additional bill signed by Brown, Senate Bill 1275, by state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles; on Oct. 15 he will become the Senate’s president pro tempore.

It officially set a goal of one million zero- or near-zero emissions vehicles on California roads by 2023. In addition to ordering the California Air Resources Board to create a plan to meet the objective, SB1275 required the board to create new incentives for lower-income residents, who are less likely to purchase or lease alternative energy cars or trucks.

To do that, CARB was tasked to expand California’s electric and hybrid car rebate program. First used in 2010, over 75,000 rebates have gone out to Golden State motorists. As the Los Angeles Times reported, CARB will beef up that program by offering extra credit to qualifying “low-income drivers” who choose an electric vehicle.

Moreover, CARB will oversee the installation of new charging stations in selected low-income residential buildings and bolster car-sharing programs in targeted neighborhoods. “Low-income residents who agree to scrap older, more polluting cars will also get clean-vehicle rebates on top of existing payments for junking smog-producing vehicles,” according to the Times.

Beyond cars

Finally, Brown signed off on legislation using CARB to push alternate fuel use for heavier vehicles. That bill, SB1204, was introduced by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens. Its aim is to subsidize the development, purchase and leasing of zero- and near-zero emission buses and trucks, dramatizing Brown’s vision of an overhauled transportation infrastructure for California.

To do that, however, SB1204 authorized $200 million in cap-and-trade fee revenue to be allocated to various incentives for alternate-fuel buses and trucks. In the recent past, Brown came under fire, even from environmentalists, for diverting cap-and-trade funds to his prized but costly high-speed rail project. Although critics have not rallied against the new allocation of funds, Brown’s rival in this year’s gubernatorial race did not hesitate to jump on the move.

“If he was serious about climate change,” Neel Kashkari told the Sacramento Bee, “he would be taking the cap-and-trade revenue and funding basic research at Stanford, at Berkeley, at Caltech, so we develop cleaner technologies that are also cheaper, and we export them around the world.”

A final mission

With Brown’s tenure in Sacramento coming to an end either this year or in four years, his idiosyncratic but dogged approach to environmental issues has taken on the air of a capstone personal project. At this week’s United Nations summit on climate issues, Brown told world leaders that within six months he planned to set new, lower carbon emissions goals for 2030.

AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, mandated reducing carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2020, just six years away.

Realizing his ambitions, Brown said, will take more ambition and more technology, “and will also require heightened political will.”

James Polous is a contributor to Calwatchdog. This piece was originally posted on Calwatchdog.com