The end of the road for San Diego Gas & Electric’s 900MW renewable energy project?

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
Email

In 2005 San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) signed a joint initiative with the Phoenix-based Stirling Energy Systems. Their mutual goal was to install 900MW of Stirling solar power in the Southern California desert. The plant would have 34,000 dishes, each capable of generating 25kW of power. It seemed like the perfect union of industry, desert and renewable energy. Vital to this plan was the construction of a power transmission line; an endeavour that SDG&E had agreed to partner with Sterling on to construct the $1 billion power line to bring more solar power to California. It didn’t take long for the critics to react; voicing their apprehension at the trouble it could cost the environment. Now three years after the initial planning began, a California administrative law judge, Jean Vieth, with the California Public Utilities Commission has denied the plans to build the high power transmission line from the California desert; a wrench in the plans since without it the project may no longer come to fruition.

Vieth’s decision may seem to be the strongest voice of dissent in regards to the project, but the judge is one in a long line. This past September, agricultural growers and ranchers in the Southern California area argued with state commissioners that their properties should be avoided as a possible route for the project. Essentially, they were refusing the prospect of losing their land in order for the transmission lines to go in. SDG&E countered that the most secure and economic way to link the desert’s wind, solar and geothermal energy to the Californian cities was to string the high-voltage lines over the growers and ranchers land in San Diego and Imperial counties.

Much of the environmental debate has centered over the potential harm that the power line could have on the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Judge Vieth even argued that the 150-foot-high towers could possibly hurt the species of the Park and called the impact “frightening”. Interestingly, there is potential for the transmission lines to be built in a southern route, something that SDG&E executives denied as a possibility this summer, but have now acknowledged as a possibility.
 
“Whichever route they select, we’re going to build,” said Michael Niggli, Chief Operating Officer for Sempra Energy Utilities, SDG&E’s parent company. Adding that although SDG&E preferred the northern route, the company was more than willing to use a more universally agreeable one.

Although taxpayers might be the ones having to pick up the $1.5 billion estimated tab for the project, SDG&E argues that the solar and wind projects it wants to build would help California meet the state mandate for renewable energy. Judge Vieth, in her report on her ruling, opposed this saying, “The potentially high economic costs to ratepayers and the potential implications for our [greenhouse gas] policy objectives do not justify the severe environmental damage that any of the transmission proposals would cause.”

The PUC is scheduled to meet in December to vote on whether to uphold Vieth’s decision. The turmoil that the proposed project has caused leaves some unanswered questions in wake of Tuesday’s election. With President-elect Barack Obama being a strong proponent of renewable energy sources, the opposition that the project has met in California calls into question the actual influence that his administration will have over the industry. Although the Federal government may pass initiatives and proposals to increase the U.S. renewable energy resources, if opposition to solar, wind and geothermal projects like Stirling’s and SDG&E’s continues, Obama’s renewable energy policies may never come to realization.

7 June 2022
The Renewable Energy Trading Summit is the only event in Europe dedicated to renewable energy trading and will bring together renewable power asset owners, investors, exchanges, intermediaries and large energy buyers to discover the future of power sales. This unique event is designed specifically for the most senior players and will provide an excellent forum for business deals, networking and learning. The energy transition is gathering pace with renewable energy attracting increasing sums of capital each year. Solar and wind deployment is increasing annually and governments are ever-more reliant on the renewables sector to stimulate moribund economies. Retirement of fossil fuel assets continues in the background. However, without subsidies and uncertainty around PPAs, renewable asset owners are heading into the wholesale markets to trade power but are they ready for the volatility in revenue this will entail?
9 June 2022
The proliferation of solar PV and other renewables is a cornerstone of the emerging new power system and, as a result, the solar industry has entered its fastest-growth period. This has become typified by surging demand for high-power PV modules that both produce more power and are more efficient than their predecessors. Providing a significant boost to power outputs, large-format modules have become a popular choice for customers the world over. Outdoor testing of modules is now providing empirical evidence of the benefits large-format modules produce, providing a crucial benchmark and invaluable data for customers to evaluate their module selection and procurement processes. In this PV Tech webinar, experts from TÜV Rheinland, CPVT and Trina Solar will discuss how to ensure science based and precision testing under field conditions, how empirical data is collected and analysed during TÜV Rheinland and CPVT’s outdoor testing, the empirical data behind a 670W module’s ultra-high power, and more.
14 June 2022
Join us in Napa to unlock the key to reliable PV module supply to the U.S. market in 2022 & 2023. We'll also be gathering the main players in the US solar market for some wine tasting!
15 June 2022
Consumers are turning to residential renewables in significant numbers, driven by a desire to be environmentally conscious and a wave of high power prices. But turning green requires easy-to-use and, above all, safe technologies that meet expectations. Huawei is committed to building efficient, safe, reliable and grid-supporting smart PV plants that also provide smart services to consumers, and its Residential Solution has been tailored to meet consumer demand. This webinar will demonstrate the full suite of technologies offered within the Huawei Residential Solution, including a smart energy controller, smart AC charger, and AI-powered energy storage solution, and detail how it can place power back in the consumer’s hands.
22 June 2022
The 11th edition of the Large Scale Solar Summit is coming to the US after 10 sell-out years in Europe! Designed as a meeting place for deal-making, we will not only discuss the most up to date topics and technologies but will also provide varied networking platforms so that developers, EPCs, manufacturers, asset owners, and investors can connect with possible clients and partners. In a year expected to break records for the solar market, join us in Texas to meet with the top players in the industry and expand your network as business booms.
19 July 2022
As New South Wales is gearing up to become a renewable energy superpower, an exciting clean energy event is coming to Sydney. Energy Next is a free-to-attend industry event focusing on the latest renewable energy and energy management technologies, which will be held from 19-20 July 2022 at the ICC Sydney in Darling Harbour. Organised by the same people behind the country’s largest clean energy event, All-Energy Australia, Energy Next will bring a quality exhibition and technical session series to NSW. Energy Next will also host the Clean Energy Council’s Solar Masterclass with a program developed for solar designers and installers. Across two days, Energy Next will provide an extensive exhibition, workshops and networking opportunities for those working in the renewable energy industry to meet with leading suppliers, discover the latest technologies and gain an understanding of how to successfully launch new clean energy projects.

Read Next

May 27, 2022
Solar O&M solutions provider Ecoppia is navigating ongoing component shortages while expending its operations into new geographies and ramping up production of its latest PV panel cleaning robot.
May 27, 2022
The CEO of US solar and energy storage developer Borrego has said the company’s project development business will be less capital constrained under the new ownership of investment firm ECP, following a deal announced earlier this week to spin off and sell the unit.
May 26, 2022
US solar and energy storage developer Borrego will spin off and sell its development business, including its more than 8.4GW PV project pipeline, to investment firm ECP.
May 26, 2022
Danish developer Better Energy has partnered with Finish solar company Forus to develop more than 1GW of solar PV in Finland.
May 26, 2022
Leading solar manufacturers have implored governments to implement tax credits and other financial incentives to stimulate domestic PV manufacturing.
May 26, 2022
Spanish utility Iberdrola will invest €3 billion (US$3.2 billion) in green hydrogen, the company’s chairman, Ignacio Galán, has announced as he called for a stable European framework to boost investment in the technology.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
June 7, 2022
Leonardo Royal London City, London, UK
Solar Media Events
June 14, 2022
Napa, USA
Solar Media Events
June 22, 2022
Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol, Austin, Texas