Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Colorado Enviornmental Group Praises Solar Site Selection

A national environmental group, urging the government to keep solar projects on the least-sensitive public lands, praised a potential development site near Antonito, Colorado.

A report Monday by The Wilderness Society calls the 9,600-acre parcel near Antonito the best of the Colorado options being looked at for utility-scale solar plants. The report anticipates the release of a draft environmental impact statement by the government later this week.

The draft is expected to help formulate development policy and also examine the potential impacts to 24 areas in six western states that have high solar potential.

The Wilderness Society praised the Antonito parcel as the best of Colorado's four potential zones, all of which sit in the San Luis Valley. The site, which sits just southeast of town and borders U.S. 285, is of limited value to wildlife or for recreation, according to the report.

The strength of the sun over the property, as measured by the direct normal insulation, also received a high rating. Moreover, the proximity to the highway would cut down on impacts from construction, the report said.

Alex Daue, the society's renewable energy coordinator, said that while the Antonito site was the best, the group hasn't called for any of the sites in the state to be taken off the table.

"Overall, the zones were well selected," he said.

But The Wilderness Society's willingness to back large scale solar projects drew criticism from a local group that is battling a proposal on private land near Saguache.

Ceal Smith, of the San Luis Valley Renewable Communities Alliance said large-scale plants, which take up thousands of acres, can completely unravel ecosystems.

Moreover, they're not as cost efficient as distributed solar generation which can take the form of roof-top panels or small-scale projects, Smith said..

Daue said larger plants are needed to more quickly meet the group's goal of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The group has not taken a position on a proposed transmission line from Pueblo to the San Luis Valley.


1 comment:

Ceal Smith said...

TWS makes the argument that remotely sited utility-scale solar is cheaper and faster due to efficiencies of scale, the reality doesn't not bear out for two reasons. Transporting electricity long distances is hugely inefficient (>15% line loss) and often requires expensive new transmission ($.5 billion just in the case of the SoCo line) that can take years if not decades to implement. Both of these factors needlessly inflate the cost of renewable energy while greatly slowing down the pace of installation. Germany installed 1 GW of decentralized solar in a single year - the claim that we need remote industrial solar to make rapid megawatt gains is simply unfounded.

Furthermore, unraveling intact ecosystems on the massive scale being proposed by BLM/TWS creates more environmental problems than it solves. Its not surprising that industrial solar initiatives are being promoted by BP, Chevron, Goldman Sachs etc., the same old energy interests that brought us the gulf oil disaster and our current economic catastrophe. Privatizing public lands for business as usual industry gain is NOT the answer to our energy/climate problems. Prioritizing solar energy generation in our communities at the point of use on the existing transmission infrastructure will keep renewable energy affordable and environment/consumer friendly while integrating incentives for efficiency and conservation. More on DG vs Big Solar at: http://slvrenewablecommunities.blogspot.com/p/tessera-1041-app.html

We'd really like to see the Big Enviros move away from supporting the wholesale privatization and destruction of our intact public lands but I guess keeping a seat at the table of industry is more important to TWS than doing the right thing.