Obama administration policy on development of renewable energy for the last six years has often been marked by intransigence against siting big solar and wind facilities on disturbed land rather than intact wildlife habitat. It's certainly been a frequent topic of our reportage here at ReWire. The Interior Department has often dismissed the notion of, for instance, including a "disturbed land alternative" in its environmental assessments of big desert solar facilities, even though Interior's colleagues at the EPA have been going to a lot of effort to catalog those very disturbed lands for potential renewable energy development.
Instead, the Administration has often seemed to pay no heed at all to the notion that all other things being equal, it's better to plunk a hundred thousand solar panels on an old landfill or pile of mine tailings than it is to bulldoze intact wildlife habitat for those solar panels, especially if the wildlife habitat is farther away from the people who need the power.
But a relatively obscure clause in a Presidential Memorandum issued last week may signal a change.
After the news broke Friday morning that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to extend the reach of wind industry permits to kill bald and golden eagles, a national wind industry trade group is lauding the move, but saying the industry needs more concessions from those charged with protecting eagles.
In a statement published Friday, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) praised the extension of "take" permits under the Bald and Golden Eagle Act from five years to a maximum of 30 years, but said that "additional concerns" about the permit rule's impact on the wind industry would require more negotiation between wind companies, FWS, and AWEA's "partners in the conservation community."
"[T]his rule must only be a first step in creating a rational and effective approach to eagle permitting," AWEA said, "and we look forward to working with FWS, the Department of Interior, and our partners in the conservation community to address additional permit program concerns through future revisions to the Permit Rule."
In a long-anticipated move that has prompted howls of outrage from conservation groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced it will be extending the maximum length of the permits it's granting wind energy facility operators to injure or kill bald and golden eagles.
The permits, technically known as take permits under the federal Bald And Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), will be extended to last up to 30 years from the current maximum of five years, according to a new rule that will be published Monday in the Federal Register.
The change in the tenure of eagle take permits, which has been in the works for more than a year, marks an historic reversal of USFWS policy in its enforcement of the nation's eagle protection laws -- and some normally moderate environmental groups are condemning it in no uncertain terms.
As we close in on the end of the year, it's customary to look back and assess the past. And when it comes to renewable energy in California, the year drawing to a close has been an epochal one. In 2013, California saw abundant installations of a number of different kinds of renewable power plants, from gigantic wind turbines to modest rooftop solar arrays, and lots of changes in the laws that regulate how we generate and use renewable energy.
We've covered many of those records here at ReWire, as recently as this week. But it's important to look at what those records actually mean in context. Record peak output from the state's solar panels and wind turbines may make for an interesting headline. What really matters in the long run, though, is how much renewables contribute to the total energy Californians use.
So ReWire just spent the last several days inputing a year's worth of daily renewable energy numbers provided by the agency that runs the state's power grid, and then crunched those numbers. They provide an interesting snapshot of the actual usefulness to Californians of renewable energy in 2013, and some of what we found out may surprise you.
In a glance through a solar power tower developer's latest missive to the state agency considering its application for a Riverside County Project, ReWire spotted something interesting. The company seems to be throwing its solar industry colleagues under the bus on the issue of harm to wildlife from desert solar projects.
The note comes from Palen Solar Holdings (PSH), which wants to build the 500-megawatt Palen Solar Electric Generating System (PSEGS) in Riverside County west of Blythe. The company, along with other interested parties, are filing briefs on the project with the California Energy Commission (CEC) in a complex process we described last week.
The note, a 25-page legal response to critics the developer filed Monday with the CEC, contains a couple of assertions that raised ReWire's eyebrow: the developer agrees its power plant would create "significant and unmitigatable impacts" to wild birds, and defends itself by saying standard solar panels wouldn't really be any better.
Hey, remember back in August when we last noted California having set a record for the amount of utility-scale solar feeding into the state's power grid? Well, the dark and shortening days of the coming winter haven't slowed the state's momentum, because we just blew past that August record, and a subsequent on set the month after.
At just after noon on Saturday, November 30 the state's utility-scale solar panel arrays were feeding 2,626 megawatts of power into the California grid. That's a fair bit above last record we noted -- 2,573 megawatts on August 9 -- and it also breezes past 2,606 megawatts on September 12.
As far as we can tell, that's the biggest output for the state's wholesale solar panels since tracking began. But the California grid's record for all solar electricity, including solar thermal, may actually have been broken about a month ago.