A pair of lawsuits filed in the past week marks heightening tension between San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and a Spanish-owned wind turbine facility in Montana. The utility says it's backing out of a $285 million deal because the operator of the 189 megawatt Rim Rock wind facility near Cut Bank, Montana failed to live up to a number of terms in the companies' agreement, mainly having to do with wildlife protection.
But the owner of the 126-turbine facility in Glacier and Toole counties, the Spanish company NaturEner, counters that the San Diego utility is merely suffering "buyer's remorse," now that the Renewable Energy Credits SDG&E agreed to buy from NaturEner are more expensive than their market value.
Each company has filed suit against the other, SDG&E in San Diego Superior Court and NaturEner in the equivalent court in Montana.
In an about-face, the proponents of a large solar project in the desert portions of Riverside County have asked for a delay in a state agency's final decision on the project. In a filing with the California Energy Commission (CEC) on Monday, Palen Solar Holdings (PSH), which wants to build a 500-megawatt concentrating solar project halfway between Blythe and Indio, is asking for at least a several month delay before the CEC makes its final decision on the project.
Earlier in December, the CEC committee evaluating the proposed Palen Solar Electric Generating System (PSEGS) proposed that the agency not approve a permit modification that would allow PSH to build two 750-foot solar towers on the site at the east end of the Chuckwalla Valley, citing concerns over the design's threat to birds and other wildlife.
Though it wasn't a final decision by the CEC, which had been scheduled to rule on the project in January, December's proposed decision on PSEGS has been widely seen as dooming the project as proposed. Now, Palen Solar Holdings has asked for --- and obtained -- several months of postponement on that final decision while data on bird mortality is collected from the similar Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in San Bernardino County.
The company that admitted its lax record keeping and faulty gas pipelines caused a deadly explosion in 2010 in San Bruno just got hit with a big fine for failing to keep state regulators informed about a similar pipeline a few miles south. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted Thursday to fine Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) $14.35 million over a delay in filing updated information on its natural gas pipeline 147 in the San Mateo County city of San Carlos.
The CPUC agreed unanimously that the delay, which gave the agency the impression that the pipeline had stronger welds than was actually the case, and an apparent attempt to slide a correction past regulators, together constituted an ethical lapse on the part of Northern California's largest utility worthy of the maximum legal fine.
"This penalty is designed to serve as a deterrent to similar behavior in the future," said CPUC Commissioner Mark Ferron in a press statement. "There should be no question that the CPUC expects nothing less than forthright and timely disclosure in all matters of public safety.... delay and obfuscation will not be tolerated."
On Wednesday we brought you the 10 most-visited stories ReWire has published so far this year. But the stories that bring the most eyeballs aren't always the stories that have the most impact. And sometimes a story takes a whole lot of individual blog posts to tell.
How do you measure impact if not in the number of visits? You do so by how a story helps shape the reaction to an issue. In 2013 we heard from readers, from staff of Federal, state, and local agencies, from utility company representatives and startup CEOs, and from activists on both the renewable energy and wildlife protection sides of the environmental movement. Not everyone we talked to was thrilled with our coverage, but we did definitely get the sense that ReWire has shaped conversations on a number of issues.
Here, then, are -- in our view, and in roughly ascending order of weight -- the five most important stories ReWire worked on in 2013. Each of them will likely continue to be important through 2014.
Wildlife impacts, fracking, sea level rise, or nifty promising technology: what moved you most in 2013? ReWire covered a wide range of topics in the year now slowly drawing to a close, and with just a couple of weeks left before 2014 it seemed worthwhile to take a look back.
With more than 400 stories posted so far this year, we've touched on quite a number of issues related to renewable energy in California, from the upbeat to the distressing. On Thursday, we'll discuss which stories we covered that we think are the most important.
But first, let's take a look at the stories you thought were the most important, at least in terms of how many of you stopped by to read them (that'd be pageviews or traffic in web speak). Here are the top ten most-visited stories for 2013, in ascending order of eyeballs.
A new amendment to Los Angeles' building codes now requires all new residential roofs to reflect more sunlight, a move that should help the city reduce the effects of global warming.
The amendment to the city's Municipal Building Code passed unanimously Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council and will require all new or rebuilt roofs to use so-called "cool roof" material, which reduces the amount of solar energy the roof absorbs -- helping reduce both heat inside the home and the so called "urban heat island" effect.
Cool roofs can be as much as 50°F cooler on warm days than their traditional black-shingled counterparts, and they can lower temperatures inside the building by several degrees as well.