Bakersfield, California 2022-08-05 18:00:00 –
Kings County supervisor Joe Neves ushered the pickup to a stop next to a long line of chain link fences.One side of the gravel road was lined with glittering solar panels. An automated mirror pivots and rotates along the path of the sun across the Central Valley sky.
Neves, a giant with a Santa Claus beard, was showing off the county’s newest mega-solar power project, still under construction on 1,600 acres. It is a state-of-the-art facility and contains powerful batteries to store and supply power after dark.
Located in King County, the solar farm will power a number of new renewable energy sources throughout the state, considered critical as California transitions to cleaner power and pursues climate change solutions. is one of the pieces of the puzzle.
Rural California counties like Kings, with lots of land, sun and wind, are at the heart of these projects. Now they are also the epicenter of statewide controversy.
Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom pressed lawmakers to approve an energy plan aimed at facilitating and streamlining the construction of new clean energy facilities. It contains a controversial provision that allows developers to bypass local permits and instead seek expedited approval from the California Energy Commission.
The new strategy has hit a dead end with local governments reluctant to install wind and solar installations in their own backyards.
But if Newsom sees a small rural county as an obstacle, Kings County disagrees. For more than 12 years, Neves and other local officials have been busy opening up the county to solar projects.
Far from scoffing at the idea of renewable energy, some farmers in Kings County are embracing solar power as a profitable solution to their problem. They are rewarded for using barren land so they can shift water to higher value crops.
Whatever the intent of the new law, Kings County doesn’t think it matters. Most projects in her 40,000-acre solar zone in the county receive approval within six months.
“We’re not sophisticated. We know what we’re doing,” says Neves. “We planned this. We can see the future.”
State officials were outraged statewide for being left out of the debate as the bill was being drafted behind closed doors in late June, and once again pissed off after it passed Congress and was signed by Newsom. I put it up. Final decision-making authority for projects in their county.
“Local government is seen as an obstacle and is another layer that must be passed to complete the project. But we always allow these facilities. John Kennedy, Lobbyist for California Rural County Representatives, said:
“To have that authority taken from our hands and given to the Energy Commission is so far from the people and so far from local sensitivities. He said, “We have our sights set on it, but we don’t think it’s the right target here.”
Some projects have been stalled by local authorities, but some energy developers say Newsom’s initiative is the solution to the problem.
“What does this proposal solve?” said Alex Jackson, director of California affairs for American Clean Power, an association of renewable energy companies.
“Generally, we work very well with local authorities. We have invested a lot in those relationships. Overall, we do not believe this paves the way for clean energy acceleration.”
‘A tremendous task’
New renewable energy developments need to happen quickly, whether they pass through the Energy Commission’s new process or are approved by local governments.
California is well ahead of its interim clean power target (about 34% of last year’s electricity generation), but reaching carbon-free by 2045 poses the greatest challenge.
With worsening climate models, electrification of transportation and buildings, collapse of hydroelectric power due to drought, and scheduled closures of fossil fuel plants, the sobering reality for California is: It will deliver electricity every year for the next 10 years, with preliminary projections showing a need of 60 gigawatts per year.
Given the rapidly growing demand, the need is likely to grow.
Siva Gunda, Vice Chairman of the California Energy Commission, said: “It took us 100 years to build the grid the way it is now, and we’ll do it again in the next 20 years. At least we have a plan. We’re digging ourselves out of the hole.”
The extent needed means that California will have to significantly expand its renewable footprint. With the most obvious and cheapest sites already developed, the way forward is to achieve an acre of sunny windy land at a time.
Experts say residents can expect energy development in parts of California where solar panels and wind turbines have not yet sprouted. Its expansion is likely to challenge the hospitality of local communities and their elected leaders, especially if they feel excluded from the process.
Such backlash is not unexpected. A study released in June found that local groups react strongly when they believe they are not being consulted about renewable energy projects in their communities. Researchers concluded that the best way to get local buy-in is to listen to local voices.
The idea that opposition to renewable energy will follow a political red and blue divide has not been deployed statewide. Conservative Kern and Riverside counties are in a “manufactured” state, Mr. Lader said. Khan, the state’s fossil fuel supplier for a century, has major renewable energy projects.
But what Kern County officials and others are hesitant about is a statewide law that exempts solar projects from property taxes and denies local governments operating funds. Kings County native Neves estimates that the solar tax cut will cost his area about $3 million a year. This law he plans to repeal in 2025, but similar measures have passed parliament. (There are no similar tax breaks for wind projects.)
But rather than providing an advantage for solar projects, the tax exemption would prevent local jurisdictions from approving projects, he said.
Catherine Freeman, Legislative Staff of the County Association of California. “These property taxes go to the basic county government,” she said.
Energy Commissioner Ganda said the state set up a task force last year to better understand the wide range of obstacles to launching renewable projects. That work is still underway, but Gunda said construction has been significantly delayed due to COVID-19 and supply chain disruptions.
Shannon Eddy, executive director of the Large Solar Association, said the urgency of any new legislation is clear. She said county and state officials and energy developers need to build a statewide model to facilitate the siting process for new energy plants.
“It’s not fair or right to point out the county and say there’s a problem there,” she said. “Everyone has to help. To make this happen, we all need to come together. We’re building planes while we’re running down the runway.”
Counties push back on Newsom usurping local control in renewable energy | News Source link Counties push back on Newsom usurping local control in renewable energy | News