Democracy bottom line with our sun
Several of you have rightfully racked us for not offering our favorite solar resource in
our e-mail a few days ago.
Sorry. Here it is:
(1) If you want to do an individual or neighborhood system contact:
Don & Cynthia Loweburg, 559.877.7080. Click here.
They did our solar electric system, and have 24 years of experience designing
and installing residential and other types of solar systems.
(2) SunMt solar system details + all our other solar and energy conservation
applications — many of which are cheap: Click here.
For those who may have missed the first article here it is:
Sharkie & Don moving our 24 yr.old solar electric panels to SunHouse roof at SunMt
last year... Upgrading a 1984 installation when SunHouse was being built....
Solar electric is finally gaining some recognition in the valley of the sun. CSUF and
City of Fresno have launched massive projects which will save a bundle of $$$ and
help cool Big Mama.
Now there is bold talk by big $$$ hucksters about installing huge solar projects in the
rural areas...Energy farms. One we have heard about would cover a square mile with
solar electric panels. Seems to us this would expand centralized corporate control of our
energy, when one of the benefits of solar electric is that it can be scaled for and owned by
individuals —— us... We know from blackouts and higher rates what centralization
We think it would be better to have smaller, locally controlled projects... Maybe hood by
hood so we can deal with our neighbors face to face on energy projects, benefitting from
quantity purchases, with user controlled power.
The lower entry cost of having some corporation subsidize bigger solar electric projects,
gives them the long term profits and controls over what consumers will pay. As energy
becomes more valuable, do we really want it controlled by distant corporation when we
can do this ourselves¿?
What is being planned is somewhat like insisting on organic food and not caring that
farm workers are still being exploited —— organically. And will we all be the farm
workers in the upcoming solar hustles¿?
A few days later SunMt got this message from Mark Stout:
Was rather disappointed to see you go after Cleantech America as "big $$$ hucksters", as
I don't like to see proponents of one form of renewable energy get down on others. For one,
our utility-scale projects exist because of the California Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS),
which was backed by a broad coalition, and that I personally worked on from 1996
(grad school internship at Union of Concerned Scientists) till passage in 2002.
Substation-sited PV farms like our PG&E and KRCD projects can have big benefits for
grid support, to avoid blackouts. There was a ton of research done on this with DOE
funding back in the 90s at none other than the PG&E Kerman Grid Support Project.
Plus, solar projects are all very connected and depend on large corporations on many levels.
All PV projects use modules or cells that were provided by large, often multinational
corporations [the current capital cost of a poly-silicon plant is over $1B, so this is not
surprising]. Both the CSUF and Airport projects are owned by third-party capitalists,
who harvest the tax credits and sell solar power at a lower rate than municipal financing
could have provided. For instance, in the case of CSUF, MMA Renewable Ventures
[part of MuniMae financial services] owns the system, with project management by
Chevron Energy Solutions.
Since the 80s, California has had 354 MW of central station solar plants in the Barstow
area, reliably providing low-CO2 power for decades, now owned by large energy
corporations like FPL. Even with the huge explosion of decentralized, on-site solar
installations since 2001, we currently have less than 300 MW of customer side of meter
solar. In the last couple years, there have been ~2,000 MW of new central station solar
plants power purchase agreements signed by the utilities, including our first five MW
project with PG&E, which is almost as much PV that existed in the Valley last year. To
boot, I have heard that there are about 11,000 MW of proposed solar thermal plants being
proposed in the Southern California desert on BLM lands, which would put a serious cut
into the state's carbon footprint, very complimentary to the 3,000 MW of decentralized
on-site California Solar Initiative projects being developed with leadership from many folks,
not the least our friends Don & Cynthia.
Decentralized, on-site PV is great. I have been promoting it for years, including my little
local creation now in its third year (http://fresnosolartour.com). But there is also an important
place for utility-scale renewable energy projects, including solar PV and thermal. Many
homes and businesses will never put on-site PV on their roof, and I think they deserve to
have their utility-delivered power provided by renewable energy resources.
SunMt response: Democracy is always THE issue
If we are to have a chance at real democracy we must ever be alert
to decentralize control of our resources whenever possible. Sun power invites
decentralization which might well be better encouraged by the government
than opening the door for PGE and Chevron, neither of which has stellar
histories of serving the public interest.
Also we might require PGE and other grid operators to buy surplus electricity
from individual small producers like dairy farmers with methane digesters.