Sunrise "Profitlink" -- a fossil fuel addiction fix
East County Californian (2008-08-28) Raymond Lutz
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Sunrise Powerlink -- SDG&E says it will supply San Diego with renewable energy from the desert.
Unfortunately, their strategy—like a broken fossil-fuel record—is to import liquified natural gas (LNG) from Russia, Middle-East and Asian sources. Using, of course, their new $1 billion LNG terminal, located about 50 miles south of the border in Costa Azul.
After being regassified and piped across the Baja peninsula, the natural gas is burned in Mexicali power plants. The dirty-burning gas (unlike the natural gas in our homes) is out of the jurisdiction of the EPA but only a breeze from our border. SDG&E wants the Sunrise Powerlink, a huge 500KV transmission line, to then transmit that power 150 miles northwest to a station near Warner Springs. Although there are many route alternatives, the primary proposals are a northern route through Anza-Borrego State Preserve and a southern route through Cleveland National Forest and private lands.
But why run the transmission line northwest to Warner Springs when San Diego is in the other direction? We now know the answer. Sempra admitted the plan is to connect the Warner Springs station to the lucrative LA market.
So the Sunrise Powerlink is about making use of Sempra’s $1B investment in the Costa Azul LNG terminal to continue to import fossil fuels, burn them just south of the border, and transmit that power to the Los Angeles grid.
SDG&E and Sempra Energy are playing bait and switch. If they expand yesteryear’s solution centered on fossil fuels from politically unstable sources with high emissions and giant transmission lines, while concurrently delaying the introduction of rooftop solar with virtually no emissions, they maximize their profit. Yes, that is what this is about. Profit.
The public watching this sleight of hand now understands their agenda, testifying en masse at public hearings. Seeing that their PR cover story was failing, Sempra and SDG&E added a new angle, the addition of more energy production capacity at the La Rumorosa Wind Energy Plant (RWEP) just south of Jacumba. They claimed that the capacity could be magically increased from 250MW to 1250MW, incorporating 500 large (2MW) wind turbines over an area of 7,500 acres. With that large increase in public-perception-friendly wind energy, certainly the Sunrise Powerlink must be installed. Checkmate.
Not so fast. Wind turbines must be spaced out or they’ll just block each other. In no other wind farm are 2MW turbines placed closer than 100 acres each. For example, the Fowler Ridge wind farm consists of 220 1.5MW turbines and each takes 176 acres due to uneven terrain, terrain much like that in the La Rumorosa area. SDG&E’s proposal says their (larger) 2MW turbines can be spaced with only 15 acres per turbine. Even using their own spacing criteria, their proposal is irrational and internally inconsistent. A joke.
Even Sempra Energy must obey the laws of physics. 7,500 acres will support about 75 wind turbines, not 500. So, why would they propose such a ridiculous idea? Are they inept, or is there something else up their sleeve?
We should notice that the North Baja pipeline that feeds the Mexicali power plants runs through the La Rumorosa area. Their underlying game plan is probably unchanged – more dirty power plants in Mexico to maximize their profits, and fewer rooftop solar installations that undermine their supplier monopoly.
We are sitting on the precipice between status quo, an energy solution based on fossil fuels, and our future, one based on distributed renewable sources. Our national security depends on taking the latter –and more difficult—course. But one in clear opposition to the profit motive of Sempra Energy.
The free market is powerful. The “net metering” bill proceeding in the state legislature provides that utilities must pay energy producers—even homeowners with rooftop solar or wind generators—for surplus power placed on the grid. A plethora of entrepreneurs will take advantage of this opportunity and will do more to solve our energy problems than installing a transmission line dinosaur. Let’s avoid this poor investment and instead invest in small business, extensive introduction of distributed generation, and break our addiction to fossil fuels.
Ray Lutz is a candidate for the State Assembly, 77th District.
Click Lutz For Assembly.com for more information.