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When Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a few weeks ago that his city would be off coal power entirely by 2025, it was both exciting and, as Al Gore put it, "a really big deal."

It was also only part of the story.

The other part -- also a really big deal -- is that Southern California is rapidly locking in new sources of energy to replace dirty fossil fuels. One of them -- the Antelope Valley Solar Projects that officially broke ground on Friday -- represents large-scale renewable energy technology at its best and its brightest. When completed in 2015, these solar projects will provide 579 megawatts of clean energy (enough to power about 400,000 homes). Every one of those megawatts will replace energy that would otherwise come from dirty fossil fuels like natural gas. In the process, they'll eliminate more than 775,000 tons of carbon pollution per year (not to mention quite a lot of air and water pollution).

Fantastic as those stats are, though, they wouldn't mean as much if this project did not succeed in a couple of other important ways.

Here in the United States, we're lucky to have abundant renewable energy resources -- wind, sun, and hydro. In theory, it's enough to power our entire country several times over. But we need to be smart about where and how we access that energy. The rim of the Grand Canyon, for instance, would never be anyone's first choice for a wind farm.

In the case of Antelope Valley, the project has been a model of smart planning. In fact, Sierra Club volunteers worked closely with the developers almost from the beginning to improve the project. The project site was private land that had no threatened or endangered species. It's located near existing transmission lines. It will require a lot less water than the previous use for the land -- growing alfalfa.

Another way the Antelope Valley Solar Projects succeed is economically. Here's the proof: Early this year, the original developer of the project, SunPower, was acquired by MidAmerican Renewables, a subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, which is controlled by Berkshire Hathaway. The primary shareholder, chairman, and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, of course, is Warren Buffett, who is considered the most successful investor of the 20th century. MidAmerican has a portfolio of more than 1,830 megawatts of renewable energy assets, including wind, geothermal, solar, and hydro assets.

The next time someone tries to tell you that renewable energy isn't a good investment, point out that it's good enough for Warren Buffett. (Before you send the Oracle of Omaha a clean-energy mash note, though, be sure to read the just-published Sierra magazine article about a more problematic part of his portfolio. Mr. Buffett should take care to avoid the carbon bubble and move out of dirty fuels entirely.)

The Antelope Valley Solar Projects are part of a remarkable surge in solar solutions. Last month, all of the new power-generation capacity added in the U.S. came from solar power. In the first three months of 2013, we added twice as much new solar capacity to the U.S. grid as in all of 2012. Projects like the ones in Antelope Valley are great for the environment and for our clean-energy future. If they show dirty fuel investors how they can profit from clean energy instead, that's good, too.

Originally posted to Michael Brune on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 11:50 AM PDT.

Also republished by Dream Menders and Climate Change SOS.

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Comment Preferences

  •  good report Michael. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I could spam this diary with my usual rant about communities NOT doing roof top solar first but using up 'free' desert lands instead, and that when you fly into about any community anywhere you have to strain to find any solar roof tops.
    etc...and that Target and even Wal-Mart fer Pete's sake have been installing roof top solar!!

    But here you detail the Sierra Club helping this project with siting, and that's an important good step, really.

        But I still can rant about the lack of roof top solar, that the sequester has ruined the solar subsidies in that they are limited each year and  run out..(at least the salesmen fear monger that they will run out this year etc. in their sales pitches)

    And the biggest cheeseoff for me about solar is the utilities..the so called 'public' utilities that have boo bugged solar so that people who would put more solar on their house have been restricted in tiny fine print back stabbing boobug ways from doing so. Co-optation at it's most professional.
      Rates and some payback details have been changing, but certainly not fast enough for me...

    But the worst was found by me at Earth Day Festival recently, where I heard a solar company salesman say to a customer something like:

    'well, no you can't do that, like get $10,000 back at the end of the year, what if everybody did that?'

    To which I can only shake my head sadly and say,
    'yeah, what if....'

      And this is  based on the 'public' utilities concerns about planning and the horrible problem of having all that residential solar power swamping the electrical demands...for air conditioning in a region, calif, where plenty of sunshine afternoons means plenty of demand for air conditioning electricity...seems like the perfect match to me. Ohhh, the horrors of a solar spill!

        But I'm just a public.

    But, one step at a time, and with all the solar spillage going to waste in the southern central valley on that Selenium poisoned waste farm land where cotton was just seems to me that Gov Moonbeam should be installing 100,000 acres of solar projects there in that wasted oil and selenium dust to power LA.
      Now that would be a real legacy to be proud of instead of the Water Tunnel Project Dan Bacher has written extensively about on dkos.
         Instead he is leaving it up to the next governor...maybe a Republican will be the Governor who famously saves the water supply and installs solar power on real waste brownfield land. Yay mythical Republican Nixon to China only way way too late for me.

      Instead Gov. Brown is trying to steal Northern California water to save that wasted land, or to save the rich investors actually....for more 'farming' (the main 'crop' being water rights) and probably more housing ..especially after the high speed rail connects LA with the Central Valley...hello commuters...and I am for the high speed rail project, with my 'allies' the developers who have bought cheap in the central valley and want to cash in...errrrgh.
         Kill the water theft and watch support for high speed rail wander opinion..but can't we at least make it mandatory new construction have at minimum 125% solar generation installed and running at sale time? 125% so the house provides some solar back to the grid at minimum...I'd like more, maximum even. A house's daily usage at the meter does not begin to represent the full electrical load of the household members, regionally or nationally. 'Public' utilities, gah!

    But, one step at a time, even if you're sprinting, thanks for this report, yay!

    Sorry to spam and go on and on, I did it again....too much coffee.

    And thanks again.

    This machine kills Fascists.

    by KenBee on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 02:05:37 PM PDT

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