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SDG&E insists the line is needed to move electricity from renewable power facilities it says will be built in Imperial County, as well as to increase reliability and to save ratepayers money.

The broad community/ consumer/environmental coalition that has developed to oppose Sunrise says Sempra really wants the line because it will tie the company’s fossil-fuel infrastructure in northern Mexico — a liquefied natural gas import terminal and a generating plant — more easily into the California market.

They argue that SDG&E sought to bolster the case that it needed the Sunrise project for renewable development by avoiding development of clean-energy projects that wouldn’t depend on the line.

“SDG&E has a lot of money to make with the Sunrise Powerlink, and they wanted to show that the only renewables they could find were dependent on this line,” said Steven Siegel, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, which opposes the transmission project.

Michael Shames, executive director of the Utility Consumers’ Action Net-

work agreed: “It was a political calculation on their part not to pursue renewables elsewhere.”

Shames is also skeptical that the experimental solar project that SDG&E hopes will generate 40 percent of its renewable electricity by the end of next year will produce anywhere near that level.

“I think it’s 50-50 that they will ultimately have a viable project — but it won’t be in 2010 or 2011, and it won’t be at the cost levels they anticipated,” he said.

Sempra, although a latecomer to renewable-energy projects, appears eager to make itself a significant renewable developer.

The company says it is planning to expand its Energía Sierra Juárez wind farm in northern Baja, which will generate 150 megawatts when its first phase is complete, to a potential total of 1000 megawatts. (A typical modern fossil-fuel plant generates roughly 500 egawatts, enough to power about 325,000 homes.)

Sempra also plans to add 50 megawatts of generating capacity at its El Dorado

site and build 500 mega-watts of solar generating capacity at other existing generating sites.

As for SDG&E, it pro- poses building 52 mega-watts of photovoltaic generating capacity at a cost of $250 million in the San Diego region over the next five years, but it won’t use thin-film technology.

SDG&E instead has asked regulators to allow it to use solar-tracking technology: solar panels mounted on units that follow the sun to maximize output.

Bill Powers, San Diego– based engineer and critic of SDG&E’s renewable efforts, says using solar-tracking technology makes no sense, particularly now that Sempra has demonstrated that using thin-film technology lowers costs.

“The extra generating capacity of tracking isn’t worth the cost, and the units take up too much land,” said Powers, who authored a plan to vastly expand solar on small, dispersed sites within the county.

“SDG&E is proposing the most expensive solar technology for its customers. Thin-film systems would be one-half the cost.”

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Comments

LauraPsi7 March 5, 2009 @ 11:59 p.m.

I was shocked to hear that SDG&E plans to run the Sunrise Powerlink and its 160-180 foot transmission lines DIRECTLY in front of THE east county community landmark, El Cajon Mountain, aka "El Cap". What an incredible slap in the face to our east county communities, and a total disregard for our one of San Diego's east county community landmarks; one that even the Lakeside highschool is named after.

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a2zresource Jan. 28, 2009 @ 12:31 p.m.

A number of firms are developing thin-film solar energy technologies, and there may be some products for home installation by 2010 or so. A number of these firms were recently in San Diego for an alternative energy conference hosted at the Convention Center.

It may be to our universal advantage to limit our exposure to SDG&E's portion of the power grid by making an investment in home electricity production from solar energy. I can't think of any other reasonable way for us as consumers to mitigate the potential high cost of the direction Sempra's investors and board seem to be taking it and SDG&E in "proposing the most expensive solar technology for its customers", as cutting ourselves off of the grid by complete energy independence from SDG&E may violate the spirit if not intent of the SDG&E-San Diego franchise agreement.

Getting rid of all of our electrical appliances should be considered extremely unreasonable. After all, we'd starve without refrigeration.

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mpc Jan. 29, 2009 @ 1:54 p.m.

Craig, brilliant work as usual. Glad to see this town is still providing outlets for your analysis. It's badly needed.

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Anon92107 Jan. 31, 2009 @ 12:47 p.m.

Welcome back to San Diego Business reporting Craig.

No one in San Diego knows more than you about Sempra CEO betrayals of SDG&E residential ratepayers, like the 2000 San Diego Energy Crisis that was created and perpetuated by Baum and Felsinger.

Sempra bloodsucker class executives must be forced to be responsible and held accountable for their continuing larceny of residential rate-payers by sucking the blood out of SDG&E for Sempra profits to guarantee their own royalty class lifestyle, as many of your columns have documented in the past.

And today Sempra is accelerating the San Diego recession.

You are the best person to expose their larceny and force accountability at last.

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Anon92107 Feb. 1, 2009 @ 11:12 a.m.

P.S. With regard to the subject of this column, it is imperative that we fast track construction of nuclear power and desalination parks along our coast.

The imperative for nuclear power is magnifying with the rapidly escalating economic problems produced by the current recession along with global warming and our nation’s imperative to restore our reputation as the land of opportunity once again so future generations can have at least the same quality of life that we have today.

With regard to the safety issue, it is most ironic that we have nuclear powered ships home ported and traveling to and from San Diego continuously and no one seems to be concerned about the safety of the USN nuclear power plants that prove they can be safe enough for crews who have lived with them ever since the USS Nautilus first sailed in 1955.

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Anon92107 Feb. 2, 2009 @ 12:31 p.m.

Sadly since this column seems to be DOA due to NORC, one last observation on the opening focus point of "fighting global warming" for the NORCers to marginalize.

At this critical and rapidly escalating of control point in history we Homo sapiens have two choices left, evolve or become extinct.

Lessons of evolutionary biology and historical geology prove current events are not working in our favor because we are most definitely not evolving.

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