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Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar gave his approval to connect a 250-megawatt solar power project located in Imperial Valley to the energy grid in California. The transmission line, an above-ground 230 kilovolt line, will run electricity generated from the Imperial Solar Energy Center West Project five miles to a substation. It is expected to power 75,000 homes.

According to a statement from Salazar's office, the project will create close to 285 construction jobs and bring $5 million worth of sales tax revenue to local government.

“The solar project itself will be constructed on private, fallowed farm lands near El Centro,” said Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey in the August 25 statement. “This transmission line will be placed in an area already designated as a transmission corridor. The entire project is sited in a perfect spot for renewable energy development in the California desert.”

To smooth things over with environmental groups and local residents, the Bureau of Land Management is requiring the developer to purchase more than 100 acres of wildlife habitat to make up for environmental impacts from the project.

The project is the second large renewable-energy project approved this month in California. The other was the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, a 550-megawatt in the Mojave desert.

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Ruth Newell Aug. 25, 2011 @ 1:59 p.m.

There isn't a need for environmental impact when solar panels can just as easily be placed on existing rooftops. As great as green projects like this are, they can be and should be required to be truly sustainable. My 2 cents for free:)


tomjohnston Aug. 25, 2011 @ 2:45 p.m.

I'm curious. What is your definition of "truly sustainable" ?


Ruth Newell Aug. 25, 2011 @ 7:32 p.m.

Well,as far as I'm concerned, taking the most cost effective course with the least environmental impact for starters. As far as the whole modern "sustainability" LEED rating approach goes, I'd say platinum or higher, thus 75% or more waste,energy and resource diversion/reduction/reuse. Mind you, I worked in the zero waste field for 25 some odd years am admittedly extreme in how I look at things.


tomjohnston Aug. 26, 2011 @ 12:22 a.m.

OK well, I still don't think you answered the question as asked. Sustainability and environmental impact are 2 disticly different issues. The environmental imact of a solar farm has nothing to do with the projects sustainability. And LEED ratings wouldn't even apply. LEED ratings, put simply, are a certification of the measurement on how well or more accurately, how efficiently a building built to LEED standards uses resources, both in construction and consumption, when compared to a building that is simply built to "code". LEED recognizes sustainability in design and construction, but not in usage or function To me, sustainablity means something else completely. Sustainability is really just how to use a resource for it's intended purpose without depleting that resource and thereby preseving it for the future. In the case of a solar farm, by definition it is sustainable because it has no affect on the source, in this case the sun, at all. The sun shines whether or not a solar collector is present. Calling it sustainable is akin to calling rainwater collection sustainable. The rain falls irregardless of whether a collection system is present or not. It's not "waste,energy and resource diversion/reduction/reuse" that makes a builing sustainable; those things are a product of efficiency in planning and construction , or maybe more accurately factors of efficiency. It's whether or not the products and materials used in building the house come from sustainable resources. FSC certified lumber, OSB manufactured from waste lumber using environmentally friendly glues, roofing made from recycled, recycleable and long life materials, using concrete with recycled aggregate and fly ash, etc, etc, etc. Those things are what adds to a sustainably built structure. not it's "efficiency" rating


Ruth Newell Aug. 28, 2011 @ 9:11 a.m.

Thanks for sharing your opinions Tom. Without getting into a debate with you about LEED which I simplified for a reason, let me just say that our definitions differ. It's not uncommon--this discrepancy in our understanding of the term--happens all to often with that word, "sustainability".

I referred to the LEED rating for two reasons. Firstly, it's how most people understand sustainability and given that I know nothing about you as a person or professional, I thought it best to do so since I didn't want my response to detract from the simple suggestion I had posed--that the panels be places on existing rooftops in order to prevent creating additional impervious surfaces.

Secondly, because a solar project IS a development/built project--esp. if it's being placed on undeveloped land. It's not just the environmental and impervious footprint, however, that contribute to my questioning whether this project is as sustainable as it might be. There are certainly other factors.

According to most definitions including the UN's, sustainable development (what many loosely refer to as 'sustainability') addresses the environmental impacts, along with socio-economic impacts (which LEED also addresses), of human development patterns. SO, by most definitions, and certainly by mine, I'd have to disagree that a project's environmental impact has nothing to do with its sustainability.

As a development project, a solar farm is sustainable (say by the UN's definition) if its the most cost effective option to a given problem/shortage/inequity with the greatest benefit/yield to the most people with the least negative impacts to society at large as well as to the environment. The fact that solar panels utilize a free renewable resource is only a very small factor. Other resources are consumed and impacted in the making,transporting and installing of those panels. Resource consumption is then reflected in cost/watt life cycle analysis.

There are other zero waste energy options, but should we select and/or support solar projects it is my preference that we require them to be placed on existing rooftops.


Twister Aug. 28, 2011 @ 2:32 p.m.

Let's simply acknowledge that Roody's point is well-taken. It makes good sense, on the face of it, to not increase the runoff coefficient of watersheds (flash floods, erosion, etc.).

When it comes to manipulating the environment and the earth, it is wise to "do no harm." Of course, there's "do good," but there's an old saw that says "nine-tenths of the hell being raised in the world is well-intentioned."

"Sustainability," "LEEDS," and other buzz-words have a useful component, but we would be well-advised to consider the bs-factor contained therein as well.

"We" are still focused on technology-as-savior, and our minds are still linear and single-purposed. We are taught this in engineering school. Come to think of it, we are taught linear thinking in most schools; only a few courses, taught by self-sacrificing professors, are exceptions.

It is all well and good (except when it conceals a hook) to speak of gaining “free and inexhaustible” energy from the sun—this has great “logical” appeal, but it also contains a romantic component that ads the ads’ sales appeal. It might be stretching popular credulity, but it could be said that almost all the energy we use or plan to use has come from “the sun,” including coal and petroleum, “alternatives” like solar are not free; they have consequences. Those consequences can be “positive” or “negative,” but all energy alternatives should be assessed upon their NET energy efficiency and cost and benefits—to what and to whom. Right now, we are making the old mistake of comparing grapes and grapefruit.

I can think of a few tradeoffs that SDG&E in their smarty-pants haste have ignored, that could make their project more than a tax-supported boondoggle and environmental negative, but I’ll be damned if I’ll tell them about it. Their engineers don’t think in terms of integrated systems, and their “executives” even less so. If they did, they would have anticipated the same opportunities imbedded within what they and environmentalists see as “problems” that I have to vastly improve their design.


Ruth Newell Aug. 28, 2011 @ 2:38 p.m.

Yes, exactly. Agreed; well said.

And your 'smarty-pants haste' comment will stick with me!Think I liked that the best.


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