Whole Life Magazine

April/May 2013

Issue link: https://digital.copcomm.com/i/118686

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Page 23 of 43

HiGH StAkES in the EnERGY GAmE T Why rooftop renewables trump big solar & big wind he high desert around Joshua Tree National Park holds a silent, stark allure. Just a few hours' drive from downtown Los Angeles, the hills, washes, rock formations and otherworldly Joshua trees attract Angelenos who relish the vistas and the art, music and yoga offerings found in the colorful communities bordering the park. But what many L.A. basin residents don't realize is that the Southland's voracious energy appetite—combined with lawed federal energy policy priorities—is placing this and other pristine California desert ecosystems in harm's way. In recent years, banks and investor-owned companies have locked to a modern-day gold rush: tapping multi-million-dollar, taxpayer-funded federal subsidies to construct large-scale wind and solar installations on public desert lands, degrading habitat, harming wildlife and marring the landscape. "When the utility-scale renewable energy model was rolled out by [U.S. Department of the Interior] Secretary Salazar of the Obama administration, a lot of missteps occurred," said April Sall, conservation director for the Wildlands Conservancy, a nonproit that owns California's largest network of nature preserves. "There has been a feeding frenzy of large, utility-scale projects on public lands, lots of them pristine, high-value conservation lands. The general public has not been educated that massive tracts of public land are being depleted and the California desert is being industrialized." A resident of Pioneertown near Joshua Tree National Park, Sall has been deeply engaged in battles to protect the wilds surrounding her community from the blight of large-scale renewable projects. In 2007, the L.A. Department of Water & Power's Green Path North Transmission Line project attempted to install 85 miles of 16-story towers and high voltage lines through the unspoiled region to deliver energy from industrial renewable projects in California and Arizona to Los Angeles, despite the existence of LADWPowned transmission lines elsewhere. In the face of ierce grassroots opposition, the utility inally capitulated in 2010. In 2011, the Bureau of Land Management allowed Element Power out By Katie Sandberg of Oregon to install test wind turbines for their Black Lava Butte Project in the same area as a prelude to a wind farm of 400-foot industrial turbines plus a new transmission line. The project was halted this past January, allegedly due to insuficient wind availability. While the Wildlands Conservancy would prefer a national energy policy focused on local generation, conservation and energy eficiency, the ever-present threat of new industrial projects in scenic lands has compelled the organization to advocate for using already impacted "brownields" near existing transmission lines as sites for industrial renewable installations, rather than public acreage. They have catalogued more than 230,000 installation-friendly acres in California that have a less than ive-percent slope— more than enough. "The bottom line is, there is a better way to do this," said Sall. "If we were backed in a corner and this were the only model, that would be different. But to desecrate public land to line the pockets of corporate backers of solar and wind developments is infuriating and inappropriate." to desecrate public land to line the pockets of corporate backers of solar and wind developments is infuriating and inappropriate 24 Solar.indd 24 the Case for Going local Timothy Schoechle, PhD, author of the new National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy report "Getting Smarter about the Smart Grid," argues that large-scale, remote renewable projects should be scrapped as they are really just an ineficient mechanism for generating revenue for investor-owned utilities and large municipal power companies. "Back in the early days of electricity there were economies of scale," he explained. "Four dollars of investment were needed to make one dollar wholelifetimesmagazine.com 3/27/13 9:38 AM

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