More Left Coast Blues

by Steven F. Hayward

Normally I leave the “Crazy California” beat to Victor Hanson, but as I’m out here in my home state for a few days I can’t resist piling on. Not long ago Gov. Jerry Brown ostentatiously signed a law requiring California to generate a third of its electricity from “renewable” sources within about a decade. Get ready for lots more windmills and solar panels. That is, if environmentalists will allow it.

Hayward’s First Axiom of Environmental Energy is that there is no source of energy which environmentalists won’t oppose if it becomes feasible and scalable. Enviro opposition to wind power in Massachusetts is well known, but I’ve seen news accounts of as many as 70 wind-power projects that environmentalists have filed suit to delay or prevent. Now environmentalists are suing to stop a proposed 250 megawatt solar-power project on the Carizzo Plain in California.

The Carrizo Plain is indeed a pretty place, but mostly because of its stark isolation. There is nothing out there. Hardly anyone — I’ll bet not even Victor — drives State Highway 58 between McKittrick and Santa Margarita on a regular basis. There’s a road sign at each end of this stretch that says “Next Services 90 Miles.” How often do you see a sign like that anywhere in California? I have always liked Hwy. 58 through the Carizzo Plain because I can drive 90 miles an hour while only encountering another car about once every 15 minutes.

So it would seem like an ideal place to put solar panels that wouldn’t disturb anyone’s view. But wait! It will disturb the wildflowers, as well as the usual endangered species! The New Times story on the controversy notes one telling detail: The proposed 250 megawatt project will require 4,685 acres of land — over seven square miles. And here’s the problem with both wind and solar: They are massive land hogs. A typical 750 megawatt coal- or natural-gas-fired power plant would require about 40 acres or less. In other words, you’d need roughly 20 square miles of land to equal the power output of one typical fossil fuel plant that could fit inside a modern football stadium. I think the New Times (one of those “alternative” freebie papers) buried the lede here.

Meanwhile, good luck to California in making that renewable-energy mandate.

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