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Old 05-16-2012, 07:54 AM   #1 (permalink)
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CA - Desert Article

Some reading regarding Solar Energy and CA deserts.

Brad Mitzelfelt, San Bernardino County Supervisor
May 14, 2012

[Publisher's Note: As part of an ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary to you here at the FlashReport, I am pleased to present this column authored by San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt - Flash]

If you are new to the FlashReport, please check out the main site and the acclaimed FlashReport Weblog on California politics.
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Solar energy development in California is largely driven by artificial state mandates that now have utilities increasing their use of expensive renewable energy.

It’s a dubious legacy of a state government that can’t maintain its highways or keep felons in prison but can arrogantly assign itself the responsibility of curing “climate change” by destroying its citizens’ economy.

The tools to fast-track this renewable energy development include preferential regulatory treatment by federal and state agencies along with government “stimulus” incentives, tax breaks and loan-guarantee subsidies.

The costs of all of this will be fully realized when the electric bills come due in the near future. That indicates that this is hardly being driven by economics, but rather by politics. And the politics of saving the planet derive from the same movement that ostensibly tries to protect the environment from the impacts of development.

However, this new, well-connected renewable energy development sector – in the form of unionized large-scale solar energy generation projects on California’s federal desert lands – has elbowed its way ahead of all other types of development, including mining, which actually produces things people need.

This is one of several attempts to grab more desert away from average Californians. The U.S. Marine Corps is proposing to take over a majority of the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle recreation area to add to its sprawling Twentynine Palms training base. Eight-hundred-thousand people a year visit Johnson Valley – as many as 40,000 in a single weekend.

As a former Marine who served in a desert war, I certainly want the Marines to have the land they need to realistically train. But I also believe that if they don’t have enough room on their current base, they could simply apply for BLM permits for periodic training exercises on the nearby lands as is done in other parts of the country with no problems.

At the same time, Senator Dianne Feinstein is proposing a second so-called “Desert Protection Act” that would take 1.6 million additional acres of BLM land out of potential development, including mining exploration, by designating two new “National Monuments”, one adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve (which was created by the 1994 Act, taking 1.5 million acres out of BLM multiple use in addition to 800,000 acres out of private ownership), and one adjacent to the Joshua Tree National Park.

These proposals sound harmless, but what most people don’t realize is that just about every square inch of the desert is spoken for, either for military use, national parks, wilderness and special conservation areas, Indian reservations and other types of land management. Half of the lands under BLM management, the supposed “multiple use” agency, are protected under wilderness or special conservation area restrictions.

Projects that would disturb or destroy habitat, say, of the desert tortoise, must make up for that loss by purchasing private habitat at ratios of usually at least three acres for every one acre disturbed. At that rate, even in the nation’s largest county - San Bernardino – just three solar projects on federal land will require an unacceptable amount of private land acquisition - 22,000 acres, or roughly 34 square miles. And that land will come off of the county’s tax rolls. We will literally run out of mitigation land after a handful of projects.

The federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires that 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy be generated on public lands in the west. To meet California’s mandate of having 33 percent of our energy come from “renewable” sources, it requires more than 20,000 megawatts of production and they are looking mainly to public lands.

If we approved that much solar, the result would be a regulatory lockdown on the rest of the desert by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Fish and Game.

And we still wouldn’t be making a dent in the problem these projects purport to solve. California has the ninth largest economy in the world (and falling) but we generate less than 1.5 percent of the world’s so-called greenhouse gases. If we slash emissions by half, we’ve reduced global emissions by a scant three-quarters of a percentage point.

I do support accommodating our fair share of renewable energy as part of a portfolio of economic land uses. More than $5 billion is currently being spent in San Bernardino County on projects and there is some economic benefit there. That benefit would increase if we were to direct those projects to private lands, where they can have more positive economic benefits and less environmental impact.

For projects on public land, we must stop the unsustainable private-land acquisition requirements in favor of scientifically supportable efforts to effectively recover species on existing federal land. Head-starting (raising juvenile tortoises until their shells can withstand predator attacks), which is successfully used by the military, should be allowed for other types of land management.

Aggressive predator control to protect tortoises from ravens and coyotes would also be more effective than simply putting land off limits. They have been doing that for 20 years and the tortoise is still going extinct.

These public lands have long supported a range of beneficial uses. Let’s not destroy the desert, or our ability to use and enjoy it, in the name of saving the planet. All we’ll get in return is a world and a way of life less worth saving.

Brad Mitzelfelt is vice-chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and is a Member of the Public Lands Committee of the National Association of Counties.

__________________________________________________ __________

Brad Mitzelfelt is Vice-Chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, representing the Mojave Desert. He is also a candidate for the newly drawn 8th Congressional District. He is Chairman of the Quad State Local Governments Authority, which includes nine Western counties that advocate for access and economic opportunity on federal lands. And he is a Member of the Public Lands Steering Committee of the National Association of Counties.
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Old 05-26-2012, 09:25 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Military Wants to Limit Wind Development


The Press Enterprise
Published: 20 May 2012 09:36 PM

With a PowerPoint presentation and a dot of red light, military officials dropped a bomb on California’s wind energy industry at a recent public meeting.

Using a laser pointer, a Navy official outlined on a map a vast area where the military wants to limit commercial wind development. The pointer swept across the Mojave Desert, skirting around Las Vegas, and edging near San Bernardino County’s High Desert communities and touching the southern Sierra Nevada range.

Within that outline, energy companies have been conducting meteorological tests to develop at least 15 wind farms on public property under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Bureau and Land Management.

The military hasn’t officially adopted an “adverse impact zone” — a reference to interference with military activities — described by Navy sustainability official Tony Parisi during the recent meeting.

To help map the zone, a laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is validating military tests of how wind turbines affect radar, Parisi said in a telephone interview. The matter has been discussed at the highest levels of the Navy and the Department of Defense, and a final decision is expected this summer, he said.

The military likely would oppose all wind projects in such a zone, he said.

The military’s concern could be a significant obstacle to wind energy development in Southern California’s deserts, said Nancy Rader, executive director of the California Wind Energy Association, who heard Parisi’s presentation April 25 at the Ontario Convention Center. The meeting was organized by California energy officials as part of a multiple-agency process to plan for renewable energy development in the desert that minimizes harm to wildlife habitat and other natural resources.

Military priorities tend to trump other land-use interests, she said.

“The military always comes first on the food chain, and we are always far behind,” Rader said by telephone. “And it is always, ‘Whoa, you can’t mess with national security.’”

Wind turbines compromise research-and-development missions involving airborne radar systems for current and future generation of military aircrafts, said Parisi, a Point Mugu-based civilian who heads the sustainability office for the Naval Air Systems Command Range.

The spinning blades reflect radar waves back to aircraft in ways that corrupt the radar spectrum, interfering with operators’ ability to detect and track targets, according to the presentation. Military officials want the Mojave Desert to be maintained as “pristine open air space.”

“We are not aware of any viable mitigation with the exception of curtailment, and that is shutting them down when we are doing missions,” Parisi said.

Radar concerns already have killed several wind projects. In 2010, energy developers abandoned about a half-dozen proposed wind farms in the Barstow area after the Department of Defense raised objections.

One of those was the 82.6-megawatt proposal by AES Wind Generation, which wanted to erect mammoth wind turbines on 1,577 acres of public land and 380 acres of private land on Daggett Ridge, about 10 miles southeast of Barstow. In 2009, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar selected the proposal for fast-tracked approval so it could qualify for federal stimulus dollars.

The company tried to minimize the effects on radar but couldn’t come to terms with military officials, said Greg Miller, renewable energy project manager for the BLM’s California Desert District. The Daggett Ridge project called for 33 towers, each 12 feet in diameter at the base and more than 260 feet tall. The tips of the rotating blades would have reached 429 feet in the air.

Federal laws require the Department of Defense to look for compromises and technical solutions to allow for wind energy and other types of development that may conflict with military missions, Rader said. But it can be difficult to work out agreements, because the military has so much clout and keeps much of its information classified, she said.

Parisi said the military can’t share all the details for security reasons but added that the physics of wind turbines’ effects on radar are well known.

The radar issue is the second roadblock to wind development in California’s deserts. Miller said wind developers also are having trouble getting the permits they need from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because of concerns that the turbines will harm protected golden eagles and California condors.

Environmentalists had mixed reactions to the military’s radar worries.

Cherry Good, who opposes a wind farm proposed on public land atop Black Lava Butte and Flat Top Mesa northwest of Yucca Valley, said she is pleased to hear of the military objections. The radar conflict is another reason the project shouldn’t be built, she said. Beyond that, it would destroy views, wildlife habitat and Native American artifacts, she said.

Ileene Anderson, a biologist for the Center for Biological Diversity, said flight paths above the Mojave Desert are an important route for migratory birds and bats that could be killed by wind turbines.

But Frazier Haney, manager of the Whitewater Preserve, east of Cabazon, said a ban on wind projects in large stretches of the Mojave could spur developers to seek other land that also is important to wildlife.

Rader, of the state wind power association, said she doesn’t see the military concerns as a victory for environmentalists, because it could eliminate some flexibility in deciding the best locations for wind development. In any case, California needs more wind energy if it is to meet a legislative mandate to get 33 percent of its power from alternative sources by 2020, she said.

Follow David Danelski on Twitter: @DavidDanelski

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