Tag Archives: solar energy

Smart From The Start

Today U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that his department, along with the Bureau of Land Management, had approved the necessary permits allowing for the construction of the first two solar energy projects ever deployed on U.S. public lands.

“This is an historic day for the U.S. and for California,” said Secretary Salazar speaking on conference call. “I am pleased to be moving forward into the clean energy frontier,” he said also crediting Bob Abbey, the Director of the Bureau of Land Management’s efforts in realizing these projects. “They oversee 245 million acres of public lands that could contribute significantly to the country’s energy needs.”


Suncatcher System by Stirling Energy Systems.

The nation’s first two solar projects on public lands will both be in the Golden State. The 709-megawatt (MW) Imperial Valley project just East of San Diego on 6,360 acres of public lands will generate enough solar power to provide electricity for up to 500,000 homes. The second solar project, in the Inland Empire of San Bernardino County, is a 45 MW solar project on 422 acres of public lands referred to as the Chevron Lucerne project. Combined, these two solar energy projects are expected to create about 950 jobs and infuse $1 billion into California’s economy.

“I am excited to join Secretary Salazar today in announcing the first solar projects to ever get permits on federal land, both of which will be located in the Golden State,” said Governor Schwarzenegger who missed the press conference call because he was stuck on a plane. “Today’s announcement only further cements California’s national leadership in renewable energy development – and it couldn’t have been without our federal partners. Our great partnership is helping to improve public health, grow our green economy, promote energy independence and strengthen our national security.”  – Governor Schwarzenegger

Governor Schwarzenegger has been championing these projects from the start. Barely a week ago when the California Energy Commission approved the larger Imperial Valley project (the smaller Chevron Lucerne project did not require CEC approval), the only thing standing in the way was the permitting from the Bureau of Land Management called “Records of Decision.” Now that these have been granted, the projects will qualify for the Federal Stimulus Funds in the form of 30% tax credit for overall cost of the construction of the projects. The deadline to qualify for those funds is December 31st. Salazar said he expected more projects to be approved by the end of 2010.

Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey said that they will continue with their “Smart from the start,” approach. He said that these first two solar projects are examples of how the permitting process can be streamlined “without cutting any corners for environmental reviews or ecological considerations.” He added that the projects all had extended public input from various stakeholders.

“There are 11 million acres of public lands in California deserts. The area to be disturbed is less than two-tenths of 1%,” emphasized BLM’s Abbey.  Salazar noted that now even NRDC and Sierra Club have come on board with the projects.

Commenting on the 180 permits pending for more solar project developments in the U.S., Salazar said that, “We will be pro-active so we avoid conflicts with ecological aspects we are trying to protect. It’s really no different from what we’ve done with city planning for the past 50, 60 years. We foresee thousands of solar plants sprouting up all over the nation.”  There are currently 1.3 million acres of land under application for solar projects.

The companies that will be developing the Imperial Valley solar project on public lands are owned by an Irish conglomerate, NRT, and are called Tessera Solar and Stirling Energy Systems.

READ Press Release from Department of Interior HERE.

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Greetings From Planet Ocean

By Graham Hill

A note from the editor:

After sailing 8,000 nautical miles, The Plastiki – carrying a 10-member crew  – arrived triumphantly in Sydney harbor on July 26th, completing a 130-days voyage across the Pacific Ocean.

After engaging in a role-playing game with actress Glenn Close during the TED Mission Blue Voyage, entrepreneur Graham Hill joined fellow Selection Committee member and adventure ecologist David DeRothschild and his Plastiki crew on a groundbreaking voyage across the Pacific Ocean.

“I’m not a werewolf,” said Glenn Close, her eyes not leaving mine for a second. My mind reeled. Could I trust her? She seemed calm and confident. Or was that a slight smirk in her smile?

Close, myself, several environmentally engaged celebs such as Edward Norton and Leonardo DiCaprio, along with AOL founder Steve Case, tech savant Bill Joy, and a number of philanthropists, were among the 100 or so aboard a Lindblad Expeditions ship in the Galapagos this past April for the TED Mission Blue Voyage. The five-day conference had been organized by TED and Dr. Sylvia Earle, the deep-sea-diving pioneer and 2009 TED Prize winner. Close and DiCaprio had taken a break from plotting ways to save the world’s oceans for a mean game of Werewolves and Villagers, a highly addictive role-playing game. The game won, Close, talented actress that she is, smiled mischievously. Total werewolf.

This scene, frankly, wasn’t one I had ever imagined myself in. But being the founder of one of the more popular green websites, TreeHugger.com, had, strangely — and wonderfully — brought me together with a lot of people I never dreamed I’d play role-playing games with below decks on the equator. And thankfully! The increasingly vivid environmental nightmare we were heading toward has prompted many of our society’s influencers to see how they can help, and the TED Mission Blue Voyage was the first of two such inspired gatherings I’ve been privileged to drop in on lately, the second being the Plastiki, my pal David de Rothschild’s recycled-plastic-bottle “cataraft,” on which I was just crossing the Pacific.

Unlike many maps, globes are not distorted. Take a look at one. Spin it around. Notice that there’s way more blue than brown. Center it over Hawaii, and the Pacific covers your whole view. The oceans cover fully 71 percent of the globe. It ain’t Planet Earth; it’s very clearly Planet Ocean. Without the oceans, we’d quite simply go extinct, and this is the fundamental issue that both the TED Mission Blue Voyage and Plastiki are addressing.

In the Galapagos, Sylvia Earle wanted to galvanize support for saving our oceans by creating a global network of marine protected areas dubbed “Hope Spots” — think national parks for regions of the ocean — and over the five-day event, she got a major head start. The event featured your standard intense battery of TED talks (ocean-focused), lightened with interludes by Chevy Chase, Damien Rice, and Jackson Browne and peppered with guided snorkeling excursions, diving trips, and nature walks (per Cousteau: we protect what we love).

Between premiering Jake Eberts’s latest masterpiece, Oceans; showing videos of Mike Rutzen playing with a variety of monstrous sharks; displaying fantastic ocean photos by Brian Skerry; and raising a cool 17 million (yes, million), the TED-curated talks delivered. Among much else we learned that our fisheries have been decimated, that two-thirds of our oceans are out of any nation’s control and therefore are frustratingly difficult to regulate. We learned that we insanely subsidize our two-and-a-half-times-too-large fishing industry to the tune of $35 billion a year, while a mere $16 billion could protect more than 20 percent of the seas.

Once Mission Blue concluded, I hightailed it to Christmas Island, Kiribati. Five hours south of Hawaii, this is where I joined up with the Plastiki, a 60-foot catamaran made out of 12,500 reclaimed bottles and a fully recyclable plastic called Seretex.

The cat looked like a pleasure yacht. But one with Magiveresque additions of solar panels, wind turbines, a gigantic terrarium apparatus, and even a power-creating stationary bike. It was crowned with a Buckminster Fuller–inspired geodesic igloo for the crew. In short order, I came to understand that Adventure Ecology’s vessel, while very high-tech in some ways, was more raft than boat. An experimental craft built in San Francisco over the past few years, the Plastiki’s mission was to sail from there to Sydney using only alternative energy (wind, solar, hydro, human) while drawing attention to the plight of our oceans and encouraging us to start thinking “resource instead of “waste” management by emulating our animal brethren and designing for zero waste. The adventure part? The Pacific is absolutely massive, the boat sails a measly three or so knots per hour, and due to the design challenge of hulls full of water bottles, she easily drifts sideways and has serious turning restrictions.

By my fourth day, I’d acclimated to the round-the-clock three-hour watches, the constant salty damp and the incessant creaking, clanging, whistling of our lady Plastiki as she lumbered across the oh-so-ginormous Pacific in a suspiciously Truman Show fashion. The vibe was great onboard, and with partners such as HP and Inmarsat, there was plenty of media streaming outward to CNN, Oprah, the New York Times, Al Jazeera, TreeHugger, and many others. It was also revealing to see how six people can live relatively comfortably in a tiny, tiny space (a roughly 300-square-foot cabin) while only using wind and solar energy.

About 10 days in, coming out of said 95-degree sweatbox of a cabin, I noticed our normally trailing buoy far to port. The infamous doldrums were upon us. And so, with equal parts excitement and fear, we jumped into the water for a swim, excited to get into the massive ocean for a cool-off and for a change of scenery, but fearful that our snail’s pace would be further slowed. We swam around like excited children, leaping off the cabin into the sea, diving deep and hanging onto the buoy, as far as one could safely get from the boat. The water was as blue and has as much visibility as a swimming pool, yet I dove and dove again looking for signs of life. Eerily, we saw nothing at all near the surface, and I understood how parts of the ocean truly can be desert-like.

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