Energy

Sun, Sun, Sun, Here We Come!

Written by Sven Eberlein

SF Gate reports today that the Interior Department approved a plan to build Blythe Solar Power Project, the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world, in eastern Riverside County by the end of the year.

On the same page of its business report there’s an article talking about German clean-tech firms looking toward the Bay Area as their potential North American headquarters.

There’s something happening here, and what it is, is exactly clear: California is poised to become a worldwide leader in clean energy, creating new investments, jobs, and a less carbon-emitting economy. It’s setting the stage for the rest of the U.S. to follow in the irreversible path of the global market toward a clean energy future.

Meanwhile, big Texas oil refineries are working to derail the bullet train toward the future with Prop 23, a cynical attempt at preserving their right to pollute and keep us stuck on the economic road to nowhere.

At 6,000 acres, Blythe Solar Power Project will be the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world, eventually generating 1,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 300,000 homes.

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Says Interior Secretary Ken Salazar:

The Blythe Solar Power Project is a major milestone in our nation’s renewable energy economy. This project shows in a real way how harnessing our own renewable resources can create good jobs here at home.

The article goes on to say that Blythe Solar is just one of nine in the state that are racing to meet a deadline set by President Obama’s economic stimulus package. Renewable power projects that secure all their permits and start construction by the end of this year can receive a federal grant worth 30 percent of the project’s cost, in lieu of taking a tax credit of equal value.

So what was that about the stimulus not creating jobs and doing exactly what it was designed to do? If we didn’t have the stimulus and Government to create incentives to shift our investments into clean energy — in other words, if Tea Party Republicans had their way — we’d probably be drilling for oil in the desert right around now. Sure, that would make Valero and Tesoro happy. They are, after all, among the nation’s biggest polluters, and their California oil refineries are among the top ten polluters in our state.

Meanwhile, German clean-tech companies are looking towards California and the Bay Area to headquarter their North American operations of cutting edge solar and wind technology.

You know, the kind of companies that produce these kinds of things:

P1030002

The latest overseas solar enterprise to put its North American headquarters in San Francisco is Q-Cells SE, a company headquartered in an industrial area of the former East German state of Saxony-Anhalt, specializing in thin-film solar cells and plant design, construction and management. Announcing the company’s new subsidiary, Q-Cells North America, at a 20-person office South of Market, CEO Marc van Gerven remarked:

It is no surprise that we chose San Francisco. Here, there is a solid existing network of renewable energy leaders for us to pull from and partner with.”

I’m thinking he’s talking about the energy leaders who helped pass AB 32, California’s landmark global warming law, and not the Texas oil companies and Tea Partiers who are trying to jam Prop 23 down our throats so we can go back to the last century.

Mayor Gavin Newsom chimed in, too:

Q-Cells’ decision to locate its North American headquarters in San Francisco is another boost for the city’s status as a hub for the clean technology sector.

This is what it comes down to: The authors and supporters of Prop 23 are trying to sell us the false equivalency that shifting our economy to clean energy will come at the expense of jobs. Thus the brilliantly sinister name of “California jobs initiative,” pitting the environment against job creation by including a provision that would suspend AB 32 unless there’s 5.5 percent unemployment for four consecutive calendar quarters.

It’s like the logging industry saying “let’s keep clear-cutting all our forests so we can preserve our loggers’ jobs.” “Shortsighted” doesn’t even begin to describe this kind of thinking. Fact is, there won’t be any jobs in a fossil-based economy if we keep burning oil at the current rate, because there will be less and less oil to burn and more and more environmental devastation due to ever-rising carbon levels in the atmosphere and its effects on on the earth’s ecosystem. Even if you don’t think climate change is a real threat and you have that sort of Libertarian “business will take care of it” streak in you, you have got to realize that clean energy is not only our best chance of having a livable planet to pass on to our children, but that it’s the future in terms of economic growth and new jobs.

Countries like Germany realized this a while ago and began shifting their policies towards energy creation that looks like this:

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and like this:

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Offshore-Windpark “Alpha Ventus”, outside Borkum in the Nordsee.
Foto: DOTI/Matthias Ibeler/ddp

Can we catch up with the rest of the world and become major players in the world economy’s transformation toward clean energy?

My answer is: Yes We Can!!

But first, we have to vote down the utterly backwards Prop 23 (and Prop 26), as well as make sure we keep Democratic majorities in both the Houses of Congress.

The only jobs Republicans are going to create are new opportunities on Wall Street to manage their portfolios.

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Sven Eberlein

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