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Posts Tagged ‘Nevada’

KEVIN FAGAN, San Francisco Chronicle, July 31, 2010

It happened a long time ago in a state on the other side of the country, but the day Ohio National Guardsmen killed four students at Kent State University during an anti-war protest is still a fresh hurt for Laurel Krause.

Her sister, 19-year-old freshman Allison Krause, was one of those killed in what became a tragic touchstone for protests against the Vietnam War. Now, 40 years after the May 4, 1970, shootings that also left nine wounded, Krause has launched a personal project to collect a video history of the event.

The 55-year-old Mendocino County woman will be coming to San Francisco on Aug. 7 and 8 to set up a camera and record the testimonials of anyone who was at the shootings or was directly affected by them. Witnesses, people who were wounded, relatives of victims, teachers, administrators, National Guardsmen – they’re all welcome, she said.

The event will be webcast live from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day on MichaelMoore.com.

‘Truth Tribunal’

Krause, an environment blogger, is calling her project “The Kent State Truth Tribunal.” Her first collection of oral histories – about 70 in all – was recorded in early May at Kent State, when the university was commemorating the 40th anniversary of the killings. After San Francisco she intends to record more recollections in New York City on October 9 and 10.

Co-directing the project with Krause is filmmaker Emily Kunstler, daughter of the late civil rights lawyer William Kunstler.

“Based on what we’ve been told over the years, we think the second-largest group of participants and witnesses to the shootings is in California, and we expect people to come from this state, Washington, Oregon and anywhere else nearby,” Krause said. “We are hoping to get all sides of the story. We want the whole truth to come out about these shootings.”

Public apology

In 1990, then-Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste apologized publicly for the shootings, but nobody was ever officially held accountable for the killings. Varying accounts have been offered over the years of whether the National Guardsmen were ordered to open fire on the anti-war protesters or did so spontaneously.

Krause is convinced the shooting was deliberate. She wants an apology from the federal government, because the U.S. invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War was what precipitated the protests that led to the shootings.

“Even 40 years later, it’s still a horrible thing for me and my family,” Krause said. “Allison was my only sibling. She wanted to be an art therapist. And I can never, ever see her again.”

Krause intends to give her collection to a library at New York University.

Earlier this year, the shooting site at Kent State was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and the university started a walking tour of it. The school’s library already has more than two floors worth of archives, including 100 oral histories, devoted to the shootings – but its archivists pick no sides in the historical debate, said Cara Gilgenbach, head of special collections and archives.

“There are many varying narratives of what occurred,” she said.

Find out more

To find out more about the tribunal event in San Francisco, and to register to give a testimonial, go to truthtribunal.org.

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TODD WOODY, The New York Times, September 30, 2009

brightsourceIn a rural corner of Nevada reeling from the recession, a bit of salvation seemed to arrive last year. A German developer, Solar Millennium, announced plans to build two large solar farms here that would harness the sun to generate electricity, creating hundreds of jobs.

But then things got messy. The company revealed that its preferred method of cooling the power plants would consume 1.3 billion gallons of water a year, about 20% of this desert valley’s available water.

Now Solar Millennium finds itself in the midst of a new-age version of a Western water war. The public is divided, pitting some people who hope to make money selling water rights to the company against others concerned about the project’s impact on the community and the environment.

“I’m worried about my well and the wells of my neighbors,” George Tucker, a retired chemical engineer, said on a blazing afternoon.

Here is an inconvenient truth about renewable energy: It can sometimes demand a huge amount of water. Many of the proposed solutions to the nation’s energy problems, from certain types of solar farms to biofuel refineries to cleaner coal plants, could consume billions of gallons of water every year.

“When push comes to shove, water could become the real throttle on renewable energy,” said Michael E. Webber, an assistant professor at the University of Texas in Austin who studies the relationship between energy and water.

Conflicts over water could shape the future of many energy technologies. The most water-efficient renewable technologies are not necessarily the most economical, but water shortages could give them a competitive edge.

In California, solar developers have already been forced to switch to less water-intensive technologies when local officials have refused to turn on the tap. Other big solar projects are mired in disputes with state regulators over water consumption.

To date, the flashpoint for such conflicts has been the Southwest, where dozens of multibillion-dollar solar power plants are planned for thousands of acres of desert. While most forms of energy production consume water, its availability is especially limited in the sunny areas that are otherwise well suited for solar farms.

At public hearings from Albuquerque to San Luis Obispo, Calif., local residents have sounded alarms over the impact that this industrialization will have on wildlife, their desert solitude and, most of all, their water.

Joni Eastley, chairwoman of the county commission in Nye County, Nev., which includes Amargosa Valley, said at one hearing that her area had been “inundated” with requests from renewable energy developers that “far exceed the amount of available water.”

Many projects involve building solar thermal plants, which use cheaper technology than the solar panels often seen on roofs. In such plants, mirrors heat a liquid to create steam that drives an electricity-generating turbine. As in a fossil fuel power plant, that steam must be condensed back to water and cooled for reuse.

The conventional method is called wet cooling. Hot water flows through a cooling tower where the excess heat evaporates along with some of the water, which must be replenished constantly. An alternative, dry cooling, uses fans and heat exchangers, much like a car’s radiator. Far less water is consumed, but dry cooling adds costs and reduces efficiency — and profits.

The efficiency problem is especially acute with the most tried-and-proven technique, using mirrors arrayed in long troughs. “Trough technology has been more financeable, but now trough presents a separate risk — water,” said Nathaniel Bullard, a solar analyst with New Energy Finance, a London research firm.

That could provide opportunities for developers of photovoltaic power plants, which take the type of solar panels found on residential rooftops and mount them on the ground in huge arrays. They are typically more expensive and less efficient than solar thermal farms but require a relatively small amount of water, mainly to wash the panels.

In California alone, plans are under way for 35 large-scale solar projects that, in bright sunshine, would generate 12,000 megawatts of electricity, equal to the output of about 10 nuclear power plants.

Their water use would vary widely. BrightSource Energy’s dry-cooled Ivanpah project in Southern California would consume an estimated 25 million gallons a year, mainly to wash mirrors. But a wet-cooled solar trough power plant barely half Ivanpah’s size proposed by the Spanish developer Abengoa Solar would draw 705 million gallons of water in an area of the Mojave Desert that receives scant rainfall.

One of the most contentious disputes is over a proposed wet-cooled trough plant that NextEra Energy Resources, a subsidiary of the utility giant FPL Group, plans to build in a dry area east of Bakersfield, Calif.

NextEra wants to tap freshwater wells to supply the 521 million gallons of cooling water the plant, the Beacon Solar Energy Project, would consume in a year, despite a state policy against the use of drinking-quality water for power plant cooling.

Mike Edminston, a city council member from nearby California City, warned at a hearing that groundwater recharge was already “not keeping up with the utilization we have.”

The fight over water has moved into the California Legislature, where a bill has been introduced to allow renewable energy power plants to use drinking water for cooling if certain conditions are met.

“By allowing projects to use fresh water, the bill would remove any incentives that developers have to use technologies that minimize water use,” said Terry O’Brien, a California Energy Commission deputy director.

NextEra has resisted using dry cooling but is considering the feasibility of piping in reclaimed water. “At some point if costs are just layered on, a project becomes uncompetitive,” said Michael O’Sullivan, a senior vice president at NextEra.

Water disputes forced Solar Millennium to abandon wet cooling for a proposed solar trough power plant in Ridgecrest, Calif., after the water district refused to supply the 815 million gallons of water a year the project would need. The company subsequently proposed to dry cool two other massive Southern California solar trough farms it wants to build in the Mojave Desert.

“We will not do any wet cooling in California,” said Rainer Aringhoff, president of Solar Millennium’s American operations. “There are simply no plants being permitted here with wet cooling.”

One solar developer, BrightSource Energy, hopes to capitalize on the water problem with a technology that focuses mirrors on a tower, producing higher-temperature steam than trough systems. The system can use dry cooling without suffering a prohibitive decline in power output, said Tom Doyle, an executive vice president at BrightSource.

The greater water efficiency was one factor that led VantagePoint Venture Partners, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, to invest in BrightSource. “Our approach is high sensitivity to water use,” said Alan E. Salzman, VantagePoint’s chief executive. “We thought that was going to be huge differentiator.”

Even solar projects with low water consumption face hurdles, however. Tessera Solar is planning a large project in the California desert that would use only 12 million gallons annually, mostly to wash mirrors. But because it would draw upon a severely depleted aquifer, Tessera may have to buy rights to 10 times that amount of water and then retire the pumping rights to the water it does not use. For a second big solar farm, Tessera has agreed to fund improvements to a local irrigation district in exchange for access to reclaimed water.

“We have a challenge in finding water even though we’re low water use,” said Sean Gallagher, a Tessera executive. “It forces you to do some creative deals.”

In the Amargosa Valley, Solar Millennium may have to negotiate access to water with scores of individuals and companies who own the right to stick a straw in the aquifer, so to speak, and withdraw a prescribed amount of water each year.

“There are a lot of people out here for whom their water rights are their life savings, their retirement,” said Ed Goedhart, a local farmer and state legislator, as he drove past pockets of sun-beaten mobile homes and luminescent patches of irrigated alfalfa. Farmers will be growing less of the crop, he said, if they decide to sell their water rights to Solar Millennium.

“We’ll be growing megawatts instead of alfalfa,” Mr. Goedhart said.

While water is particularly scarce in the West, it is becoming a problem all over the country as the population grows. Daniel M. Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, predicted that as intensive renewable energy development spreads, water issues will follow.

“When we start getting 20%, 30% or 40% of our power from renewables,” Mr. Kammen said, “water will be a key issue.”

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TRACY SEIPEL, MercuryNews.com, May 15, 2009

brightsourceDeclaring it a record total, PG&E on Wednesday announced an expansion of solar-power contracts with Oakland’s BrightSource Energy for a total of 1,310 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 530,000 California homes.

The power purchase agreements, which will now include seven power plants, add to a previous contract the two companies struck in April 2008 for up to 900 megawatts of solar thermal power.

BrightSource called it the largest solar deal ever. The company now has 2,610 megawatts under contract, which it said is more than any other solar thermal company and represents more than 40 percent of all large-scale solar thermal contracts in the United States.

“The solar thermal projects announced today exemplify PG&E’s commitment to increasing the amount of renewable energy we provide to our customers throughout Northern and central California,” John Conway, senior vice president of energy supply for PG&E, said in a statement. “Through these agreements with BrightSource, we can harness the sun’s energy to meet our customers’ power requirements when they need it most — during hot summer days.”

John Woolard, chief executive of BrightSource Energy, said the additional contracts came about after BrightSource demonstrated its technology in Israel with results that were “at or above all the specifications. It proved to them that our technology works,” Woolard said. “They saw us executing and delivering” efficient production of solar energy.

BrightSource, which designs, builds and operates solar thermal plants, will construct the plants at a cost of at least $3 billion in the southwestern deserts of California, Nevada and Arizona. The company anticipates the first plant, a 110-megawatt facility at Ivanpah in eastern San Bernardino County, to begin operation by 2012.

Its technology uses sunlight reflected from thousands of movable mirrors to boil water to make steam. The steam then drives a turbine to generate electricity. BrightSource founder and Chairman Arnold Goldman’s previous company, Luz International, built nine solar plants in the Mojave Desert between 1984 and 1990, all of which are still operating.

In March, BrightSource reached an agreement with Southern California Edison to purchase 1,300 megawatts, then the largest solar contract ever, BrightSource said.

Investor-owned California utilities such as PG&E are required to get 20% of their power from renewable sources by 2010, or to by then have contracts for power from projects that go online by 2013. PG&E already has contracts in hand that exceed that 20% goal.  PG&E generates 12% of its energy from renewable sources now, and expects that to increase to 14% by the end of the year.

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KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times, January 26, 2009

Almost lost amid President Barack Obama’s stream of appointments was that of Jon Wellinghoff as Acting Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The FERC’s duties include regulating interstate transmission of electricity, watching over the nation’s wholesale electricity markets and also licensing new hydropower projects.

Mr. Wellinghoff — a Democrat who has been one of five FERC commissioners for the last three years, and previously worked in private practice as a lawyer specializing in energy issues — has applauded Mr. Obama’s clean energy goals. His appointment drew praise from environmentalists.

“He’s been a consistent advocate of sustainable energy policies — energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean distributed resources,” said Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council in an e-mail message, “and he has focused on making sure these resources are treated fairly in energy markets (many of which had been notorious for hostility to these relative newcomers).”

One of Mr. Wellinghoff’s roles, according to his biography, has been to advise the NRDC on U.S.-China energy issues.

The previous chairman, Joseph Kelliher, a Republican, was the subject of controversy for his close participation in former Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2000 Energy Task Force. Mr. Kelliher stepped down earlier this month.

Mr. Wellinghoff helped establish the “Energy Innovations Sector” of FERC, which helps look into and promote new technologies, and he co-authored a paper on how to more effectively regulate hydrokinetic projects.

According to his published biography, he was also the main author of the renewable energy standards established in Nevada — although as Matthew Wald and I have reported, the state has lagged in achieving those standards.

So what will his appointment mean for FERC? Mr. Cavanagh expects the commission to pay more attention to energy efficiency and distributed electricity generation, and that it will “look favorably on initiatives designed to accelerate full integration of renewable resources and energy efficiency into the nation’s portfolio of energy resources.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, December 22, 2008

solar_184x138Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced today that it has entered into a long-term agreement with El Dorado Energy, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sempra Generation, to purchase 10 megawatts of renewable, photovoltaic solar energy from Sempra Generation’s new El Dorado Energy Solar facility in Nevada. 

“Solar energy is a reliable and environmentally-friendly way to help meet California’s peak energy demands,” said Jack Keenan, chief operating officer for PG&E. “Through our partnership with Sempra Generation, we will significantly increase the amount of solar energy we provide to our customers in 2009.” 

The El Dorado Energy solar facility is located on 80 acres adjacent to Sempra Generation’s existing gas-fired power plant in Boulder City, Nevada. Power deliveries to PG&E are expected to begin by January 1, 2009. The project will generate up to 23.2 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy annually. That is equivalent to the amount of energy needed to serve more than 3,360 residential homes annually. 

”We commend Pacific Gas and Electric Company and its decision to encourage and sustain new renewable energy installations such as El Dorado Energy Solar,” said Michael W. Allman, president and chief executive officer of Sempra Generation. “Our mutual, long-term commitment to solar energy will benefit western U.S. power customers for generations to come.”

Since 2002, PG&E has entered into contracts for more than 20% of its future electric power deliveries from renewable sources. On average, more than 50% of the electricity PG&E delivers to its customers comes from generating sources that emit no carbon dioxide, making the company’s energy among the cleanest in the nation.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation, is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to 15 million people in northern and central California.

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KEVIN FERGUSON, The Information Week, November 24, 2008

1739725132_460c52d56dWhere is President-elect Barack Obama headed with environmental protection and renewable energy? The answer lies not so much in the encouraging but ultimately self-serving video posted on the transition team’s Web site, but rather on links elsewhere on the page. In particular, look at the appointment of senior transition official Rose McKinney-James as FERC Review Team Lead.

Unless you live in California or Nevada, you may not be familiar with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  FERC — a relatively tiny agency that requested only $273.4 million and 1,465 full-time employees in its FY 2009 budget — regulates the country’s natural gas industry, hydroelectric projects, oil pipelines, and wholesale rates for electricity. You may recall that public advocacy groups excoriated FERC for its role in the deregulation of the wholesale electricity market in California and subsequent power crisis in 2000 and 2001.

So, what’s the significance of this recent appointment? McKinney-James, managing principal of Energy Works Consulting, has been championing renewable energy for decades, as the president and CEO of the public Corporation for Solar Technology and Renewable Resources (CSTRR), chair of the Nevada Renewable Energy Task Force, commissioner with the Nevada Public Service Commission, and other pubic posts.

Her efforts also have included renewable energy advocacy in the private sector — and in some rather unexpected places. The most visible of those places is MGM Mirage’s  Protech CityCenter in Las Vegas. McKinney-James sits on the MGM board.

The $7 billion development was recently awarded a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Project CityCenter includes a 4,000-room hotel-casino, two 400-room boutique hotels, more than 500,000 square feet of retail space, and 2,900 residential units on 66 acres between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo.

Perhaps McKinney-James can accelerate what has been a slow accommodation of renewable energy sources into FERC’s mix.

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