Alternative Energy Still Facing Headwinds  

Posted by Big Gav

The Washington Post has an article on forces encouraging and opposing renewable energy in the US - Alternative Energy Still Facing Headwinds. I like that Obama is still using his "end the tyranny of oil in our time" line.

The late afternoon light is shining golden on the high chaparral as Donna Tisdale stands near a faded 1800s ranch house, scans the unblemished surrounding hills and sees trouble on the horizon.

"The ridge right there will have turbines on it," she says, squinting west into the setting sun. Turning north and east, where a pristine ridgeline meets the sky, she points out the route of a $1.9 billion electricity transmission line whose 150-foot towers will march 123 miles from the Imperial Valley to energy-thirsty San Diego.

"No matter which way you look, you won't be able to get away from it," laments Tisdale, a rancher and political activist in McCain Valley who is trying to block the power line. "I hate when outsiders come in and take what they can and then leave."

The three-year fight over the Sunrise Powerlink, which is designed to carry solar, wind and geothermal energy, typifies the serious challenges facing President Obama and many of the nation's governors as they tout the power of renewable energy to put people to work and rescue the planet from the effects of climate change.

The nation's richest resources of renewable fuel -- primarily wind and solar -- lie in distant deserts, vast plains, and remote valleys and hilltops like this one, far from the populous cities where energy is most needed. Thousands of miles of new power lines will be required to bring renewable energy to cities and suburbs, a vast undertaking that will cost untold billions of dollars in public and private money and will require compromise by dueling interest groups and people such as Tisdale.

Obama, who made the country's energy future a central part of his campaign pitch, is now staking political capital on his vision. With the nation enduring its deepest economic crisis in decades, he told Energy Department employees earlier this month that energy provisions, including funding in the stimulus bill, would "begin to end the tyranny of oil in our time."

"After decades of dragging our feet," Obama said, the "plan will finally spark the creation of a clean energy industry that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next few years, manufacturing wind turbines and solar cells, for example."

Obama said U.S. renewable fuel capacity will double in "the next few years." Noting that the electrical grid has changed little since the era of black-and-white TV, he promised a "better, smarter" network that will "ship wind and solar power from one end of this country to the other."

Yet the $2 billion in the stimulus package devoted to transmission lines is a tiny part of what's needed. "I see it as seed money," said Jon Wellinghoff, acting chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. "We need $100 billion to $200 billion worth of investment, and I believe we'll see that money coming from the private sector," he said, though current credit conditions make that difficult.

2 comments

Interesting article. I don't think many people realize that amount of transmission needed to support new renewable.

With large amounts of land needed for the most promising forms of wind and solar power, hopefully utilities get the funding they need to proceed with these projects.

Anonymous   says 10:55 AM

"Double in the next few years?" Need more detailed definitions of "alternative energy" and "few"

steve selverston

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