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A reader asks:

Given the intractable obstacles associated with the proposed Sunrise/Green Path Transmission Line, will SDG&E be forced to confront the inevitable reality that they can only meet their RPS requirements via on-site distributed generation renewables in the SDG&E Service Territory?

Current law requires that California’s utilities get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. This is known as the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Like the other utilities, SDG&E has been issuing solicitations to renewable energy generation businesses and customers, asking for proposals for new renewable energy resources. In SDG&E case, they are asking for renewable power both locally and from the Imperial Valley to our east.

SDG&E currently projects that the region will fall short of energy resources by 1,000 megawatts (MW) after the new Otay Mesa powerplant goes into operation and the existing South Bay Powerplant is closed down around 2010. It is currently pursuing new renewable energy contracts with solar energy and geothermal powerplant developers in the Imperial Valley. Parties have pointed out that those developers, in most cases, haven’t identified sites for their new plants, and have not started the CEC permitting process.

Others have noted that a sizable percentage of the long term renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs) the IOUs are signing dont’ work out for one reason or another.

The San Diego Association of Government (SANDAG)’s Energy Working Group Renewables Team conducted a study of regional renewable energy resources, and currently estimates that up to 4,000 MW of renewable power could be developed locally, mostly in windier and sunnier areas of our east county, without having to tap into

proposed Imperial Valley renewables. One way for this to happen would entail SDG&E, SANDAG and its member governments identifying and supporting the development of new “regional renewable powerparks” in East County, perhaps on ranchlands where renewables like windmillls and solar collector systems could coexist with cattle or agricultural crops.

SDG&E would also have to plan to upgrade some existing 69 KV powerlines in the east county to carry the increased power from these facilities to the urban core areas.

Renewable team members, have note that the quality of sunlight falling on our east county areas, known as “solarization” is about 10 percent less intense than that falling in the Imperial Valley, making a MW of solar power from east county about 10% more costly to produce than one from the Imperial Valley.

But that additional cost would be offset by the fact that you wouldn’t have to buy capacity on long transmission lines to move that power here.

– DON WOOD

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