With more than 20 million inhabitants, no country in the country has greater demands on energy with limited water resources than Southern California. Southern California, amidst abundant sunlight and available land, is in the center of payment for solar energy. Solar energy is green, and President Barack Obama and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are supporters of solar energy.
Eleven large solar thermal farms are currently undergoing authorization with the California Energy Authority. There is a rush to approve these planned industrial-size projects, as federal stimulus funds, which can contribute to project costs by up to 30%, expire at the end of 2010. These funds will only be contributed if construction begins by the end of the year. If all these projects start, the amount of federal contribution to their costs could be about $ 10 billion.
Balancing energy needs, economic benefits, and environmental concerns is a difficult task. This deadline has created significant coordination between different interest groups that are at risk of billions of dollars. Environmentalists want to ensure that these areas are protected and that all projects comply with environmental laws. However, some believe that some habitat destruction deserves significant economic gains and energy from these projects.
Ten of the 11 proposed sites for a solar farm are desert areas, with one located south of the San Joaquin Valley. One of the 11 proposed sites is called Ivanba Farm. Located 4.5 miles southwest of Primm, Nevada is on the banks of dry Ivanpah. The project will have a significant economic impact on the Primm area, where the project requires hundreds of construction workers. In the long run, the farm will need more than 50 employees to operate.
If built, the Ivanba solar farm will generate electricity for more than half a million homes in California. It will also give a big boost to utility companies in California, by 2020, under a federal mandate, they have to produce 33% of their energy from renewable resources. California has strict environmental standards that must be met to advance the projects. Also, many projects exist on federal territory, requiring approval from the US Land Administration Office and local counties are also involved in the permit process.
The California Energy Commission usually approves about seven major energy projects annually in the state, usually natural gas or other energy sources. The planned industrial-scale energy farms, under this tight deadline for federal stimulus funds, are creating unprecedented demands on the agency. While the California government is facing an accelerating crisis and many state employees face gratuities, the Energy Committee had to absorb more staff in light of the demands of these projects. The committee extended to the maximum.
In an effort to comply with environmental laws, the Ivanba solar farm project has shrunk by 12% in size to 3,500 acres, to minimize damage to desert turtles and rare plant habitats. Due to time constraints, project developers hope to extend the deadline for stimulus funds. The legislation was proposed by California Sen. Diane Feinstein. However, there is no guarantee of extension so the pressure continues to get approved for these solar projects by the end of the year.