Was Sarah Christie right?
January 4, 2010
County planning commissioner Sarah Christie was forced to step down last December, primarily because the supervisor who originally appointed her–5th District representative Jim Patterson–felt that he and Christie had a basic philosophical disagreement on key policy issues.
According to one local newspaper article, key among those disagreements was the Carrizo Plain, and whether or not two solar energy companies–SunPower and First Solar–should be allowed to build extensive projects on what many consider to be sacred land. Christie apparently took a much harder line on letting the construction proceed than did Patterson. [New Times]
However, if it’s any consolation to Christie, Bill Powers happens to share a similar approach to solar energy in California. The engineer and energy consultant believes the state should be thinking small when it comes to solar and wind energy. Powers believes that every available rooftop in the state should be covered with photovoltaic solar panels, especially commercial buildings. [San Francisco Chronicle]
Powers is skeptical of building massive solar energy plants. He argues the small panels can be installed quickly, don’t require big new power lines, and the price has dropped nearly 40 percent in the last year.
“The solar plants in the desert are albatrosses,” Powers told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It will be much more beneficial for those solar panels to be sitting in the urban core where they’re going to be used.”
Under state law, 20 percent of the electricity the utilities sell in California must come from renewable sources by the end of 2010, though no experts believe that deadline to be practical.
The apparent disagreement between Christie and Patterson on solar energy reflects the wider division in the environmental movement. Carl Zichella of the Sierra Club wants as much small-scale generation as possible, but he doesn’t believe it will be enough to meet California’s energy demands. He says that distrust and dislike of California’s big utility companies fuels the support of the small-is-beautiful idea.
The debate is far from over in San Luis Obispo County. Don’t be surprised if Bill Powers pays a visit soon and weighs in on the Carrizo Plain.