Jim Patterson and the California Valley solar ranch

April 17, 2012

Alex Alexiev


Fifth District Supervisor Jim Patterson has distributed a campaign brochure touting the fact that he “has led the effort” to approve two solar energy projects and “provide nearly 400 skilled worker positions” at the California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR).

Since Mr. Patterson evidently considers this the major achievement of his tenure as county supervisor to date, as evidenced by the top billing given to the ranch in the brochure, it is worth looking into some other facts about this project that he prefers not to tell his presumed voters:

· CVSR will generate only 12 permanent jobs per year after construction, according to developer Sunpower Corp., after receiving a $1.2 billion federally-guaranteed loan, or $100 million per permanent job.

· Sunpower Corp. was already a majority foreign-owned company (by French oil giant Total) and was exporting jobs to Mexico (building a factory in Mexicali) when it received the federal loan and was promoted by Patterson and others.

· CVSR will not have to pay property taxes on its solar panels, depriving the county of an estimated $14 million in tax revenue a year.

· It signed a contract with PG&E to sell it electricity at approximately 50 percent above market rates, costing its rate payers, including San Luis Obispo County citizens, $463 million over the life of the contract.

· Despite these lavish subsidies, Sunpower lost $604 million in 2011 and its stock price is down over 70 percent since April 2011 and 90 percent since 2007, and, according to Total’s CEO, would already be bankrupt had it not been acquired by Total.

Mr. Patterson and like-minded officials would undoubtedly justify the huge economic costs such schemes impose on the citizens of our county by invoking the paramount objective of fighting global warming.

So let us for a minute look at how much good California can do to that effect. Even if one assumes, which I do not, that there is global warming, that it is indeed anthropogenic and that there is an urgent need to cut down CO2 emissions, nothing California or the United States, for that matter, can do will make the slightest difference in global emissions, given that China, India and 140 other countries refuse to participate.

The United States’ current emissions of green house gasses are 4.2 gigatons per year, decreasing at a rate of 5 percent per annum. California’s share is some 500 mln tons. China’s emissions are 7.7 gigatons going up at 13 percent per year. Should California decide to eliminate all of its emissions and go back to a hunter-gatherer type of society, the effect would be a one-time, 50 percent reduction of Chinese yearly emissions growth.

Alex Alexiev was a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washinton D.C. He writes for several national publications including National Review.



  1. OnTheOtherHand says:

    I am not sure why Mr. Alexiev. a member of a right wing DC think tank, is spouting off about a county supervisor’s election here in California, but the fact that he is makes me suspect his motivation. If he had been honest about that motivation from the start, I might have been less suspicious of the honesty and objectivity of his other points.

    I won’t debate the issue of whether or not the solar industry should get FEDERAL subsidies because I think that the federal government should not be subsidizing most industries including coal, oil, gas and nuclear. (Subsidies come in other forms than direct payments — from tax breaks to special legal protections to wars that provide access to resources.)

    I don’t see how anything the feds have done in regard is related to Patterson. The same applies to the actions/status of Sunpower/Total elsewhere. From my memory, Patterson was in general support of the concept long before Total bought out interest in Sunpower. If his official endorsement via a vote of approval came afterwards, it would not be because of the ownership.

    I don’t know why the CVSR is exempt from property taxes but I know that is a common situation when local governments are trying to bring in industries. I don’t see anything nefarious about it unless there is evidence of a specific payoff to Patterson or some other official. Likewise, I can’t believe that anyone is claiming that the construction jobs associated with the project would be permanent or implying that the project would be a major employer once completed. I think that the Board of Supervisors (including Patterson) were satisfied that there was going to be a bunch of temporary jobs and a few permanent jobs resulting from this.

    The “like-minded officialls” that Mr. Alexiev slams (alongside Patterson) in this piece includes most of the political establishment in this county including several associated with the GOP. The main opposition to the plant came from what he would normally call “environmental extremists.” Does he think that they are philosophical allies? Does he think that Debbie Arnold would have acted differently than Patterson did on this issue? What is his agenda here?

    The fact that he singled out Patterson, makes this more than just a opinion piece about the viability of solar projects or government subsidies of them. He is welcome to his opinions on those subjects and I might agree with him to some degree. I am not going to assume that Debbie Arnold endorsed this BS but I am hoping that she speaks out against it and makes her case against Patterson on issues that they disagree. IMHO Alexiev’s opinion hit-piece is on the same level as supporters of Adam Hill pulled trying to mess with the New Times poll .

    (-5) 5 Total Votes - 0 up - 5 down
  2. obispan says:

    Off-topic again, the topic is the District 5 Supervisorial race. Both Patterson and Arnold would have voted exactly the same on the issue. Arnold is trying to win on the global warming debate, which I consider off-topic at this level. Arnold’s true motives will never be clearly articulated.

    (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
    • Typoqueen says:

      My statement was taken out of sequence so it doesn’t make too much sense and some would argue that I never make too mush sense but, I was responding to someone else (Gimlet). It’s not off topic as we were discussing global warming and global warming is mentioned in this article. I’m not sure how you figure that by stating that Arnold is trying to win on the global warming debate is off topic. I haven’t heard her stance global warming, I would be very surprised if she agreed with Patterson, what do you mean by that? Has she talked about this issue?

      (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
  3. obispan says:

    Is Ms. Miniver being paid as I suspect Alex has been? This is now SOP – see link. I’m going to offer my services to both sides and let the free market govern. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-blogs-20120420,0,6081929.story

    (-1) 7 Total Votes - 3 up - 4 down
  4. msminiver says:

    Slick Jim for County Supervisor, would this be the same slick Jim who worked for Atascadero Mutual Water District (full time), joined every imaginable civic organization (attended every imaginable event during the day and at night), ran his nursery (Bay Laurel), ran his landscape maintenance business and was a full time dad. I remember seeing slick Jim working the counter at his nursery during normal work hours on numerous occasions and on other occasions running his landscape business all the time on the clock for Atascadero Mutual. So, if Slick Jim would double deal and take advantage of the residents of Atascadero why wouldn’t he deceive the rest of us? So, why would anyone be surprised that SLICK JIM would lie to the people he supposedly serves.

    By the way, great piece Alex and thank you

    (-1) 19 Total Votes - 9 up - 10 down
    • obispan says:

      Didn’t know “Slick Jim” owned Bay Laurel Nursery, didn’t know he was “Slick Jim”. Kinda wishing I had that name….(hey ladies…)

      (-1) 7 Total Votes - 3 up - 4 down
  5. obispan says:

    Hunter-gatherer=no taxes, no government. So why can’t we all agree on hunter-gatherer? Nugent ’16.

    (6) 18 Total Votes - 12 up - 6 down
    • Typoqueen says:


      (-6) 32 Total Votes - 13 up - 19 down
      • obispan says:

        I kinda like Ted. Up and coming he was told he had to use drugs and alcohol to have the requisite rock star image. He’d show up at clubs, act crazy, and go home stone cold sober. He’s still entertaining; “Kill it and Grill It” was hilarious. With religious fervor he spoke of the God given gift of meat alongside his, in my opinion, God given wife. Liberals for Nugent ’16; He’s honest and we can reason with him.

        (-3) 11 Total Votes - 4 up - 7 down
        • bobfromsanluis says:

          Ted Nugent was (is still?) a pedophile. He bragged about his conquest of 15 year old girls, not exactly the actions of a man in his right mind. His recent comments about President Obama certainly paint him as an extremist. I see nothing redeeming about him, as a liberal he does not offer me any sort of constructive thoughts or actions. I don’t believe he is honest and he is way beyond being able to be reasoned with. No thanks.

          (-2) 10 Total Votes - 4 up - 6 down
          • Typoqueen says:

            After what happened to Gabriel Gifford I feel that he’s a very dangerous man. The statements that he recently made were extreme and irresponsible. I didn’t read the story but I just saw a headline that said something about him guilty of an illegal kill (of an animal this time). Things like this arrest scare me even more, I feel that it will make him even more extreme then he already is,,if that’s possible.

            (0) 10 Total Votes - 5 up - 5 down
            • Citizen says:

              Typo: Did you know that Gabby Gifford’s attacker was a schizophrenic? You didn’t read the story, but from the headline you assume he is dangerous. Well, the Secret Service investigated and concluded he was not a danger to the President. Is that good enough or do you think you know more than the Secret Service (because you read a headline)? Where did you find that he was “arrested”. I didn’t see that in the articles I read, and I don’t even like Ted Nugent.

              Having been involved (not the subject of) an investigation by the Secret Service on a reported threat to Ronald Reagan, I can say that they are very thorough in their investigations into “suspected threats” and that they do not ignore minor incidents, they investigate everything.

              (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
              • Typoqueen says:

                Although he was arrested for the illegal animal kill I didn’t mean to say that he was arrested for threatening the prez. I do believe that he’s dangerous though. Yes Gabby G’s attacker was mentally deranged but isn’t anyone that kills or shoots a public figure screwed up? By Nugent saying those stupid things that he did he is flaming the fires for nuts that take what he says serious or takes them to mean something else. Some nut might have heard Nugent’s tangent about ‘if Obama get’s reelected then I will either be dead or in prison’ to mean something quite sinister,,and what does that mean BTW. Those are dangerous words and I didn’t even mention the rest of the stupid things that he said. A public figure such as Nugent should chose his words very carefully, it’s not the same as you or me saying those things. Sadly people worship people like him and he could cause someone to do something horrific. I think he’s a nut and I hope that he doesn’t cause someone to get hurt.

                (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
                • Citizen says:

                  Typo–He wasn’t arrested for the illegal animal kill. He wounded a bear that ran off. Then he shot and killed another bear. Apparently, the first bear that was wounded or grazed counted as a kill so the second bear was illegal. http://tv.yahoo.com/news/ted-nugent-set-court-date-illegal-kill-case-200621191.html

                  Gabby G’s attacker was not just mentally ill, he was schizophrenic, and no, not everyone who kills is mentally ill.

                  (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
                • Typoqueen says:

                  I didn’t even read the article as to why Nugent was arrested, I just saw the headline and knew that it was about an animal as opposed to the prez.

                  So do you feel that what Nugent said was acceptable. Do you think that his statements might help to encourage someone that’s already touched to take that next step and go after someone like our prez?

                  I feel that people such as Timothy McVeigh and perhaps Ted Kaczynski are they types of people that get spurred on or find encouragement by people such as Nugent. Perhaps legally nothing can be done to Nugent but he’s a disgusting human and it’s unfortunate that a lot of idiot fans will be filling the stadiums and yelling right ‘on dude’ as he spews these hateful comments. In my perfect world everyone would boycott his concerts and not buy his music.

                  (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
          • Citizen says:

            Any evidence of pedophilia?

            (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
            • bobfromsanluis says:

              You’re kidding, right? On the program, VH1 Behind the Music, Ted Nugent is quoted, on camera about his “addiction” to young girls. After he was divorced by his then wife, he became so infatuated with a 17 year old girl from Hawaii that he convinced her parents to allow him to become her legal guardian. On camera, the woman who was that young girl admits that what they did then would have had him arrested if he tried it today. If you cannot see what Nugent did as wrong, all I can say is “Wow, nice disconnect with reality.”

              (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
              • Typoqueen says:

                Not just her, another women came out and said that she had oral sex with him when she was 12. He has been open about going after young girls.

                He’s a scumbag for other reasons as well, he’s a chicken hawk:

                (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
  6. obispan says:

    Most solar systems installed between 1999 and 2016 are exempt from property taxes by state law. Though a very modest building project, the panels themselves are very expensive (=tax valuation) and used to cost over twice that today. Property tax rules are quirky. I friend of mine put in a hot tub and had me do the electrical. He wanted to cord connect to a weatherproof receptacle outlet from the GCFI/disconnect. The huge outdoor pigtail and receptacle assembly were very expensive. I recommended hard wiring the hot tub to the disconnect. Nope, hardwired=property tax, cord connected, a portable appliance=no property tax (disclaimer; I did not fact check, just did as told). Shouldn’t the opinion piece read “CVSR will pay no property tax as the project is exempt under state law”? Instead it seems to imply that Jim Patterson cut some deal to exempt the project. Sounds like Arnold’s campaign is trying to link Patterson to the Obama administration through the larger-than-SLO county issues of government energy policies that are not decided on the local level. Are you telling me she would have opposed the project because it was the result of federal energy policy, or because it didn’t create enough permanent jobs (duh, construction doesn’t create permanent jobs, it keeps them!), or because of environmental concerns? BTW, since when is the Hudson Institute opposed to taxes NOT being imposed on something?

    (4) 18 Total Votes - 11 up - 7 down
  7. Citizen says:

    Does anyone know why the CVSR will not have to pay property taxes on the solar panels? Did the County give up $14 million in tax revenues, or is that standard procedure for solar plants?

    (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
    • obispan says:

      Standard procedure. That you had to ask but were clearly not expected to know says something about the tactics of the opinion piece.

      (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down

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