By Miriam Raftery
April 18, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) yesterday announced it has signed five new renewable power purchase agreements including two in San Diego County. But oddly, a local planner and a news editor in these rural communities have told ECM they were unaware of these projects.
SDG&E’s release did not state where in San Diego County the projects would be located. Jennifer Ramp with SDG&E has informed ECM that the two local projects are Silverado Power, LLC’s Zodiac Solar (20 Megawatts) in Potrero and Northlight Power’s C908 Solar project (7 MW) in Valley Center. Both projects are newly executed and have not yet been approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, Ramp said.
“I don’t know anything about this and it hasn’t been on any of our agendas,” a member of the Potrero Planning Gorup, told ECM when asked about Zodiac solar.
ECM has not yet heard back from the chair of Valley Center’s planning group. However David Ross, editor of the Valley Roadrunner, said he had not heard of the C908 project, either.
“I find this troubling, “ said Donna Tisdale of Boulevard’s Planning Group, who said SDG&E has similarly announced power purchase agreements recently for other projects that had not yet gone through environmental review. “It gives the projects a head of steam, but it’s an artificial head,” she noted.
Projects are not always granted power purchase agreements prior to approval. Tule Wind, for example, does not yet have a power purchase agreement with SDG&E even after federal and county offficials approved turbines for the project slated for McCain Valley.
In its press release, SDG&E announced it has signeda total five new renewable power purchase agreements for a total of nearly 62 MW of solar and wind energy. In addition to the Potrero and Valley Center proposed projects, power purchase agreements were signed with TerraGen Development Company LLC for two wind projects in Kern and Riverside counties, as well as a 20 MW solar contract with E.ON Climate and Renwables LLC for a facility to be built in Kern County.
SDG&E signed 13 renewable contracts in 2012 and 23 in 2011 totaling over 1,750 MW of generation capacity over the past two years. The first of these in San Diego since 2006, the 26 MW NRG Solar Borrego Project, went into commercial operation February 12. SDG&E has six projects under construction in Imperial Valley, including Ocotillo Express Wind, which connected to Sunrise Powerlink last June.
“After starting with less than one percent renewable energy in 2002, SDG&E put an aggressive course of action in place to obtain competitively priced renewable power for our customers to meet California’s renewable requirements,” said James P. Avery, SDG&E senior vice president of power supply. “This has resulted in a well-balanced renewable portfolio that encompasses a broad spectrum of energy sources including solar, wind, biomass, biogas and geothermal energy.” SDG&E is on track to meet or exceed the state’s mandate that 33 percent of its retail sales be produced from renewable energy projects by 2020, the company’s press release states.
The aggressive development of rural and desert lands has not been without controversy. Enviornmental and citizens groups, such as Desert Protective Council , Solar Done Right, and the Protect Our Communities Foundation, contend that the region’s power needs should be met through point-of-use projects such as rooftop and parking lot solar instead of projects in remote locations that require large-scale clearing of habitat, transmission lines, and substations near homes that may expose residents to stray voltage or in the case of wind, infrasound, blade flicker, and flashing lights.
SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, a Fortune 500 company based in San Diego.