Monday, July 25, 2011

Here comes Governor Sunbeam

As they say, it's déjà vu all over again.

In an article by Silicon Valley Mercury-News "clean technology" reporter Dana Hull we learned over the weekend:
During his first two terms nearly four decades ago, Jerry Brown became famously known as Governor Moonbeam. Now he seems destined to become Governor Sunbeam.

With the epic battle over the state budget finally behind him, Brown's first major policy initiative aims to fulfill the ambitious goal laid out in his campaign: to develop a clean-energy economy in California.

Brown wants the state to produce 20,000 new megawatts of renewable electricity -- enough to power 20 cities the size of San Francisco and roughly one-third of the state's current peak use -- by 2020. That would nearly triple the amount of electricity that California currently gets from renewable sources.

The plan includes the fast-tracking of large, utility-scale renewable power plants. But 12,000 megawatts are to come from "localized electricity," small systems located close to where energy is consumed that don't require new transmission lines. A variety of technologies, from biogas to wind, will play a role. But solar panels -- on the roofs of commercial buildings and along the banks of state highways -- will be a dominant element.

"The future of energy is not Texas oil," Brown said last month at the groundbreaking for the Blythe Solar Power Project, a massive solar power plant under construction in Riverside County. "It's California sun."

Richard Caperton, an energy policy analyst with the Center for American Progress, said the scale of Brown's energy ambitions are unprecedented. "Doing it statewide, at this level, is unheard of," he said. "This is the sort of goal that countries in Europe and Asia are operating with."
Hull has clearly identified Brown's goals for this term - to be identified with the next big technology thing - one that has already become important and will ultimate become big regardless of anything Brown does. This sounds so familiar - in fact a memory:
To celebrate California's leadership in space (51% of NASA's procurements in 1977 went to California - the next state was Alabama with 8%) and the occasion of the first free flight test of the Space Shuttle, Governor Jerry Brown hosted a "Space Day" on August 11, 1977, at the Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles.

The event was organized by Russell Schweickart, on loan to the Governor from NASA, and cosponsored by the state and the aero-space industry. It got widespread news coverage because 1) Brown had always been seen as strictly Mr. Era-of-Limits, 2) the Carter administration was giving signs of reducing the NASA budget, 3) it was the summer of the phenomenal success of the film "Star Wars'', and 4) Brown was the first major political figure to offer a national vision of space adventure since President Kennedy.

Speaking at ''Space Day" were all of the major NASA leadership (including the new NASA Adminstrator Robert Frosch) and also Gerard O'Neill, Carl Sagan, Jaques Cousteau, Bruce Murray , head of the JPL and Robert Anderson - head of Rockwell International, which built the space shuttle.

To end the program former ''beat poet'' Michael McClure read a new work, ''Antechamber'', against the silent showing of a film made of the most spectacular NASA footage. Michael, who is a proponent of space exploration but not of space colonies, jotted some poems during the course of the day's talks and gave us permission to print them here.

Next morning, August 12, most of the "Space Day'' participants were at Edwards Air Force Base, along with 68,000 other kibitzers, to see the smoothly successful first atmospheric flight of the space shuttle Enterprise.
Brown is still the same guy he was 36 years ago. He likes hobnobbing with the tech folks. It gets him good press and leaves the impression he's "with it." He did it back then, he's doing it now. He likes to pursue policy objectives in tech fields, policies that are unrealistic for the time. He did it then, he's doing it now.

So a year before Prop 13 he was at a conference on space in Los Angeles. If he had been a responsible Governor and State Government leader from 1975-77, Howard Jarvis would not have had a cause. Instead he chose to become Governor Moonbeam. Brown failed as a leader then.

Here we are with Jerry Brown and without a realistic political leader for our government in crisis. Instead of dealing with the myriad of problems which are in his purview, according to a UCLA News Release: "On July 25–26, the governor, in partnership with the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and Bank of America, will host "The Governor's Conference on Local Renewable Energy Resources" at UCLA, exploring how the public and private sectors can drive local energy generation to meet that 12,000 megawatt goal."

Brown leads things off with a panel discussion featuring David Crane, the CEO of NRG Energy, Rick Needham, Google's (GOOG) director of green business operations and Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity. Keep these names in mind.

This morning The Sacramento Bee gave us a warm explanation of Brown's energy policy:
The idea behind local energy generation is to put small systems close to where the energy gets used so that the environmental impact is minimized and new transmission lines aren't required. Think rooftop solar, for instance.
Yes, think roof solar. Then the article mentions:
Meanwhile, the governor is jumping into a court case challenging a large solar energy project in the Mojave Desert.

Brown announced last Friday that he has filed what's known as an amicus brief asking a federal judge to deny a request to halt completion of the Ivanpah project, which his office says will create as many as 1,000 construction jobs and produce enough energy to power 140,000 homes.
It leaves you to figure out what's really going on, though at least in a subtle way let's you know it isn't about a few solar panels on your roof.

In fact, Governor Moonbeam-Sunbeam has taken on the non-profit Western Watersheds Project. From their web site:
In January Western Watersheds Project filed suit in federal court to halt construction of the Ivanpah solar power plant project being built on public lands in the Mojave Desert. The project site consists of 5.4 square miles of high quality habitat for the Endangered Species Act protected desert tortoise. WWP California Director Dr. Michael Connor has maintained that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service relied upon the project proponent's self-serving science that woefully underestimated the number of desert tortoise that would be impacted by the development.
According to the BrightSource web site, the ISEGS - "which counts NRG Solar, Google and BrightSource as equity investors - is currently the largest solar plant under construction in the world. The project is being constructed by Bechtel."  According to the same web site here's the investors Brown is advocating for (you'll remember some of these companies mentioned above "Brown leads things off with a panel discussion featuring David Crane, the CEO of NRG Energy, Rick Needham, Google's (GOOG) director of green business operations....) :

Yes indeed, Governor Governor Moonbeam-Sunbeam is now a shill for the likes of Morgan Stanley and Chevron. Then there is the other big player NRG Solar, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NRG Energy. You've probably never heard of NRG Energy. So let's allow them to tell you about themselves:
NRG Energy is a Fortune 250 wholesale power generation company headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey. We own and operate one of the industry's most diverse generation portfolios (including nuclear, wind and solar power) that provides nearly 26,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, or enough to support nearly 21 million homes. NRG’s retail businesses, Reliant Energy and Green Mountain Energy Company, combined serve more than 1.8 million residential, business, commercial and industrial customers.
Hmmm. Well that's the spin from their web site. Here's what this international energy holding company told investors in their annual report:
As of December 31, 2010, NRG had a total global generation portfolio of 193 active operating fossil fuel and nuclear generation units, at 45 power generation plants, with an aggregate generation capacity of approximately 24,570 MW, as well as ownership interests in renewable facilities with an aggregate generation capacity of 470 MW. NRG’s portfolio includes approximately 24,035 MW in the United States and 1,005 MW in Australia and Germany, and approximately 265 MW under construction, which includes partner interests of 120 MW. In addition, NRG has a district energy business that has a steam and chilled water capacity of approximately 1,140 megawatts thermal equivalent, or MWt.
Governor Brown's in court defending these guys from the endangered desert tortoise. All so that you can put solar panels on your roof. Boy does this guy know how to spin for the press.

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