Neenach-Fairmont Area Meet Energy Developers–Part Three

  • At the end of the meeting, a group clusters outside, with ‘Green Hornet’ Cliff Graham from NextEra Energy. [Photo by Patric Hedlund for The Mountain Enterprise]

    At the end of the meeting, a group clusters outside, with ‘Green Hornet’ Cliff Graham from NextEra Energy. [Photo by Patric Hedlund for The Mountain Enterprise]

Part Three

[See Part One and Part Two]

Last week: We reported about the $25 billion in investment and new tax revenues that the Kern County Board of Supervisors is expecting to reap in the great renewable energy generation land rush, and why the Western Antelope Valley is a plum target on the California Public Utilities Commission’s chart of California Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ). L.A. County politicians are looking at the numbers on their side of the county line as well.

With this kind of talk in the background, and the cumulative impact of a possible 33 energy projects coming into the area to consider, the people gathered in the WeeVill Market for the Fairmont Town Council presentations on January 20, 2011 seemed to agree on one thing: politicians and planning commissions should not try to cut corners on the environmental impact reviews for these projects. They want to see full CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) procedures followed. The companies making the presentations that night had no illusions about that requirement. They both plan to present full EIRs.

By Patric Hedlund

There was an uneasy mood in the WeeVill Market on January 20 as Cliff Graham, Project Manager from NextEra Energy Resources steps up to the plate.

The group has just heard from Renewable Energy Group’s partners about a plan which raises questions such as “who receives the renewable energy credits?” Both the companies speaking tonight are a new species of developer.

They are “energy developers” who wholesale the electricity they generate to large utility companies, such as Southern California Edison.

Three years before a single light bulb will flicker from a single electron generated by either of these projects, they’ve both already acquired signed purchase contracts from SCE.

Though they won’t discuss it, they likely also have an eye on the billions of dollars in profits to be earned from a new commodity called Tradable Renewable Energy Credits (TRECs) being created by California’s AB32 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Bill. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) in Sacramento is defining the rules as you read this.

Cliff Graham of NextEra shows photos of the 472-foot next-generation wind turbines his company plans to build. But Graham has assessed the situation in the room accurately, and makes a shrewd move. Before he goes into any detail, he woos the crowd by announcing he’s done four deployments in Iraq as a Green Hornet supporting Special Operations—a master move on the public presentation strategy board that trumps the thick attitude from several of the more confrontational fellows in the crowd.

Part of the ‘guy culture’ in this wind-whipped valley is wrapped in tales of military or intelligence service duty. In side comments, one talented and outspoken man tells of working for ‘the company.’ Another adversarial and accomplished resident tells of wiring the Pentagon.

But Graham has another round in his chamber. He lets it casually drop that he has been a pilot since age 12. A hush of respect falls over the meeting. The testosterone factor in the room has been trumped, if only temporarily.

Western Antelope Valley residents turn to gathering data quickly as the changes created in Sacramento begin knocking at their front doors. They are ready to make smart moves, but beyond culture shock and mistrust, they still have to come up with a plan.

Next: What Do We Ask For?

This is part of the February 11, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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