LA Proposes Major Solar Initiative

[JR: The story doesn’t say, but I assume the solar from the Mojave would be solar baseload aka CSP.]

In Los Angeles on Monday, Mayor Villaraigosa’s office presented a ground-breaking plan to generate 1.3 GW of solar electricity by 2020. But this effort is just one of many initiatives that LA has taken as a leader in urban sustainability and green policies.

The LA Times reports the specifics of the solar plan that Mayor Villaraigosa’s office is hoping to put into action in coming months:

Under the mayor’s solar plan, the largest share of solar power, or 500 megawatts, would come from generating facilities built by private sector companies in the Mojave Desert. Another 380 megawatts would be achieved through smaller programs, including one that would help low-income residents add solar panels to their homes and another that would allow DWP customers to purchase shares of city-owned solar plants.

Both proposals establish goals for 2020, seven years after Villaraigosa’s second and final term as mayor, and must be approved by the five-member DWP commission.

A third component of the solar plan is already heading to voters in the March 3 mayoral election. That measure would allow the DWP to install and own 400 megawatts of rooftop solar panels by 2014.

This massive solar proposal is nested in a larger commitment to reduce Los Angeles’ greenhouse gas emissions by 35% below 1990 levels by 2030. The mayor’s strategy – GREEN LA – is among the first of its kind in how comprehensive it is and because of the size and diversity of activities in LA.

In other words, LA faces infamous transportation challenges due to the extent of suburban sprawl, to the point that the city is blanketed with smog. It also the location of a major (and international) airport, and home to one of the country’s most significant ports. In addition to encouraging conservation, efficiency, renewables, and smart planning, the GREEN LA plan attempts to integrate sustainability into each of these economic hubs.

Just as California has been a beacon of progressive energy and global warming policy for the nation, so too should Los Angeles for cities across the country.

— Kari M.

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30 Responses to LA Proposes Major Solar Initiative

  1. Zed says:

    California continues to pleasantly surprise me. My only hope is that these programs will be replaced by even more expansive ones. While I can’t seem to find a number on LA’s total energy usage, I’m going to assume that 1.3 GW isn’t anywhere close to ALL.

  2. Solar Think says:

    Solar thermal power is much cheaper and easier. Photovoltaic for megawatts is stupid. There is a lobbyist reason to keep talking about photovoltaic panels. If you really are green you step over that.

  3. Ivor says:

    Solar Think shot from the hip with >Photovoltaic for megawatts is stupid

    I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty dang sure that newer ‘spray on’ nano based PV is plenty cheap for megawatts with big projects going on internationally. What say you, Solar Think? What is it about Nanosolar and others that is stupid for grid power sourcing?

    Portland OR

  4. Bob Wallace says:

    Yep, using 2008 solar prices for projects to be complete by 2014 could be shortsighted.

    Rooftop solar means using “free” real estate and creating no need for extra transmission infrastructure. Add in $1 per watt solar and the bottom line gets interesting.

    Those watts come online in mid-morning and carry on through the afternoon when offices and commercial buildings are sucking up the power for lighting and airconditioning.

    Solar thermal is a good partner for PV solar. With some storage the mid-day thermal capture can be time-shifted to late afternoon/evenings/nights.

  5. harama goti says:

    Please make sure as hell it’s the NEW technology that harnesses 99-100% of the Sun’s energy, and not the (expensive, but) cheap crap we’re just going to have to replace by 2020. PLEASE

  6. Donald B says:

    Just a reminder that the “Schwarzenegger mandates 33% renewables by 2030” was corrected (“updated”) to “by 2020.” :

  7. VH says:

    Excellent news. Bravo for this leadership, California.

  8. VH says:

    And, thank you for the insightful comments, SolarThink and Bob Wallace.

  9. sherman says:

    Haram Goti,

    What technology is it you believe is 99% efficient? I think you might want to double check yourself…

  10. onoudint says:

    photovolatics are not the answer. let them power calculators.

    utility will need heat conversion and stirlings, son

  11. joe mato says:

    In Connecticut the state is paying about half of a home PV installation and giving you retail rates for turning the meter back. The home panels are guaranteed 25 years, with payback in about 10. Added to a 30% fed tax credit its a good time to jump in. I’ve had solar DHW and radient floor heating for 25 years and have been waiting for PV and the tax credits to become affordable.

  12. Bob Wallace says:

    I suspect that Haram Goti is one of those unfortunate people who hasn’t been able to shake 20th Century cynicism.

    But, just in case he misread a current breakthrough in solar, some researchers have managed to produce a coating for solar cells that allow approximately 99% of the light that strikes their surface to continue on to the photovoltaic level.

    While the cells will still be limited in their efficiency (24.7% is the current level I believe) they will be able to use a great deal of the light that would otherwise reflect off the front of the panel.

    This means that we will not need active trackers and it will extend the “solar day” some distance further on each side of noon. It’s going to really pay off in more southern places such as LA.

    And it’s apparently going to be cheap to add.

    That sort of development makes it difficult to predict future costs on today’s prices.

    Another point about PV solar. Lots of mid-day power for recharging batteries for the drive home. Think about solar “car ports” in those hot parts of the country. End of the day and your batteries are charged and your car cool….

  13. Sam Forest says:

    California touts climate change and wants to stop deforestation and forest degradtion in third world countries yet is allowing unprecedented massive clearcutting througout the Sierra Nevada. To look at the devastation do any web search for clearcutting+california. This needs to stop. Clearcutting creates more CO2 emissions than any other form of logging and even according to California’s own study unevenaged real biodiverse forests (not plantations from clearcutting) stand the best chance against climate changes and fire.

  14. Zed says:

    To those who say “Photovoltaics” won’t work, please provide better logic than “just because”. Everyone acknowledges that green energy is going to require a wide array of energy options. Solar baseload requires lots of space and will not cover all energy needs, despite its efficiency. Photovoltaic systems have steadily grown in efficiency with minimal funding, and are an excellent long-term investment for homes AND private businesses. Any attempt to say that a potential green energy source is not “sufficient” at this point is an exercise in intellectual dishonesty, and a disservice to the fight against global climate change.

  15. Dear JR: Wrong on base load. The molten salt heat storage is still “research,” not commercial. That means the federal government would be doing it, not a city government. The solar power will be for “Peak shaving.” Remember that solar power STILL doesn’t work at night? And never will until we have room temperature superconductor transmission lines all the way around the earth or PROVEN huge energy storage at reasonable cost.

    [JR: You really should read up more on CSP. In any case, this country has so much excess nighttime power that we sometimes a literally give it away. This will be particularly true once we seriously start to ramp up wind. Ultimately, plug-ins will solve the problem of excess nighttime windpower, but for now, CSP is better than baseload, since it tracks actual usage during the day. There is more than one type of heat storage, and storage will be commercial very quickly, since there are no obvious bottlenecks. Thermal storage has been proven for centuries, fwiw.]

  16. Bob Wallace says:

    Asteroid –

    You might want to give this a read…

    And then apologize to JR….

  17. Peter says:

    Thank you, Bob Wallace, for your very informative and interesting background material on solar storage, etc. It sure expanded my understanding of the state of the art and the exciting future in solar use.
    Keep up the good work!

  18. Elizabeth says:

    Here in Florida the summer temperatures are in the high 90’s for weeks or months at a time, and the humidity is probably close to 75 to 80%. Basically unbearable. In the Tampa area we also have one of the highest job loss and unemployment rates in the country, along with a high foreclosure rate and large numbers of senior citizens on very low fixed incomes. In this economic and physical environment, the hilariously named (Republican appointed, not elected) Public Service Commission has given Progress Energy, the monopoly electric company in the area, the right to a 25% rate increase starting in January. Naturally, they announced this increase in November, when rates are lowest, and when most customers are busy preparing for the holidays, not reading newspapers. I have read about groups in California working on installing solar systems at a reduced rate for low income homeowners, but don’t know of a similar project in Florida. Does one exist? Are there projects developing in Florida? There is tremendous need here.

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  20. SimplyBill says:

    The idea of building massive solar collectors in the Mojave and then constructing transmission lines to transport the energy to LA, Orange and San Diego counties is just absurd. It’s an idea worthy of the Alaskan state government.

    If photovoltaic’s are to be used they should be as mounted on every roof of every structure in the desert which is southern California( and any other building throughout the US where the sun shines)- all as 100% tax breaks. I realize this doesn’t make sense for “public” utlities but their time in the sun should be setting.

    The public utlities should be contractors for carrying the infinite energy- tidal wave energy- which is awaiting us all just beyond the surfing zone around every island and continent.

  21. Joe says:

    Simply — YOUR statement is the absurd one. You need to read up on CSP.

  22. SimplyBill says:

    Perhaps you should spend some time in Joshua Tree or Twentynine Palms or Yucca Valley or Victorville or any other town in San Bernadino County where the transmission lines will cross over on their way to Los Angeles then perhaps you may find a new definition for”absurd”.

    [JR: I’ve been in deserts and in arid places. My main goal is avoiding having them cover a third of the planet. That means lots and lots of CSP. Fortunately, new HVDC power lines today carry a lot more juice. But in any case, I have little tolerance for enviros who quite literally can’t see the forest for the trees. Absent hundreds and hundreds of gigawatts of carbon free electricity in this country and thousands worldwide, there won’t be much bloody life on land or sea to “protect” anymore. That would be beyond absurd, it would be wantonly self-destructive.]

  23. Harrier says:

    So let me see if I have this right the Los Angeles Major has a brilliant idea of using part of the remaining 4% of the land we have left that is under protection to satisfy he political interest in having private industry fund his great idea.

    Let me see a few things. Why doesn’t he simply pass a city wide initiative that puts the panels on rooftops an all parking structures of major businesses? The area of land covered would be greater than Mojave and it would be immediately consumed where it was needed most.

    NIMBY (Not in my Back Yard) is no longer an option to avoid what you are doing. LA needs to be help responsible or addressing it’s own energy needs. Villaraigosa needs to stop having affairs with Mexican Anchor women while expounding the family values platforms and spend more time using his real brain.

    For Villaraigosa, the problem he has with this though is the electrical grid is not designed to take all that electricity at once and redistribute it. It also doesn’t take advantage of the tons of flat sunny spaces that could be used right now.

    Doing it in his own city would create jobs in his own city that would last last forever and help his city and the state. I urge Villaraigosa and those reading this to spend a few minutes to watch a short video call the “story of stuff”

  24. Bob Wallace says:

    Joe – some terminology problems.

    CSP – you’re using it for what I’d call “solar thermal”. Other people are using it for concentrating light on small pieces of PV silicon.

    [JR: You are not correct. Some people use it for both, while most people I know use if for solar thermal, see, for instance, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy here or the National Renewable Energy Lab here. It would make no sense to call it “solar thermal” as I’ve previously said because I have a solar thermal hot water heater on my house.]

    Baseload – some people are using it for 24/365 minimum needs. You’re using it in a more limited way – filling in the late afternoon/early evening power needs between the solar day and off-peak times.

    [JR: Actually that’s not how I’m using it. I’m using it to connote that CSP with several hours of storage can deliver power as needed by the power system, rather than be shunted aside as one of those “unreliable” or “variable” renewable sources inevitably dismissed by conservatives and delayers as inadequate to the task of assuredly providing the public power when they need it. The closest technical definition is probably “load following,” but I have been using baseload because nobody knows what load following means. As you probably know, “baseload power” itself does not have a single definition.]

    Geothermal – some use the term for harvesting energy from under the surface and using it to make electricity. Others are using it for ground effect heat pumps.

    [JR: I think here there is an effective standard usage. If you are talking about heat pumps than you use the word “heat pump” or something similar. If not, then when you say geothermal you are talking about the primary renewable power source.]

    Where’s the language police when we need them?

    Is there any ‘controlling agency’ that could standardize the language?

    [JR: On this blog, I am the controlling agency :) Do not attempt to adjust the vertical, do not attempt to adjust the horizontal, and you can spend your time critiquing my language choices, but that will mainly lead me to deduce that you don’t actually value your time highly.]

  25. Bob Wallace says:

    Simply and Harrier –

    I get the feeling that you’re being critical of something that you don’t yet understand. You seem to have not made the distinction between PV solar and thermal solar.

    And you need to read up on high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmissions.

    Wikipedia has good treatments of all this most interesting stuff.

    Here’s a quicky reply to your apparent concerns:

    Rooftop solar PV makes sense close to point of use. It’s not clear that it’s the best idea to put them on rooftops. NanoSolar has an argument about ground mounting on their site.

    Thermal solar makes sense further out in the desert. This stuff takes up some space.

    HVDC is a very efficient way to move large amounts of power long distances. About a 3% loss over 1,000 km and a percent or so loss at each end. Wires are not much different in size from those used in current AC high voltage transmission but carry a lot more power. String them along existing power routes. No need to install them over the scenic/National Park areas.

    And both of you need to reactivate your jerk filters. A really nasty attitude is leaking through into the discussion.

  26. Bob Wallace says:

    Elizabeth – Florida has been late out of the starting gate when it comes to renewables, but they seem to have finally entered the track.

    Your Republican Governor seems to have joined our California Republican Governor and other practical-minded officials and moved in the direction of fixing problems rather that taking the Bush-route.

    Here’a a place to start looking for answers.

    Lots more sites turn up via a googling.

  27. Ronald says:

    Bob Wallace,

    I usually take to name something that the people who actually doing it want to be called.
    If you go on the internet and websites of Concentrated Solar Power groups, they use that or CSP. for concentrated PV’s they go by CPV.
    Better might be Concentrated solar thermal power (CSTP) but would the 4 letters throw people off?
    I agree with you on that geothermal thing being confusing. I have to use both terms when using internet search engines; it seems to get called different things by different people also.

  28. Bob Wallace says:

    Joe, I think you missed my point.

    I was not attacking you. I was trying to point out a problem that I observe in the energy world.

    Please read this copied from above….


    “CSP – you’re using it for what I’d call “solar thermal”. Other people are using it for concentrating light on small pieces of PV silicon.

    [JR: You are not correct. Some people use it for both,”


    That’s exactly what I said. CSP is a term with multiple meanings. If someone comments on a new CSP site do we know what they are talking about until they add more words to describe what they mean?

    [JR: You said some people use “solar thermal” for concentrating PV. That isn’t true. Some people use it for both. I don’t. It is not possible to standardize terminology since their is no officiating body. I can only tell you how I’m going to use them. But if someone uses “geothermal” or “geothermal energy” by itself, then you are quite safe in assuming they are talking about primary power, not a heat pump.]

    If someone throws “geothermal” into the conversation are they talking about geothermal heat pumps or geothermal electricity generation? That confusion just ran through a discussion on DailyKos. And check Ronald’s comment above.

    I come from a science background where words have very specific meaning in order to minimize confusion. It seems that this sort of definitional rigor has not entered the renewable energy area.

    You’re in discussion with many other leaders in the field. Are there ever discussions about standardizing the language?

    [JR: Many of us wanted to change “plug in hybrid.” Couldn’t be done.]

  29. deltaman says:

    go CA!!! always at the forefront of innovation. Guys see this nice summary of the “Green Economic Recovery” plan. Nice for those who don’t have time to read a 50 page report:

  30. Freelance Minion says:

    I’d like to see more Solar, especially in hot sunny areas where the sun causes air conditioning use to spike and then cause blackouts.

    But I saw a news story about the way the current california laws on solar can require people to cut down trees to maintain sun to solar panels. As much as I want more solar power, its not truly “green” energy if it goes with taking out actual green things.

    Power grid spikes and drops due to clouds are another problem which need more honest effort to solve.

    So YEA solar, but nothing is truly free so lets be honest and work out the new problems as they arrise.