Vast renewable energy sources at California’s doorstep

Thanks to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s progressive energy policies, California’s renewable market is surging. As the state strives to meet its ambitious renewable energy goals, the market is racing to capitalize on them. According to Next 10’s California Green Innovation Index, our state leads the way in industry innovation with California patents accounting for 44 percent of all solar and 37 percent of all wind technologies. News of new plans, projects and developments emerge daily.

However, despite California’s political will and market enthusiasm, bringing new projects online has proven to be challenging. California has set a goal of obtaining 20 percent of our energy from renewable sources by 2010 – which could increase to 33 percent by 2020 as has been proposed. In its July status report on the state’s progress toward meeting these goals, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reports that only 14 of the 95 renewable energy contracts it has approved since 2002 have come online for a total of 400 MW — not even enough to keep pace with the state’s rising electricity demand. Surprisingly, California’s renewable energy production as a percentage of total electricity sales has in fact fallen over the past several years due to various development barriers noted by the CPUC.

Tackling key development issues such as limited transmission capacity and permitting obstacles will not only enable the state to bring many of these projects online, it will allow us to tap a vast, superior wind and solar resource area lying right at our doorstep. The CPUC report warned that “while California has vast untapped renewable potential, many of the state’s lowest cost resources – the low hanging fruit – have already been developed.” Not so in Baja California.

Baja’s enormous renewable energy potential holds great promise for California and our ability to reach our renewable energy goals. At full development, energy experts expect the La Rumorosa region of Baja California, which extends more than 100 miles south of the California border, could yield as much as 10,000 (MW) of superior wind and solar energy.

Unlike other considerable, yet remotely-located resource areas, Baja’s La Rumorosa region is close to major population centers and existing transmission systems on both sides of the border. The cities of San Diego and Tijuana are 70 miles to the west and the Los Angeles area is approximately 150 miles to the northwest.

Because of its significant solar supply, Baja has great potential for the use of photovoltaic solar (PV), which holds the most promise for technological advancements and operational efficiencies and is most beneficial in desert areas because it avoids the use of water. Moreover, Baja’s robust, high capacity wind energy generation is 40 percent cheaper than solar and geothermal projects.

Several companies, including Cannon Power Group, are working to develop significant renewable generation in Baja. In addition to the benefits to California, this development will provide substantial economic opportunities to the region’s struggling areas including good quality local jobs. Moreover, it will help facilitate cross-border partnership through greater commercial cooperation, enhanced investment in the region’s shared infrastructure, and improved regional air quality and energy security.

California has an immediate, growing need for new, renewable sources of power. Building on opportunities in Baja can help get us there, but only if California solves its current transmission planning and permitting dilemma.

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