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Amanda Strouse, Fall 2008, Past Students, Uncategorized

The Next Step Toward a Greener San Diego

By Amanda Strouse

Solar panels are commonly found on top of roofs in San Diego, as seen on this San Carlos home.

Environmental organizations, utility companies and renewable energy firms worked together to defeat Proposition 7, but they all have different ideas about what the next step toward a greener San Diego should be.

California was one of two states to have energy policy propositions on the November ballot. Critics of Prop 7 said that the state’s clean energy mandate, which requires utility companies to obtain at least 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2010, is effective enough.

California was one of two states to have energy policy propositions on the November ballot. Critics of Prop 7 said that the state’s clean energy mandate, which requires utility companies to obtain at least 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2010, is effective enough.

Quinn Laudenslager, project manager for Sullivan Solar Power in San Diego, a solar power design and build firm, said business had more than 300 percent growth last year, and they’re expecting it to continue to increase over time.

Wind turbine farms like this one in Livermore, California are a good alternative to create a lot of clean energy.

Wind turbine farms like this one in Livermore, California are a good alternative to create a lot of clean energy.

He said he’s relieved that the proposition failed because there doesn’t need to be a legal push for more clean energy.

“There is nothing next that needs to happen, it is already happening,” Laudenslager said. “Solar is being installed faster than ever in the past.”

Laudenslager said he’d support a proposition for better rebates for customers wanting to use solar, because it would increase the appeal to switching to solar power.

Private and commercial customers in California, as well as in many other states, can currently obtain rebates from the government for utilizing solar power. But governments are considering decreasing the rebate amounts in these programs as a result of the high number of applicants.

Utilities companies are also adjusting to the green movement.

The Villa Nueva Apartment Complex in San Ysidro is a 400-unit affordable housing development covered in solar panels that produce 70 percent of the complex's energy.

The Villa Nueva Apartment Complex in San Ysidro is a 400-unit affordable housing development covered in solar panels that produce 70 percent of the complex's energy.

SDG&E has recently proposed constructing a 150-mile “energy superhighway” between the Imperial Valley and San Diego, called the Sunrise Powerlink, to transfer clean energy to help power San Diego.

The Sierra Club of California is opposed to this proposal, because SDG&E can get clean energy in San Diego and not have to use transmission lines that are prone to cause fires, said Richard Miller, the chair of the Sierra Club California.

“The next step is for us to defeat the Sunrise Powerlink- the powerlink to nowhere,” Miller said.

“We shouldn’t rely on electricity being transmitted across land.”

Miller said SDG&E is the furthest behind out of all three major utility companies in California in achieving the 20 percent renewable energy source goal and SDG&E should model Pacific Gas & Electric’s dedication to renewable energy.

In the next three years, PG&E, which serves northern and central California, plans to build the world’s two largest solar farms and light approximately 239,000 homes using clean energy.

SDG&E spokesperson Christy Heiser said the utilities company made a proposal in July to invest $250 million in a solar project similar to PG&E’s, but the plans must first go through the California Public Utilities Commission, which can be a lengthy process. She said it s hoping to begin the solar project in February.

She said it’s beneficial for utility companies to get energy from renewable sources, so that there’s a balanced mix of resources. But SDG&E can only look at energy options within close proximity.

“The key is obtaining transmission lines to obtain resources that aren’t near us,” Hesier said.

“We’re happy to tap into areas outside San Diego.”

SDG&E is currently delivering 6 percent of its energy from renewable resources, which leaves them one year to get to 14 percent. Heiser said the utilities company is doing everything it can to get to the 20 percent goal.

With only one year left to meet the state requirement for clean energy, SDG&E must do what it can to meet that mandated benchmark.

The company has also signed contracts with renewable energy providers and offers aid on how consumers can go green on its Web site, she said.

Dennis Williams, the public information officer for San Diego’s Environmental Services Department, said SDG&E has worked with the city government in the past, but he isn’t sure what they’re going to do in the future.

Williams said that the city is always interested in energy conservation. He said the city will continue to upgrade its facilities and expand the green technology that it already utilizes, such as methane gas in the Miramar Landfill and the hydro plant in Point Loma.

But Miller said that the two most efficient clean energy sources are solar and wind power. He said San Diegans need to start asking SDG&E to get serious about renewable energy and come up with more efficient options.

“Their solution has always been, ‘We’ll get it from somewhere else,’” Miller said. “They need to generate the energy here locally.”

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