From the daily archives: Wednesday, September 29, 2010

SACRAMENTO – Following the recent success of licensing solar energy facilities, the California Energy Commission today approved nearly 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar power in Southern California.

The Genesis Solar Energy Project and the Imperial Valley Solar Project, totaling 959 MW, are now the fifth and sixth solar power plants that the Energy Commission has licensed in the past five weeks. Since late August, the Commission has licensed 2,829 MW of renewable solar power in the California desert.

“These approved solar projects continue to demonstrate the importance of harnessing the power of the sun for clean, renewable energy for California’s communities,” said Energy Commission Chairman Karen Douglas. “By adding nearly 1,000 megawatts of renewable power we will reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and get the State closer to its goals of using more renewables by 2020. Today’s actions show how California is leading the nation by licensing nearly 3,000 megawatts this year with large-scale solar power plants,” Douglas added.

In two separate unanimous votes, the Energy Commission adopted the presiding member’s proposed decisions (PMPD) that recommended licensing the 250-MW Genesis project in Riverside County and the 709-MW Imperial Valley project in Imperial County. In order to qualify for federal stimulus funds, the projects needed to be approved by the Energy Commission before December 31, 2010.

These projects are a direct result of the successful partnership between California and the Department of the Interior (DOI). In October 2009, California was the first state to sign a memo of understanding with the DOI to develop long-term renewable energy plans through state and federal permitting processes that can receive 30 percent federal tax credits under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The two projects would be among the first commercial solar thermal power plants permitted on federal public land in the United States. Both projects still require decisions from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which approves the use of federal public lands, before they can proceed. The BLM’s actions are scheduled for October.

The Genesis Solar Energy Project is being proposed by Genesis Solar LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC. The project site is located in eastern Riverside County about 25 miles west of Blythe. The project is north of Ford Dry Lake and Interstate 10. The project is seeking a right-of-way grant from the BLM for 4,640 acres, with construction and operation of the facility taking up about 1,800 acres.

The proposed project would use parabolic trough technology where parabolic mirrors are used to heat a transfer fluid which is then used to generate steam. Electricity is produced from the steam expanding through steam turbine generators.

The Imperial Valley Solar Project is being developed by Imperial Valley Solar, LLC, a subsidiary of Tessera Solar, in Imperial County. The project is located about 14 miles west of El Centro.

The project would be located on approximately 6,140 acres of land managed by the BLM and about 360 acres of privately-owned land.

The facility would use solar dish Stirling systems, or “SunCatchers”, consisting of a solar receiver heat exchanger and a closed-cycle, high efficiency engine designed to convert solar power to rotary power, then driving an electrical generator to produce electricity.

The Genesis and Imperial Valley projects are among nine large solar thermal projects scheduled to go before the Commission before the end of the year. More than 4,100 megawatts of solar power will be added if all nine projects are approved. The nine projects would provide more than 8,000 construction jobs and more than 1,000 operational jobs.

The four previously licensed plants are: the 250-MW Beacon Solar Energy Project (Aug. 25); the 250-MW Abengoa Mojave Solar Project (Sept. 8); the 1,000-MW Blythe Solar Power Project (Sept. 15); and the 370-MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System project (Sept. 22). The 663.5-MW Calico Solar Project is scheduled for the Oct. 28 meeting. Two other projects, the 500-MW Palen Solar Power Project and the 150-MW Rice Solar Energy Project, are still under review.

The PMPDs for the Genesis and Imperial Valley projects said the facilities, even with mitigation measures, will have significant impacts on cultural resources, land use, and visual resources. The Imperial Valley project also will have significant impact on biological resources and would be inconsistent with an Imperial County land use ordinance.

However, the benefits of the projects would override those impacts. The Genesis project will require a peak workforce of 1,085 during construction, with another 50 jobs when the plant is in operation. The Imperial Valley project will need a peak workforce of 731 during construction, with another 164 operational jobs.

The PMPDs were based solely on the record of facts that were established during the facilities’ certification proceedings.

The proposed solar thermal power projects that the Energy Commission is considering will help meet the state’s Renewables Portfolio Standard, which requires California’s electricity utility companies to use renewable energy to produce 20 percent of their power by 2010 and 33 percent by 2020. Solar energy is a main source of renewable power.

The federal government and the State of California have established the need to increase the development and use of renewable energy in order to enhance the nation’s energy independence, meet environmental goals, and create new economic growth opportunities.

Genesis Solar Project:
Imperial Valley Solar Project:


Indio, Calif. – U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Indio station thwarted a narcotics smuggling attempt at the checkpoint located on Highway 86 yesterday afternoon resulting in the seizure of nearly $250,000 worth of methamphetamines.

click for hi-res
A metal container hidden inside the vehicle's radiator containing methamphetamine was uncovered by agents.
A metal container hidden inside the vehicle’s radiator containing methamphetamine was uncovered by agents.

At approximately 12:30 p.m., a white Chevrolet pick-up truck approached the primary inspection area of the checkpoint and the driver was subsequently referred to secondary inspection. While in the secondary inspection area, a Border Patrol canine team performed a cursory inspection of the vehicle and alerted to the front end of the vehicle.

Agents transported the vehicle to the Indio Station to perform a more extensive search of the vehicle’s engine compartment. During this search, agents discovered an anomaly within the vehicle’s radiator.

Once agents drained and removed the radiator, they found several packages which contained methamphetamines. The methamphetamines had an estimated value of approximately $244,000.

The driver, vehicle, and methamphetamines were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration.


Blythe, Calif. – U.S. Border Patrol agents seized several bundles of cocaine hidden inside a tractor trailer at the Highway 95 checkpoint south of Quartzsite, Ariz. on Saturday.

Agents discovered three toolboxes filled with cocaine in these makeshift hiding places built into lumber piles.

At about 11 a.m., Border Patrol agents from the Yuma sector referred a red tractor trailer for secondary inspection when a Border Patrol canine team alerted to the trailer, indicating the likely presence of hidden persons or narcotics concealed within the trailer.

In secondary, Border Patrol agents inspected the trailer, which contained stacks of lumber, and discovered three toolboxes containing bundles of cocaine. The toolboxes were concealed within makeshift compartments constructed out of the lumber.

Agents seized a total of 57 bundles of cocaine weighing 147 pounds with an estimated street value of $4.6 million. Agents arrested the driver and passenger who were later turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration along with the semi and cocaine.

Since Oct. 1, 2009, Yuma sector Border Patrol agents have seized 624 pounds of cocaine with a total street value of nearly $20 million.

To report suspicious activity, contact the Yuma Sector Border Patrol’s toll free telephone number at (1-866) 999-8727.


By Bob Hurst

Tuesday night was a big night for three major league teams. The Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees clinched playoff spots in the American League, while over in the National, the Cincinnati Reds sealed the Central Division championship.

The Rays and Yanks will battle it out the remainder of this week for the right to represent the AL East and possibly earn home field advantage throughout the league’s postseason.

Tampa Bay is going to the playoffs for the second time in franchise history. The Rays got in with a 5-0 win over Baltimore behind left-hander David Price, who is now 19-6.

“I never had any doubt that this was a playoff team,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “I want it to be a World Series champ.”

Tampa Bay will have a chance to return to the World Series, after playing in it in 2008. The Rays lost the series in five games to Philadelphia.

For the Yankees, their 6-1 win over Toronto gave them their 15th postseason berth in the last 16 years, and 49th in team history. CC Sabathia (21-7) got the win. Sabathia’s 21 wins match Andy Pettitte’s 21 victories in 2003 and 1996 as the most since
Ron Guidry won 22 in 1985.

“I congratulated them and just told them this is the first step,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

New York will shoot for its second straight World Series title.

“This team is very focused and has its eye on the prize,” Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said.

Cincinnati’s 3-1 win over Houston clinched the NL Central Division and gave the Reds their first playoff berth since 1995.

“I’m as happy as a man can be,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “This is sweet. This is a special group, special guys and a special feeling.”

Baker joined Bill McKechnie as the only managers to guide three different NL teams to the postseason, and is the ninth to lead three different major league teams to the playoffs. Baker also did it with the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs.

Home attendance is “embarrassing” — Longoria: The day before the Tampa Bay Rays clinched a postseason berth for the second time in three years, just 12,446 fans bothered to show up at Tropicana Field for Tampa’s game against Baltimore.

That was nearly 11,000 fewer than the Rays average home attendance of 23,047. And that ticked off Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.

“We’ve been playing great baseball all year,” Longoria said. “Since I’ve been here (2006), the fans have wanted a good baseball team. They’ve wanted to watch a contender. And for us to play good baseball for three years now, and for us to be in a spot to clinch again and go to the playoffs, we’re all confused as to why it’s only 15,000 to 20,000 in the building.”

Tropicana Field is a domed stadium that holds 36,973 fans for baseball.

“In 2008, when we clinched, this place was packed,” added Longoria. “It’s kind of like what else do you have to do to draw fans in this place. It’s actually embarrassing for us.

“We’re talking about a team in a playoff hunt with the opportunity to clinch. You could at least get 30,000 in here to cheer you on to it.”

The next night, Tuesday, the Rays did clinch a playoff berth, before 17,891 fans. So 5,445 more fans must have paid attention to Longoria.

“It’s a tough situation for us,” Longoria said. “A lot of the visiting teams come in and wonder where are all the fans.”

The Rays have played well at home, despite poor attendance. They were 49-31 entering Wednesday’s game, and 29-12 at home since July 1, the second-best record in the majors in that span.

Team president Matt Silverman announced on Tuesday that the Rays will give out 20,000 free tickets to Wednesday’s regular-season home finale against the Orioles.

“This is about getting more energy into Tropicana Field, getting this place packed, and for the players to thrive off of that emotion,” Silverman said. “We saw it in the past. We’ve seen it this year, and we will see it in the postseason.”

Copyright © 2010  Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.


By Mario Conde

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill for the Salton Sea restoration and a committee that would oversee this project.

The bill that Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law this past Tuesday is to create the Salton Sea Restoration Council passed the Assembly this past August. It then passed to the State Senate were it got approved by a strong vote from the legislators to create a 14 member Council that will oversee the restoration of the Salton Sea. The outgoing State Senator said that the creation of this council is important to put structure and move forward with the restoration projects as soon as possible.

However, the Salton Sea Authority, a group consisting of county supervisors form Riverside and Imperial counties, as well as other elected officials, have opposed Ducheny’s bill, arguing that authority members are concerned the proposed 14 member council will move toward the state and could potentially take away local control. Supervisor Gary Wyatt has spoken about this bill at the County Board of Supervisors meeting.

In a related item, the County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution approved by the Supervisors; the Board says the Quantification Settlement Agreement has not performed as promised. The BOS believe the elevation of the Salton Sea has declined several feet since QSA water transfers began. The County argues that this exposes the playa, which can produce serious dust and air pollution in fine particulate matter.

The County believes that this creates a major health hazard to the Imperial County, as well as Riverside County and the Coachella Valley. The County resolution says the California Water Resources Control Board has authorized the release of Colorado River water to stabilize the Salton Sea elevation. They say the United States and the US Supreme Court have recognized the release of Colorado River water for the purpose of environmental protection at the Salton Sea as a beneficial use of the River water.

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