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July 11, 2007


Knut Cunningham

Hey, interesting background on the solar pow wow! I have a question. First, let's pretend that the state has run out of natural gas completely and coal is out of the question. This leaves nuclear and small hydro.

Do you think that all of California's electric needs could be met in this situation by building solar PV farms? What would we do at night or on cloudy days--or can wind and batteries fill the gap?

I've heard talk of electric cars and larger industry-sized batteries helping out the grid during cloudy or peak hours, but would they fully tide us over? At night too? Or maybe there will come a time when our electricity is rationed? (ie, rotating blocks of power, and refridgerators only get powered every other hour or so...

Sorry this is a long question!
Look forward to your comment.



Thanks for writing Knut,

First of all California also has a fair share of large-scale hydroelectric. This is not counted as renewable because these big ol' dams silt up and become ineffective after 30-80 years besides destroying habitat for native fish, such as salmon. But some of the better managed dams can serve as transitional power sources as we move to clean energy.

It is also clear that solar cannot be seen as a total alternative to fossil fuels. To use San Francisco as an example, which has about same population as the Kings River Conseravtion District, it needs about 900 MW of power total, so 90 MW of solar power (euqivalent to the new 80 MW farm plus other solar sources) would be about 10 percent. Wind, small scale hydro and biomass can also play important roles, for let's say another 25 percent, making 35 percent of total power. That still leaves 65 percent power needed even in this best-case scenario.

Forget coal, which is environmentally too expensive in terms of greenhouse gas costs, even with carbon capture, etc (which makes it more expensive economically, too).
Natural gas should be available from overseas imports for a good 100 years, but with constraints of supply disruptions from hurricanes, terrorism, political events, etc., causing prices to fluctuate greatly.

We should also factor in increasing statewide population (37 million now growing to 50 million over next 20 years or so, with many of those new people moving to the hottest Valley and Inland Empire areas, thus requiring much more energy-intensive air conditioning).

With the latter in mind, the key issue is that renewables can help meet rising energy demand without constructing more fossil fuel burning plants or blackouts. The state came within one percentage point or so of rolling blackouts during numerous days of the record July heatwave last year becuase of record peak grid demand. If the grid went down during such 110-120 degree temperatures, you would have seen many more deaths than the 140 reported and the 520 or so now thought to have actually occurred statewide
And of course peak energy demand in California almost universally occurs during the hottest, sunniest times of day: we don't get cloudy hot and muggy like the east.

There are also leapfrog technologies that may be used: hybrids as building power sources, tidal power, etc., not to mention new solar technologies that will make it possible to wrap buildings and windows in solar cells that generate energy.

So it will be interesting to see what happens--but solar is becoming a much more important component of the energy future for the State of California than it currently is, and for good reason.

Knut Cunningham

Wow, these are great answers. I really can't see natural gas imports being a huge help due to domestic needs and drawdown in the exporting countries (Indonesia, Qatar, Iran, Russia) - not to mention the instability you mention.

For the other 65%, I'd see a complete ban on incandescents being helpful, with mandated LED/CFL night lighting. Or maybe task forces to determine who will receive electricity at night.

I forsee a future in which the poor will also have equitable access to electricity if community choice aggregation makes big headway.

If SF uses 900MW of power, I'm sure that the city could easily do with using far less--perhaps 500MW within five years, by sharply increasing green building incentives, conservation education and outreach.

If every business swapped out a desktop PC with CRT monitor for a laptop, you'd cut average power usage by 70% right there!




Energy efficiency, or Negawatts as Amory Lovins calls it, is missing piece I did not address. You are absolutely right!

Bob S.

Interesting link:

"Army Forsees Natural Gas Crisis"


Are you aware of the 40-50 yr secret cross-connecting and re-routing of Fresno's water lines? Illegal, unauthorized, no permits or inspections.
The ringleader is a former appraiser for the City of Fresno. He is now in the insurance business, preying on elderly clients with offers of "help with home repairs." As the sewer/water lines are cut, the City's risk analyst steps in and tells the resident that this is due from "negligence in sewer maintenance." She takes countless pictures of things that will be stolen and much more.
The next step is to call in a plumber - what a coincidence, the insurance agent's son is a licensed plumber. And what these gentlemen are doing is beyond belief.
With all their contacts to the City, keeping this operation next to the city's heavy equipment makes the major construction appear legitimate. Sewer lines and manholes are being relocated - I have photographs and the city sewer layout as verification. Needless to say, in some cases, the resident is never seen again - deed(s) to property forged. (Verified by handwriting expert.)
The ringleader boasts that his son is going to be Fresno's newest multi-millionaire in the solar business. Look what has been done to Fresno - turned inside out and patched back together. Major building/health code violations, etc. Much worse. I wish we had been given a choice.


First paragraph mentions Freso's pollution and escalation in asthma. 100% true. Your opinion on this, please:
Even under strict supervision, excavation of sewer lines is one of the worst pollutants known to man. Imagine 40+/- yrs of unauthorized altering of sewer lines. Relocating sewer manholes. Done when altering structures to cross-connect and re-route water lines - unauthorized and illegal. Walls down/back up. No permits or inspections. Mold, termites, leaks, etc. We were recently informed the air in our homes is now 3-5 x worse than outside. Is it any wonder?
I for one, was never sicker in my life until this went on here. Foot infections; neighbor's foot amputated which appeared to be caused from toxic, contaminated soil. He died, age 50. For months, I required an inhaler to breathe. Ongoing respiratory problems. Only later did I learn that NONE of this had ever been authorized. Using city equipment has prevented anyone from questioning this operation all these years.
Reporting it to the City of Fresno turned out to be the worst crime of all. Heinous atrocities accompany this operation - former appraiser in charge of this and more. Worse. See my webpage for info + pics. or

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