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How SLO can lead the renewable revolution

By   /   Monday, March 1st, 2010  /   Comments Off on How SLO can lead the renewable revolution

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In the world of business, timing is everything.

That’s because a certain amount of momentum develops around a sale or a deal and once it stops it may go away — forever.

In the case of California, and particularly the Tri-Counties, there’s a lot of momentum right now built up behind the development of renewable energy on something that’s called “utility scale.”

Utility-scale solar projects are complex. They’re not easy to finance and they have plenty of economic risk. But around the nation and the world, California is seen to be at the leading edge of these projects — and two of them are planned for the Carrizo Plain area of San Luis Obispo County, with First Solar as lead developer.

That’s why it was encouraging to see Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sign an order on Feb. 18 that would expedite development of utility-scale renewable energy projects in a number of counties, including San Luis Obispo.

In addition to providing electricity for much of the Central Coast for decades to come, these projects would provide much-needed construction jobs and give contractors an opportunity to upgrade workers’ skills — gaining a huge competitive advantage for more work on renewable projects in the future.

To see what happens when bureaucrats take over and stymie sensible and environmentally friendly projects, take a look at the mess that’s unfolding with the Goleta Beach Plan. Goleta Beach’s restoration project was three years in the making with plenty of input from citizens, users and staff of the County of Santa Barbara.

But the Coastal Commission, in a bizarre ruling, overturned a 5-0 vote at the supervisor level and rejected the project, which now goes back to the drawing board.

The new plan will remove parking lots, greatly limit citizen access to the beach and cost a bundle. It has prompted calls by former Supervisor Mike Stoker, now running for the Assembly seat that includes Goleta, for a new law that would allow cities to preempt the Coastal Commission if their projects fall within the scope of an approved coastal plan.

Getting renewable energy projects off the ground in San Luis Obispo County are a top economic priority — they are the 21st Century equivalent of the Roosevelt-era WPA and CCC. We’re glad to see that Gov. Schwarzenegger has taken steps to move them forward.

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