Lisa Bicker, President and CEO of CleanTECH San Diego, opened up the Wind Energy Symposium at the Scripps Seaside Forum on Tuesday with the pertinent message that to be truly effective, one should lead in change and not merely accommodate it. After listening to the breadth of knowledgeable and highly specialized speakers on the two symposium panels, it is clear that San Diego is here to lead the push for renewable energy and wind is sure to be an important ingredient in this future.
Keynote speaker Michael Picker discussed how California is leading this push towards environmental sustainability. Mr. Picker is the Senior Advisor to the Governor for Renewable Energy Facilities and has been instrumental in moving projects in California from the planning to construction phase. Despite stringent standards and an enormously complicated permitting process, Picker expressed much certainty that California would reach its goal of 33% renewables by 2020. In fact, Mr. Picker suggested that 33% may actually be too easy to accomplish and that he is really aiming for 40% in renewable energy by the 2020 deadline.
It turns out that Mr. Picker’s hopeful projections are not so farfetched after all. He cited three specific examples that led him to believe California will accomplish the 33% goal as early as 2017. This includes land use proposals that have been approved and are waiting in the pipeline, contract agreements, and interconnection approvals based upon the set dates for when a new renewable energy source is scheduled to enter the grid. These three unique measures collectively make a great case for Mr. Picker’s optimism and the likelihood of reaching California’s renewable energy goals.
California’s renewable energy portfolio currently includes a mix of wind, photovoltaic solar, and solar thermal technologies. Although wind is a promising source for California’s energy requirements, Picker reminded the audience that most renewable energy sources present a problem of intermittency when the sun is not shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Thus, it is crucial to develop a comprehensive energy portfolio.
Mr. Picker displayed two maps of California depicting the sites where wind potential was promising at different elevations. Although some of the most promising regions are set off the coast of California, Mr. Picker said it is unlikely that the state will see a lot of offshore wind due to the fact that the continental shelf drops off much more precipitously on the west coast than it does on the east coast. Deeper water means a more expensive operation. However, Mr. Picker noted that the technological methods for these installations could improve and lead to a vastly different outlook.
Perhaps the most relevant point raised at the CleanTECH Wind Symposium is that the future of wind and other renewable energy depends heavily on policy matters and the voice of the California citizenry. Issues with expiring incentives, changing local and federal regulations, and funding options present many questions that may prevent some businesses from committing to renewable energy development and delivery.
When asked what the future of wind will look like, panelist Marc Peterson of General Electric answered that he simply didn’t know. “The demand exists, the resources exist, but the ‘I don’t know part’ is about policy, it’s all about policy”.
Mr. Peterson closed his comments by saying that the answer to this question should come from the people, not a panel of experts.
“It comes from you,” Peterson said. “What will you do?”
If you missed the event, you can watch the entire CleanTECH Wind Energy Symposium online at:
Written by Mark O’Brian