Ivanpah_Solar_Power_Facility_Online-392x261One of Ivanpah’s three solar thermal towers seen in operation

CEC Commissioner David Hochschild was articulate about California’s preeminence in energy efficiency and renewable energy.  The CEC was formed years ago at a time when the State’s electricity policy was to build 40 (“too cheap to meter”) nuclear plants… about one every twenty miles in the State.  This was challenged and led to the most sophisticated approach to energy efficiency in the nation.

For example, from 1947 – 1975, refrigerator energy use grew like a mountain. Since 1975, and thanks to energy efficiency standards and incentive programs, the drop in energy use has been symmetrically precipitous. Similarly, price has dropped, showing that you can have more efficient appliances at the same if not less cost. Good policy met with good technology.

California’s electricity use has stayed flat despite population growth, bucking the national trends. This continues. A new standard went into effect for chargers on February 2013. They are now required to have a 25 cent diode that eliminates standby losses. These kinds of standards have saved Californians $140 billion in gas and electricity costs since 1975. And in September, CREE with its TW (TrueWhite) Series became the first LED bulb manufacturer to meet the Commission’s Coloring Rendering Index minimum standard of 90. The $19.97 bulb has a CRI of 93, a 25,000 hour lifetime, and is dimmable.

Hochschild then turned to firsts, and how California continues to lead the nation and the world: Californians are responding to Governor Jerry Brown’s 12 GW of localized generation. Ivanpah is the largest concentrating solar plant in world at 392 MW, Located in the Mohave Desert, 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas, it features 170,000 heliostat mirrors that direct sunlight to  boilers in solar power towers. Developed by Brightsoure and Bechtel (with partial owners in NRG and Google), the $2+ billion project (gross cost of $5,561/kW) was supported by a $1.375 billion federal loan guarantee.

When fully constructed, the 550 MW Desert Sunlight field will be the largest thin-film solar installation in world. Located on BLM land, six miles north of Desert Center, crews there are installing 1 MW per day. Now 26 years old, SEGs has for many years been the largest parabolic trough installation at 320 MW. Today solar is 5% of the RPS; it will be 50% by 2020.

And then there’s wind and geothermal: In Kern County, Alta Wind in Tehachapi is one of the largest wind projects in world, currently with 1.55 GW of generation and slated to reach 3 GW. The Geyers, the largest geothermal plan t in the country, continues to generate 900 MW for PG&E. California also has the most new solar homes in the nation, 8,000, with 12,000 in progress. Why not make solar standard equipment in homes? “Just like granite countertops,” noted the Commissioner.

California can now also boast Rocklin, a zero net energy community on the campus of U.C. Davis. It’s the largest planned community of its kind in the U.S. with super efficiency, white roofs, and 4 MW of solar. This fall, 850 students moved in. Ultimately, at full build-out, there will be 3,000 students, faculty, and staff in 662 apartments and 343 single family homes and 42,500 square feet of commercial space.

The Tesla factory in Fremont is employing 3,000 and producing hugely efficient, safe, and popular cars. Tesla was supported by a $465 million loan from the government that it repaid nearly 10 years early. Lots of progress is being made in the Golden State.

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