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LA Times: Solar Energy Costs Communities More than it Helps

Monday, 26 Nov 2012 09:39 AM

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The cost of solar energy plants might be more than the benefit is for the communities that host them, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In Inyo County, Calif., BrightSource Energy, developer of a proposed $2.7 billion Hidden Hills solar power plant, promised jobs and tax revenues, though neither may come in as planned, the Times reported.

BrightSource Energy said on its website that the project would create more than 1,000 construction jobs at the peak of construction and approximately 120 operations and maintenance jobs, according to preliminary economic studies.

Editor's Note: Obama Donor Banned This Video But You Can Watch it Here

The company added that the project would also generate nearly $300 million in local and state tax revenues.

Inyo officials hoped the plant would boost county coffers by 17 percent, though a consultant brought into study the proposal found that tax breaks and exclusions would cut into the number because portions of the plant would qualify for a solar-tax exclusion.

No more than 10 local workers would land permanent jobs stemming from the plant’s arrival, the Los Angeles Times reported, adding that only 5 percent of constructions jobs would be hired within the county.

Add to that, the county would fork over possibly as much as $12 million upgrading a road to the plant, among other projects.

“We’ve got county residents living in cargo containers near the solar site, seniors living in trailer parks on fixed incomes — they all manage to pay their 1 percent property tax fee,” Kevin Carunchio, the county’s administrative official, told the newspaper.

“Nobody is outright against these projects on ideological grounds or land-use principles. We don’t think we should have to bear the cost for energy that is being exported to metropolitan areas.”

Other California policymakers echoed those sentiments.

“Southern California is going to become the home to the state’s ability to meet its solar goals,” said Gerry Newcombe, public works director for San Bernardino County.

“That’s great, but where are the benefits to the county?”

BrightSource and Inyo County are still negotiating, though other counties in California and elsewhere have made similar discoveries.

In Hawaii, tax credits are prompting homeowners and businesses to install solar panels on their properties, with total production these days coming to 140 megawatts, about the same amount a small power plant produces.

Industry officials fear such practices may disrupt the power grid and cause power fluctuations or sporadic blackouts as the power generated by homeowners exceeds output from power plants in some areas.

“It can crash the entire system,” said Robert Alm, executive vice president of Hawaiian Electric, the Times reported, adding that solar tax credits cost Hawaii $173.8 million in foregone revenue in 2012, up from $34.7 million in 2010.

Meanwhile, others see solar and wind projects winding down as President Barack Obama’s $787 billion fiscal stimulus programs, which financed many such projects, come to an end.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts a 12 percent decline in the growth rate for wind power in 2013 and an 8 percent decline in solar’s growth, CNNMoney reported.

Once Congress and the White House address the fast-approaching fiscal cliff, a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts due to take effect at the end of this year, expect more government subsidies funding alternative energy to fade away.

“Even if that battle is won, it is very unlikely that you will see an increase in support,” Sarah Ladislaw, an energy analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told CNNMoney.

“It’s like an all-out battle for the status quo.”

Editor's Note: Obama Donor Banned This Video But You Can Watch it Here

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