Summit: Kern’s solar, wind industries stand to benefit from Obama’s goals to cut carbon
By Carol Ferguson, Eyewitness News, November 12, 2014
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) – Kern County energy experts say President Barack Obama’s call for cutting greenhouse gas emissions likely spell good news for local wind and solar projects.
Wednesday, Obama and the Chinese president released their plans to reduce carbon over the next 20 years. That came out just as local energy spokesmen met for the annual Kern Energy Summit.
Dr. Dan Reicher was at the summit to talk about making progress with clean energy, he sees more opportunities with new carbon-cutting goals from Obama.
“I think it means for a place like Kern County, which is a real leader in renewable energy, there’s going to be in theory even more opportunity for deploying these kinds of technologies like solar and wind,” Reicher told Eyewitness News. He’s the executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University.
Reicher calls the President’s plan a set of more aggressive carbon reduction goals for the long term.
As the summit in China wrapped up, Obama announced the U.S. would cut its 2005 level of carbon emissions by 26 – 28 percent by 2025. China says they’ll peak emissions by 2030, and try to get 20 percent of their energy from clean sources by then.
From the wind energy sector, Johnny Casana says Kern County is a real leader.
“Kern is the greatest place in the world to be developing wind,” Casana said. he’s based in Portland, Ore. With EDP Wind. “It’s the relationship between the ocean, the desert and the mountains. It’s constant, it’s strong, it’s one of the first places wind ever developed at utility scale.”
And Kern continues to add wind energy capacity.
“California has over 6,000 megawatts of wind energy, and we’re building 200 right now in Kern County,” Casana said. “That’s 250 construction jobs, and 30 long-term jobs, it’s $450 million of investment locally.”
John O’Donnell was one of the summit panelists from the solar industry, also a growing energy segment. He says they’re also putting thousands of megawatts of power into the electricity grid, and his company is finding new recipients for their power.
“Our CEO likes to say that the oil industry is the next big thing for the solar industry,” O’Donnell said. GlassPoint Solar is providing power to oil field operations to make steam for enhanced recovery. He says Kern County’s blessed with oil, plenty of sunshine and lots of wind.
That adds up to lots of opportunities, says Kern Economic Development Corp. President Richard Chapman.
“We have more renewable energy than the whole state of Texas right now,” Chapman told Eyewitness News. He said Kern produces 10,000 megawatts of power now from solar and wind. “If you look at other counties in the state, we’re by far No. 1. The next county over has about 2,000 (megawatts), so Imperial (county) is the runner-up. So, we’re at least five- to six times greater.”
Chapman says that has substantial benefits. He said the industries add tax revenue for infrastructure and public services.
Clean energy also provides jobs, both in construction of projects and long-term.
“There’s a lot of ‘light blue collar’ jobs that create mobility,” Chapman said. “You can have a two-year degree, and have a great quality of life here.”
While the experts say the new carbon reduction goals should be good news, they admit there are still challenges for the renewable energy sector.
Dr. Reicher said solar and wind need to work on ways to store that energy and integrate it into the existing power grids. His comments to the energy summit stressed it will take technology, policy and finance to achieve clean energy progress.
Reicher also told Eyewitness News it will be vital to have integration with state and federal governments, research universities, large and small businesses, and the financial sector.
There’s also the question hanging over the industries of whether tax credits will be extended.
“It’s not make or break,” Reicher said. “But, the credits are important for the near term, we should re-authorize these credits.” He said that’ll be up to Congress.
He said Congress can also be supportive of the new carbon reduction goals in a variety of ways, such as supporting funding for research and development.
From the wind sector, Johnny Casana said the cost of producing that power has gone done as efficiency has improved. He also thinks wind can play a big role if governments set goals in greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and Kern County would see benefits.
“Either at the federal level or the California state level, it would — of course — be a boon for Kern County in terms of job creation,” Casana said. “and economic development.”