There was an odd mix of realities going on this year, which was made clear by the topics of speakers, the protests that loomed large outside the summit and, really, the seemingly far-off state of renewable energy in the Valley that is, in fact, closer than we think.
But, as one speaker, Jonathan Weisgall, chairman of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, put it: policy attached to the energy market is vague and likely won’t be made any clearer this year and possibly next. What some took away from that presentation was that the key to renewable energy development — funding — is still not widely available.
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What we noticed during a session on the economic benefits of renewable energy to the Valley is those benefits have yet to be articulated. When solar, because of government subsidies, does not bring in property tax to the county, we still have trouble seeing the overall economic benefit of that particular source given how many full-time jobs will be provided after it’s built out. The same holds true for wind energy.
The same cannot be said for geothermal energy, which is already a large employer here and will be as more geothermal plants are developed on more open government land. Geothermal has been good for the Valley and it will get even better. And when you have reputable firms like Simbol on board to extract much-needed elements from the brine, that is even better.
The summit speaks of hope and future prosperity, and while that would seem like something all Valley residents could get behind, the protests outside of the summit tell us differently. Although the stated purpose of the protests was to draw attention to more rooftop solar, we saw it as more of a jab by Ocotillo residents and their friends at Pattern Energy’s wind farm.
We strike these pessimistic tones first and foremost, though, to make it clear we see the problems. The fact remains we very much believe renewable energy will be an incredible spark for the Valley’s economy. It might not provide a chicken in every pot and a job for every man and woman, but the industry will grow here; it will be successful.
The policy and positive impacts will catch up, will be quantified, as the nation as a whole settles in to relying on green energy more and more. And we strongly believe support development, ancillary business, and those good things that happen as a result of other good things, will occur. The renewable energy industry in the Valley will have a trickle-down effect.
The Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp. highlighted five projects that are about to come to fruition, and by the sixth summit, we do believe there will be harder information to play with, more facts, more development, more good. It will happen. Too many people believe in it wholly for it to not happen.
THIS ISSUE The Valley’s future as major provider of renewable energy
WE SAY Too many believers for it not to happen
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