California has set some ambitious targets for ramping up renewable energy sources. Some say too ambitious. Utilities won’t make the first milepost of 20% renewable power by this year, and many are skeptical that the longer-term goal of 33% by 2020 is doable, either, the executive order signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2008 notwithstanding.
A major hurdle is the permitting process for large “utility-scale” solar and wind installations, described by the Governor’s own senior advisor as “tortuous.” In the months ahead, we’ll take you through some of the obstacle course in a multimedia series called “33 x 20: California’s Clean Power Countdown.” A collaboration of Climate Watch and Quest, KQED’s science and environmental initiative, the series of radio reports and web features explores the promise and pitfalls of the state’s 33 x 20 plan.
The series begins Monday with Lauren Sommer’s review of California’s clean power legacy and an assessment of the present push. Future reports will look at a solar siting case study in central California, as well as prospects for major development of wind and geothermal sources. California currently leads the nation in solar generation but trails Texas and Iowa in the race for wind power. See Lauren’s interactive map for an overview of how California stacks up against other states in its ambitions toward renewable energy.
Future reports will examine the potential impact of large-scale power generation on deserts and tribal lands and the progress toward what some consider the “holy grail” of energy technology; large-scale storage of electricity. In June, Quest Senior Editor Andrea Kissack and I will team up for a kind of case study in one company’s ambitions; the 4,700-acre photovoltaic array planned by Solargen Energy for Panoche Valley in San Benito County.
- Northern California listeners can hear the radio series as part of KQED’s Quest radio service (airs Mondays during NPR’s Morning Edition on KQED and KQEI in Sacramento) or statewide on The California Report. You can follow the entire series and see the related web features as they appear on our “33 x 20″ series page.