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San Diego Solar Farm Approved, But Renewable Energy Grant Program Is Set to Expire

Mount Signal

A solar energy farm that will provide an extra 175 megawatts of energy for San Diego, CA was approved after a vote of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday night. The project will help the state of California meet the standards set in 2008 when then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order requiring energy service providers to have 33 percent of their power generation be renewable sources by 2020:

The solar plant would cover initially 1,600 acres of land and produce about 175 megawatts of energy bound mainly for San Diego. After a second phase of construction, the plant will cover about 2,600 acres and create 300 jobs during peak construction.

The project had recently picked up the support of the Obama Administration and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. The project was passed in time to take advantage of the 1603 Treasury grant program, approved under the 2009 economic stimulus law, which provides cash grants worth 30 percent of costs for renewable projects. The program, which is set to expire without intervention on December 31st, has been integral in helping build a new culture of renewable energy in the US that supports over 22,000 renewable projects in 48 states.

Failure to extend this law could damper the progress made by the Obama Administration in terms of renewable energy:

“The 1603 program has done more to expand the use of renewable energy than any other policy in U.S. history.” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has said he plans to take up tax incentives for renewable energy early next year.

A study commissioned by the American Wind Energy Association, an industry group, said failure to extend the tax credit could mean the loss of as many as 37,000 U.S. jobs. Salazar has urged Congress to extend the wind credit, which expires next year, calling it a lifeline for domestic producers that could save tens of thousands of jobs and bring financial certainty to the renewable industry. Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, called extension of the cash grant program even more crucial.

The 1603 program hopes to avoid the pitfalls of a partisan Congress and maintain its reputation as one of the more productive parts of the economic stimulus that has helped build a new culture of renewable energy. As we look to rebuild and modernize our infrastructure while creating new jobs in the upcoming year, projects like this solar farm are an example of the intersection of job creation and energy creation.

(h/t @IBEW569 for tweeting the vote announcement…)


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