California’s recent policy stance to give preference to instate renewable energy development over out-of-state sources (a move inspired by the need to spur job growth in the financially-strapped state) may be running into a predictable roadblock; environmental opposition.

The New York Times reported last week that fierce opposition to stringing additional power lines in southern California may doom ambitions to tap vast solar, wind and geothermal resources in the Imperial Valley. It’s a bittersweet I-told-you-so for a dozen merchant wind energy developers with projects in Wyoming.

This year TransCanada announced that its $3 billion, 3,000-megawatt Zephyr Transmission project to send wind-generated electricity to the Southwest market was on hold because of California’s instate policy — despite the fact that merchant wind power producers had already signed on to fill the entire 3,000-megawatt capacity — primarily with Wyoming wind.

California needs a big dose of renewable energy to meet its self-imposed low carbon energy goals. The bad news for TransCanada and its Wyoming wind energy clients is that environmental opposition and nimbyism are not just California traits. Just as difficult is the arduous permitting process that involves more than a dozen federal and state jurisdictions — not to mention the hundreds of county commissioners from Medicine Bow to Las Vegas, Nev., who get phone calls from angry landowners.

Contact Dustin Bleizeffer at 307-577-6069 or dustin@wyofile.com.

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Published on December 10, 2010

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