The Viridian Design Movement

From: Bruce Sterling []

Sent: Monday, September 23, 2002 8:41 PM

Subject: Viridian Note 00339: Green Power Nitwits

Key concepts
solar power, Sacramento, wind power, Cape Cod, bad accounting, NIMBY groups
Attention Conservation Notice
Conveys the annoying, dispiriting spectacle of green power advocates shooting off their own feet.

Entries in the Biofuture Robot Dog Contest:

Laura Sterling
Mark Simpkins <mark*>
Paul Jimenez <pj*>
Giles Turnbull <giles*>
david rice <david*>
Duncan Stewart <stewarts*>
David Bergman <bergman*>

"I've had my students submit entries for Viridian contests before, but I've never put my electrons where my mouth is 'til now. So here goes."

David Bergman Architect/Fire & Water Lighting + Furniture bergman*

This contest ends in one week: September 30, 2002.


"Mr Fang" took snapshots at the festival.

(((Welcome to many new Viridians who signed on at the Texas Renewable Energy Roundup in Frederickburg. Fun as that was, it may also help you newbies to realize that life isn't always peaches and cream in the world of green energy. Sometimes the advocates of wind and solar can behave almost as remarkably as Enron, who, by the way, were not participating at the Roundup this year.)))

Source: Sacramento Bee

Story by Carrie Peyton Dahlberg

"Solar woes shock SMUD Published 2:15 a.m. PDT Friday, September 6, 2002

    "The showpiece of Sacramento's electric utility, an internationally known solar power program, is in shambles.

    "It has fallen short of its goals, rocketed past its budget limits, lost its long-term chief and left Sacramento Municipal Utility District directors scrambling to figure out how to salvage their commitment to renewable energy.

    "The disarray could have far-reaching implications. 'For a long time, SMUD has been looked on as a leader ... one of the nation's premier renewable energy programs,' said Robert McConnell, a solar energy expert at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. Other programs could face a harsher climate if SMUD starts faltering and stumbling, McConnell said.

    "But others said the impact of even major turmoil at SMUD will be blunted because the solar industry has grown and insiders have long been dubious about the utility's efforts.

    "'Everyone with a real knowledge of the industry knows that SMUD's program is smoke and mirrors' and has promised solar systems at unrealistic prices, said Tim Townsend, a solar subcontractor who studied panel quality at a now- defunct research center in Davis.

    "Utility directors and managers say they remain committed to keeping some kind of solar program. But as internal audits showing the extent of the damage are completed, they are not sure just what will be left.

    "Already, SMUD has pulled the plug on any new installations of solar panels at commercial sites for the rest of 2002. It still will accept residential requests this year for the panels, which convert the sun's heat to electricity. But for 2003, nothing is certain == neither the price of solar systems nor the pace of their installation.

    "'It's a really miserable situation,' said Genevieve Shiroma, SMUD board president. ((("Genevieve Shiroma of SMUD" == what a great California name.))) 'I'm really shocked to hear that the program is basically in arrears.' (((Maybe she should talk to some California utility and natural gas companies.)))

    "SMUD had planned to spend $3.2 million in 2002 to help homeowners, businesses, government offices and nonprofit groups install photovoltaic panels on their rooftops or their grounds. Instead, Thursday night the board authorized spending more than twice that, at least $7.6 million. It has been warned the tally may need to be upped to $9.5 million if SMUD cannot persuade the state to switch its stance on a solar subsidy. (((A million here, a million there, it adds up.)))

    "And that money will buy much less than SMUD planned. The utility will get only 60 percent of the way to its 2002 goal of putting up another 2 megawatts of photovoltaic, or 'PV' systems. It will install only 1.1 to 1.2 megawatts.

    "That slippage, and further setbacks expected next year, will put SMUD well below the 15 megawatts of solar power it once expected to have in place by 2003. (...)

    "The troubles also have left the seven elected members of SMUD's board wondering how things could have gone so badly, for so long, without them knowing. (((Come on, fellas.)))

    "'Were these innocent mistakes, or were they deliberate misrepresentations?' director Peter Keat asked. (((Paging Ken Lay, paging Andy Fastow...)))

    "'I would be reluctant to discuss that even in closed session,' district general manager Jan Schori told him during a committee session Wednesday. (((Shredders still humming?)))

"Among the problems outlined for the board:

    "The benefits of the solar program were double-counted in budgeting, making the program appear $1.9 million cheaper than it actually is.

    "Solar panels cost far more than projected, partly because of delays and financial problems of a manufacturer that would have been SMUD's cheapest supplier. Higher prices from other manufacturers, sometimes up to 90 percent over budget, combined with delayed purchases, drove 2002 materials' costs $2.4 million over projections.

    "Solar installations outside SMUD's area were mistakenly priced below cost, in essence making SMUD customers subsidize people in Davis and elsewhere. (((No problem there; in the recents brownouts California subsidized the entire natural gas industry.)))

    "Contracts with suppliers were changed in violation of board policy and without board approval.

    "The district counted on qualifying for various grants and subsidies that it didn't ultimately qualify for, and that sometimes only existed as ideas outlined in pending legislation. (((Paging Anderson Accounting.)))

    "Several directors, who asked not to be named because the discussions took place during closed sessions, (((oh dear oh dear))) said they were deeply disappointed by the actions of Don Osborn, who ran the solar program from 1991 until departing abruptly into early retirement in February. (((Fall guy. Give 'em the gunsel.)))

    "Osborn, who now runs his own company called Spectrum Energy, said the board is 'probably only hearing one side,' and that he had long urged against some of the decisions that left the program where it is now. 'I served the district for better than a decade with honor, and I brought honor to the district and to Sacramento. We are at the forefront of the solar revolution,' he said. (((Paging... Oh, go find Exxon-Mobil's defense lawyers, they must be pretty good.)))

(((Meanwhile, in Windville:)))

Source: Gallon Environment Letter


506 Victoria Ave., Montreal, Quebec H3Y 2R5
Vol. 6, No. 20, September 22, 2002



    "For decades environmentalists have been calling for wind, solar and geothermal energy to replace coal, nuclear and oil-fired energy. They said, let's move to environmentally safer energy sources and get off of the highly-polluting sources of nuclear and coal-fired electricity. The environmentalists said let's reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by going to energy sources that don't produce GHG.

    "Ironically, now that North America is moving into large-scale, meaningful wind energy sources, some environmentalists are opposing them too!! It's environmentalists against environmentalists. The problem is that you can't have your cake and eat it too. You can't say no coal, no nuclear power, no oil-fired electricity, unless you can provide an alternative, more benign energy source.  Sometimes environmentalists can go overboard and become their own worst enemies. (((Really? Wow!)))  

    "Take for example, the proposed new Cape Wind project. It is the first offshore wind park in the United States which will be built on Horseshoe Shoal, five miles off the Cape Cod shore in Massachusetts. The wind park will consist of 170 wind turbines, spread over an area of approximately five-by-five miles. When completed in 2005, at peak output of the project will  eliminate 4,642 tons of sulfur dioxide, 120 tons of carbon monoxide, 1,566 tons of nitrous oxides. The Cape Cod windfarm will reduce more than a million tons of greenhouse gases, and 448 tons of particulates from being dumped into the air from coal- fired plants that the windmills would off-set.

    "Yes, it is true that any human-made structure like windmill farms will cause some disruption to the natural environment. Yes, looking at 170 windmills may be awe- inspiring, but not pretty. (((Uhm, yeah.))) But the true environmental and health impacts are light-years lower than the old energy sources that they replace. ((("Light- years lower?")))

    "The local environmentalists now opposing the construction of the windfarm have gone too far. What do they propose as an alternative to wind, solar and geothermal? Are they proposing more coal and nuclear power plants with their serious human toxics? Are they advocating no energy growth at all? Do they want to have the US import more oil from OPEC? Or do they just not want the windmills 'Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) == but in someone else's backyard?' (((Wait a minute, I think we've found our answer!)))

    "It's a bit selfish, given world efforts to reduce smog and global warming. For more information on the wind project contact Cape Wind Associates, 75 Arlington Street, Suite 704, Boston, Massachusetts 02116, Phone: ph. 617- 904-3100, Fax 617-904-3109, email . See the Cape Wind Associates proposal at the website .  


    "The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound is the new environmental group fighting the creation of the Cape Cod wind farm. It is the one fighting efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. The organization states that, 'the proposed location is in the middle of the pristine natural area that defines the region and is treasured by millions of people. People do not come to Cape Cod to see an industrial power facility on an empty horizon." (((Well, no problem; rising Greenhouse seas or a Force-5 typhoon will take care of that unseemly "pristine" quality.)))

    "Wind industry has proven to be as destructive and underhanded as any other power industry." (((Dang! Don't that beat all!)))

    "Further the group states that, 'people around the world are challenging developers who cloak themselves in the green armour of environmentalism while pocketing huge profits and ruining the environment.' (((Yeah, they probably are. In fact, there are lots of "protesters" who go counter-gunning against protesters against Exxon- Mobil.)))

    "The organization has been able to enlist the help of US Senator, John Warner of Virginia, who, they say, has begun to question the wisdom of wind energy. (((Oh, that's handy. A pet Senator from a coal-mining state.))) "They report that Warner has asked the U.S. Corps of Engineers to delay issuance of a permit for the first phase of the Cape Code Wind Farm. What may be needed is a high-level conference amongst environmental groups that will resolve the environmental conflicts between those advocating wind, solar and geothermal, and those opposing it. Environmentalists cannot give mixed messages. (((Why stop now?))) Nor should they defeat themselves over efforts to clean up the environment and reduce global warming. (((Why stop that either?))) For more information contact the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, 396 Main St., Suite #2, Hyannis Massachusetts 02601, Phone: 508.775.9767, Fax: 508.775.9725. Email: . Visit their website at Visit their website at .

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