It’s almost poetic that President Trump has declared war on windmills. Sort of his tribute to the Don Quixote legend.
Among the president’s parting shots at the G-7 meeting last week in France, was this: “We’re the No. 1 energy producer in the world. I’m not going to lose that wealth on dreams, on windmills, which, frankly are not working all that well.”
It was, apparently, Trump’s way of explaining his absence from the climate discussions with other G-7 leaders, which is somewhat ironic, given the fact that the United States has added more than 15 gigawatts of wind power since he took office, enough to power half of New York state. The U.S. wind-power industry now employs 110,000 or so American workers, more than double the number employed in the domestic coal industry, which the Trump administration has been trying to save.
Yet another irony is that Trump’s Energy Secretary Rick Perry has championed wind energy, which supplies more than a fifth of the electric power for all of Perry’s home state of Texas.
Wind power has its drawbacks, to be sure. Electricity prices spiked in Texas last month when wind turbines fell short of expectations in calm weather. More than a million homes in the United Kingdom lost power early in August when offshore wind turbines had a mechanical failure.
These problems are similar to what happens when a refinery fire cuts off fossil fuel supplies, or a major pipeline ruptures.
Like an investment portfolio, energy portfolios should be diversified, which underlines the city of Santa Maria’s recent pursuit of more energy-efficient projects, including the installation new lighting at city parks, and setting up solar panels in the eastern part of the city, all of which could save the city more than $1 million a year. When the city saves money, taxpayers save money.
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The projects came out of the city’s partnership with Pacific Gas and Electric’s Sustainable Solutions Turnkey Program, which Santa Maria launched in 2017. City officials created a laundry list of potential projects, including replacing heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units at city facilities, retrofitting lighting at city parks, installing artificial turf at Atkinson Park and upgrades at the landfill.
The city is borrowing the money for the upgrades, with the energy savings and new revenues being used to pay back that debt. Taxpayers have to appreciate the city choosing a path that includes its own payback mechanism.
The future of this collaboration is muddied by the fact the City Council majority voted to join the Monterey Bay Community Power Program, a community choice aggregation (CCA) that allows cities and counties to join with others in purchasing electric power options, and to develop their own portfolio of energy-generation sources. If the city stays in the CCA, what does that mean for the partnership with PG&E?
We’ve been lobbying for years for a more sustainable energy strategy, in large part because fossil fuels are a finite resource, unlike wind and solar power, and the Central Coast has an abundance of wind and sunshine.
Even the relatively small sustainable projects planned by Santa Maria could pay significant dividends, such as the 125,000 tons of carbon emissions that will not be pumped into our air over 25 years. That’s the equivalent of taking about 1,000 gas-powered cars and trucks from local streets and highways. Imagine the dividends of a large-scale wind/solar project in this region.
We are moving toward an uncertain future. Planning for more sustainable energy sources is the way to go.