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NIBMYism Builds Over California Transmission Projects

Without more major power lines, it may be impossible to get energy from big renewable power plants to the towns and cities that need them. A whole range of companies are relying on this new transmission capacity, including solar thermal startups like Ausra and Brightsource, wind companies like Vestas, and geothermal companies like Ormat Technologies. But there may be a fight to get it, sparked by the dozens of small communities that lie between areas generating energy and those using it.

Much like the not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) movement to keep wind turbines out of Cape Cod, residents are mostly worried about the natural scenery around them. An article in the Sacramento Bee picks out a Northern Californian called Rockney Compton as its naturalist-hero:

What keeps this landscape shy of perfect are the high-voltage power lines that cut through Compton's property, built in the 1960s to funnel electricity from mountain reservoirs to urban customers far away ... Compton can't do anything about those lines. He believes he can, however, help halt plans to build two more sets of massive transmission towers and power lines through his tiny community, 28 miles northeast of Redding.
The bad guy is the Transmission Agency of Northern California, or TANC, which wants to build a huge energy pipeline between California's most populous areas and Lassen County, a lightly inhabited area in the state's northeast. It would be cheapest and easiest to add more transmission where some already exists, but that's a sore point for property owners who already have lines crossing their land. TANC has angered many residents by failing to contact them over the routes. Others, offered money for use of their land, aren't interested.

As is usual in these fights, the local residents opposing the lines are only interested because their own land is involved. However, pressing the fight against the state's political establishment may require more compelling reasons. The growing resistance movement is coming up with them, including health concerns and the criticism that utilities are interested only in their own bottom line, not using the best technology. A website,, is serving as a gathering point.

But one of the main arguments being pushed by protestors is almost certainly incorrect. They suggest that the state's needs can be met by local generation -- at the moment represented mainly by rooftop solar. While there's plenty of promise in distributed generation, it can't serve as a stand-alone for electricity needs. So for now protests will, at best, delay the inevitable.


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