Greenpeace report slams power plans

April 17, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

MEXICALI — Greenpeace Clean Energy Now of San Francisco thinks air and solar power plus expansion of the Cerro Prieto geothermal power plants south of here will allow Baja California to meet its energy needs without building natural gas pipelines and power plants.

Greenpeace made the suggestions in its recently released report slamming Sempra Energy's plans to construct natural gas pipelines and power plants in northern Baja California.

According to the report, "There is more than enough renewable energy to meet Baja's electricity needs. However, both the U.S. and Mexico are pushing forward to develop Baja as a dirty energy export zone, focused on serving U.S. energy needs."


Sempra spokesman Tom Murnane said Greenpeace is accurate when it says companies such as Sempra are trying to serve U.S. energy needs but he disputes Greenpeace's claims that renewable energy sources can meet the energy demands of Southern California and north Baja California.

"They are overly optimistic on how much those types of resources can supply," he said.

Murnane said Sempra Energy Resources follows the research on wind and solar energy projects and, "We've found nothing that is cost-effective yet."

"When you look at the amount of energy that is needed on both sides of the border … it just can't be met by renewable resources," he added.

Regarding Greenpeace's claims that Sempra is building a "dirty energy export zone," Murnane said Sempra officials have pointed to independent studies that show air pollution at the border will be lessened when diesel-burning plants are converted to natural gas.

Murnane considers natural gas an ideal "bridge fuel" that can be used until solar, geothermal and wind get to the point where they can provide reliable power at competitive rates.

SeaWest spokesperson Dave Roberts said that point could still be years away. San Diego's SeaWest is one of the leading manufacturers of wind turbines.

Regarding the potential for large-scale production of megawatts utilizing wind whipping through the Imperial and Mexicali valleys, Roberts said

, "There have been some historical studies done but the wind resource is not spectacular."

He said there would be almost no way for even a large number of wind turbines here to match the power-producing capabilities of a natural gas power plant.

Roberts said the thousands of wind turbines in the Palm Springs area produce around 1,000 megawatts of power at peak production times.

Sempra's power plant under construction near Mount Signal and the power plant being built by Boston's InterGen next to it will produce more than 1,600 megawatts.

Roberts said, "The area might be better-suited for geothermal or solar power or a combination of wind, solar and geothermal."

As for the possibility of using solar panels to create electricity, Roberts said the area of those panels would have to cover hundreds of thousands of acres.

"That would be an undertaking that's not real practical," he said.

Still, there is hope for the future. Roberts said his company just recently replaced around 400 old prop-style wind turbines in the Palm Springs area with a much smaller number of new, more-efficient tri-propeller turbines.

"Power production increased by 30 percent," he said.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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