California cannabis cultivator to power indoor production with solar energy

March 19 (Renewables Now) – US cannabis cultivator Canndescent has completed a 282.6-kW solar power system to supply electricity to its indoor production facility in Desert Hot Springs, California.

This is the cannabis industry’s first commercial-scale solar project, the company said in a statement on Monday. After two years of trying to win project approval and financing, Canndescent managed to build the solar array in eight weeks.

“Given the restrictions around cannabis banking and lending and the complexities of energy projects and California civil construction in general, this was extraordinarily difficult to pull off,” said Tom DiGiovanni, Canndescent’s chief compliance officer.

The solar system consists of 734 solar modules installed on seven different carport structures. The photovoltaic (PV) array can now reduce annual atmospheric carbon emissions by 365 tonnes.

Canndescent noted it has further solar project plans and will share them in a white paper in the second quarter of the year.


California cannabis cultivator to power indoor production with solar energy, by Ivan Shumkov, Renewable Now, March 19, 2019.

Green power runs up against desert conservation in California

California lawmakers’ grand ambitions to fight climate change are running into a familiar obstacle: the parochial concerns of local governments and property owners.

The latest battle over state needs vs. local control is being fought in San Bernardino County, where the Board of Supervisors voted last month to ban solar and wind farms across vast stretches of rural desert communities. The decision was cheered by residents who have complained that the proliferation of large renewable energy projects threatened to wipe out their scenic vistas and upend the fragile desert ecosystem.

San Bernardino County’s ban comes just as California is supposed to be dramatically ramping up its renewable energy usage as part of the state’s effort to slash the carbon emissions that promote climate change. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring utility companies to get 60% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and 100% from zero-carbon sources by 2045. And demand for power is only going to grow as California shifts the transportation sector from fuel pumps to the electric grid through battery-powered cars, buses and trucks.

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It’s lights out on big solar in San Bernardino County desert

Developers will no longer be allowed to develop large renewable energy projects in certain areas of the San Bernardino County desert.

After a five-hour public hearing Tuesday, Feb. 28, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to prohibit utility-oriented renewable energy development in rural zones and the unincorporated communities of Bloomington, Muscoy, Bear Valley, Crest Forest, Hilltop, Lake Arrowhead, Lytle Creek, Oak Glen, Homestead Valley, Joshua Tree, Lucerne Valley, Morongo Valley, Oak Hills and Phelan/Phelan Hills.

About five dozen people addressed the supervisors, including residents supportive of the ban, union members who oppose the ban because they want the construction jobs generated by the (mostly solar) projects, and developers and utilities looking to add alternative energy to the power grid.

“There are tens of thousands of acres for these projects to go where they don’t impact any areas within the desert or communities,” said 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood, adding that the county is already the largest producer of thermal electric energy in the state. “In this case, there are alternatives that need to be looked at that don’t disturb, or impact, or create any loss of jobs.”

The policy, commonly referred to as Policy 4.10, is part of the county’s Renewable Energy and Conservation Element in the General Plan. The element was approved in August 2017, but the supervisors sent the policy back to planning.

In May, the Planning Commission rejected a revision that would have required projects to be approved on a case-by-case basis, rather than a flat out prohibition, in favor of the original policy.

Still, commissioners were concerned that the policy was too restrictive. So on Tuesday the supervisors agreed to include language that allows developers to apply for a General Plan amendment, or a boundary change, if they have a site that meets the county’s criteria but is within the prohibited zones. Any exception, however, would require supervisor approval.

Some developers and utility company representatives found the policy too restrictive, saying it limits development to areas that are already disturbed from uses such as agriculture and mining and the remote areas of Amboy, El Mirage, Hinkley, Kramer Junction and Trona.

Eight projects currently are being reviewed by the county. More than 20 have been approved in the past decade.

Justin Lanford, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 477, has worked on many of the solar projects previously approved in the county. He opposes a ban on solar projects.

“All of (the solar projects) that I’ve worked on have followed the rules very strictly in regards to environmental impacts,” Lanford said. “Also, there’s a lot of jobs that are created by these projects. Yeah, they’re temporary jobs, but that’s what we make our livelihood off of.”

But some residents say the prohibition will protect communities from potential health hazards caused by blowing dust, which increases when pristine desert land is disturbed by construction. They also cited the protection of scenic views, carbon sequestration from desert vegetation, and preservation of habitat and wildlife as reasons to prohibit large solar development.

“You’ve been told by many, including solar developers, labor (and) the construction business that they are stakeholders in our community. They are not stakeholders in our community,” said Brian Hammer, who owns property adjacent to a proposed solar project in Lucerne Valley. “They have no enduring interest in the long term health of our community. They will use us and leave us with the environmental mess and community nightmare that will last for decades.”

Chairman Curt Hagman voted against the policy, saying the county’s definition of utility-scale development could prevent future projects that use advanced technology to generate energy on fewer acres.

Under the new rules a project is considered to be utility-oriented if more than 50 percent of the energy generated is for use outside the local area and and is sent to the energy grid. This does not include community-oriented renewable energy, such as rooftop and parking lot solar panels.

In addition to Policy 4.10, the supervisors approved a rule to allow existing energy generation sites in prohibited areas to continue operating and make technology upgrades. They also approved a policy to encourage developers to work with state and federal agencies to build on public land, which makes up most county property.


It’s lights out on big solar in San Bernardino County desert, by Sandra Emerson, San Bernardino Sun, February 28, 2019.

San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to consider guidelines for renewable energy development in the desert

controversial policy regulating renewable energy development in unincorporated San Bernardino County is headed back to the Board of Supervisors, about a year and a half after it was sent back to planning.

The policy, which will be considered during a special meeting Thursday, Feb. 28, prohibits utility-oriented renewable energy projects in rural living and several unincorporated communities because of their potential negative impacts on air quality and the environment.

Developers have found the policy too restrictive as it limits where they can build these developments, mainly solar, which have been encouraged by the state’s environmental laws to reduce greenhouse gases. Union members, too, support the projects for the construction jobs they create.

Many desert residents, however, have come out against these projects, citing increases in sand blowing through their communities during and after construction; disruption of scenic views and wildlife corridors; as well as a reduction in carbon sequestration from the loss of desert vegetation, among other concerns.

“I think there’s pretty good support for this and they might even wish it could be stronger,” said Terri Rahhal, director of the county’s land use services department. “On the development side, they don’t want any restrictions, so I think they’re not happy with it. But, it’s the best compromise we could come up with over the period of two or three years now.”

The policy is part of the broader Renewable Energy and Conservation Element in the county’s General Plan.

In August 2017, the supervisors approved the element after a five-hour standing-room-only public hearing. They heard from residents, environmentalists, developers and unions before voting to send the policy back to the Planning Commission for further review.

In May, the Planning Commission rejected a revised policy that proposed a project-by-project approach, rather than a flat-out prohibition, in favor of the original policy.

The item was placed on the agenda for Nov. 6, Election Day, but was postponed.

Prohibition in the desert

A state mandate that electric utilities obtain a certain percentage of their power from renewable energy sources led to an influx of applications from developers looking to build solar farms and facilities on unincorporated county land in the desert.

The main policy under consideration by the supervisors, which is commonly referred to as Policy 4.10, is meant to minimize the impact on desert residents by prohibiting utility-oriented renewable energy developments where they live. This includes zones designated as rural living and the communities of Bloomington, Muscoy, Bear Valley, Crest Forest, Hilltop, Lake Arrowhead, Lytle Creek, Oak Glen, Homestead Valley, Joshua Tree, Lucerne Valley, Morongo Valley, Oak Hills and Phelan/Phelan Hills.

Developers could still build on land previously used for mining or agriculture and the more remote desert areas of Amboy, El Mirage, Hinkley, Kramer Junction and Trona. They are also being encouraged to work with state and federal agencies to build on their public land in the desert.

If approved, the policy would fit under the element chapter that outlines policies for protecting residents from blowing dust and sand, as well as scenic and cultural resources; wildlife and water quality.

In addition to Policy 4.10, the supervisors will consider a policy that would allow renewable energy projects already operating in the prohibited zones to make improvements and technology upgrades. They will also consider a policy the emphasizes cooperation with state and federal agencies to build these projects on public land.

An issue with dust control

Residents give several reasons why these projects should not be allowed, but an increase in sand and dust resulting from the removal of desert vegetation is a big one.

Mona Doles describes her experience living across the street from the 22-acre solar farm on Mountain View Road in Newberry Springs as “pure hell.”

After the farm was built in 2011, Doles said sand dunes as high as 10 feet started forming on her property. She said the sand gets into her home and keeps her trapped inside on windy days. She’s also concerned about its effect on her health.

“I don’t know how many wheelbarrows full my son has hauled and dumped out in different locations just to keep the house from getting buried,” said Doles, 63, who purchased the property with her late-husband in 2005.

Canada-based Stace Electrical BOP Solutions, which purchased the farm in 2017, has done some clean up on her property, Doles said the sand keeps blowing and is now suing for monetary damages, a tractor to help remove the sand and a home air-filtration system.

“I’m going to do whatever it takes,” Doles said. “I know I’ve been told I’m irritating, but I do what I need to do to take care of myself and my family.”

Rahhal said the company is working with county code enforcement to make improvements, and the solar farm has served as a “lessons learned” situation.

Since the county saw its first renewable energy developments go in, the review procedures have gotten more detailed and restrictive, Rahhal said. They also require a dust management plan during construction and operation, she said.

“So we’ve come light years, I would say, in the way we review the projects in the first place,” Rahhal said.

The future of solar in the desert

It’s hard to say for sure what the future holds for solar plants in the desert.

While the policy, if approved, would prohibit future renewable energy projects in these areas, it may not necessarily stop those already in the planning process.

As of February, there were several active projects in various stages of the planning process, including a 3,500-acre solar farm in Daggett as well as a 483-acre and a 664-acre solar project proposed in Lucerne Valley currently undergoing environmental review, according to the county’s website.

Brian Hammer, whose property is about 30 feet away from the proposed 483-acre Ord Mountain Solar project in Lucerne Valley, has been among a group of residents fighting to keep these developments away from their homes.

“We’re playing whack-a-mole with the projects that are already out there,” Hammer said. “Our hope is that 4.10 will shut the door and allow us to focus on fighting the ones that are there – not because we don’t like solar. There isn’t a person that I’ve met in the group over the years that isn’t pro-solar, but in the right spot.”

The public hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 28 at the county government center, 385 N. Arrowhead Ave., in San Bernardino.


San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to consider guidelines for renewable energy development in the desert, by Sandra Emerson, San Bernardino Sun, February 22, 2019.

Sunpin Solar signs 75-MW PPA with Direct Energy Business

Sunpin Solar, a California-based solar developer, and Direct Energy Business, an energy and energy-related services providers, announced a renewable energy power purchase agreement (PPA) for the full output of the recently completed ColGreen North Shore Power Plant. The renewable energy PPA covers the full 96.75-MWdc/74.8-MWac capacity of the solar project and will serve Direct Energy Business’ retail energy customers in California.

Sunpin Solar has signed a 75-MW Power Purchase Agreement with Direct Energy Business. The energy will be generated from Sunpin’s 96-MW ColGreen North Shore Power Plant in Mecca, California. Sunpin Solar

“California is a very competitive market for utility-scale solar developers, and I am proud of the Sunpin Solar team for the successful implementation of this new innovative Structured PPA with Direct Energy Business. This agreement sets the stage for our plans to build at least another 200 MW of solar in California,” said Tom Li, president of Sunpin Solar.

The 96-MWdc ColGreen North Shore Solar Power Plant, which has been operational since January 2019, is situated on 485 acres of land in the city of Mecca, California, near the Salton Sea. It’s interconnected to the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) Utility grid and has delivery capability into the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) territory. The single-axis tracking system has an expected annual production of over 210,000 MWh.

“Energy Service Providers like Direct Energy Business can enable investments in renewables to help California reach its energy policy goals,” said David Brast, senior VP, North America Power and Gas, Direct Energy Business. “As California continues to evolve into a competitive energy market, we will work with suppliers like Sunpin Solar to deliver more energy choices for our Direct Access and Community Choice Aggregation customers. This renewable energy PPA with Sunpin Solar is an important milestone in this journey and aligns with Centrica’s commitment to provide products and services that lead to a lower carbon future.”

The Colgreen project created 425 local jobs at the peak of construction in an area classified as disproportionately burdened by pollution and with population characteristics more sensitive to pollution by the CalEPA.

News item from Direct Energy


Sunpin Solar signs 75-MW PPA with Direct Energy Business, by Billy Ludt, Solar Power World, February 15, 2019.

GeoGenCo’s Zero Water Geothermal Technology Helps Imperial Irrigation District Achieve Green Energy Goals

EL CENTRO, Calif.Feb. 20, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — GeoGenCo, LLC has completed their semi-final designs for their next generation True Geothermal 20-megawatt (MW) power plant in Imperial Valley, CA. GeoGenCo has a 15 MW Power Purchase Agreement with Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and expects to be providing power by June of 2020.

Jim McIntosh (Mac), GeoGenCo’s CEO and COO states, “The project is identified as True Geothermal because all current geothermal projects require substantial amounts of water or steam as part of their power generation process. and are therefore, more appropriately known as hydro-geothermal since water is a mandatory part of the geothermal process (either in the form of brine or steam) for both the extraction of heat and for the disposal of the residual brine.”

True Geothermal does not utilize any water in their power generation process.  Rather than extracting the geothermal fluids, a high-performance heat exchanger is inserted into an existing (but non-performing) geothermal well where only heat is extracted from the geothermal formation, not from water, brine or steam.  While a permit application for approximately six acre-feet of water has been filed, about one third of this water will be utilized for dust control and the other two thirds reserved for emergency fire-fighting purposes. Zero water will be utilized for the power generation process.

A geothermal plant can require an average of 800 to 1,000 acre-feet of water per MW per year. A 50 MW geothermal power plant could therefore require between 40,000 and 50,000 acre-feet of water per year.  This translates to between 13 and 16 billion gallons of water, which could otherwise be utilized for other purposes such as agricultural. This a remarkable improvement for US states including California, where reliable 24/7 energy such as geothermal is needed to meet their Renewable Portfolio Standards goals. True Geothermal will directly coincide with California’s law requiring 50 percent of the state’s power to come from alternative energy such as geothermal energy by 2050.

GeoGenCo’s VP of Engineering Dr. Theodore (Ted) Sumrall points out, “GeoGenCo’s non-water utilizing Geothermal Power Generation technology can also take advantage of previously drilled geothermal wells that are considered ‘non-producing’ due to factors such as insufficient heat, lack of brine or steam flow, or insufficient geo-pressure. This is not only a major cost savings, but also a major risk reduction benefit to the process.”

While hydro geothermal power has the smallest land use footprint of any renewable power (an average of 4.5 Acres/MW or less than 10% of solar power), True Geothermal has less than half the footprint of hydro geothermal. This is a true carbon neutral production cycle power generation system which is extremely innovative and will solve a host of problems traditionally associated with traditional hydro geothermal power generation and result in geothermal becoming much more widely used than in the past.


Jim McIntosh 


GeoGenCo’s Zero Water Geothermal Technology Helps Imperial Irrigation District Achieve Green Energy Goals, by GeoGenCo, PR Newswire, February 20, 2019.

Air Quality District Funds Valley Energy Efficiency Retrofits

From RivCo: The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has awarded nearly $1 million to make homes in the Coachella Valley more energy efficient, improve air quality and reduce energy costs for residents.

The SCAQMD Governing Board, at its Jan. 4 meeting, voted to award $966,667 to Alcal Specialty Contracting for a residential energy efficiency retrofit program in the Coachella Valley.

The award comes a few months after Supervisor V. Manuel Perez joined SCAQMD’s board in September, and results from Supervisor Perez’s advocacy to dedicate resources from the air quality district to help eastern Riverside County residents have a role in improving air quality.

“I am pleased that air quality improvement funds will be directed to our region to help residents make their homes more energy efficient and reduce emissions, while also saving money on their utility bills,” said Supervisor Perez, a member of the SCAQMD Governing Board. “Retrofitting homes will reduce air pollution and, most importantly, improve public health for communities in the Coachella Valley and eastern Riverside County.”

This program expands an effort that was initially funded in 2015 and 2016. Under the original program, over 2,100 homes received a basic energy efficiency retrofit designed to save energy and help offset the emissions from the newly constructed Sentinel Energy Project in Desert Hot Springs. While serving in the California State Assembly, Perez authored legislation, AB 1318, which established a mitigation fund that was the funding source for the original project.

This award was among a larger package of measures evaluated by staff at the SCAQMD. Awards were based on how each project’s design contributed to the AQMD’s mandate to meet ambient air quality standards for fine particulates and ozone. Funds for the projects come from air quality penalty settlements, mitigation fees and other sources.

More information about the program, eligibility criteria and when it will start will be made available once guidelines are released.


Air Quality District Funds Valley Energy Efficiency Retrofits, by News Desk, The Patch, January 24, 2019.

Clean Energy Accelerator Awarded $1.5 Million Federally Matched Grant to Expand Energy Startup Support in the Inland Empire

The University of San Diego, in partnership with Cleantech San Diego and California State University, San Marcos, has been awarded a three-year federally matched $1.5 million i6 Regional Innovation Strategies grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (under the Department of Commerce) to scale up the capacity of the San Diego Regional Energy Innovation Network (SDREIN) program and support clean energy startups located in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The University of California, Riverside, is supporting the program with in-kind matching, office space and logistical support for the Inland Empire.

SDREIN was formed in 2016 as a result of a five-year, $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission to offer free business, technical and regulatory services to clean energy startups in the areas of San Diego, Imperial, Riverside and San Bernardino.

Managed by Cleantech San Diego and supported by eight regional partners, the program works to accelerate the commercialization of breakthrough electric energy technologies capable of helping California meet the aggressive goals of its climate action plans. To date, among the 30 startup companies accepted by SDREIN, two are headquartered in the Inland Empire.

Over the three-year grant period, the i6 program has a goal of adding more than 50 startups from the Inland Empire, helping them to raise capital, commercialize their offerings and create jobs in the region.

“We are grateful to the EDA for this i6 grant, which allows us to expand SDREIN service offerings and our ability to assist energy entrepreneurs in all four counties, while targeting the Inland Empire for additional outreach and ecosystem-building around cleantech innovation,” said Cleantech President and CEO Jason Anderson.

The i6 grant funds will be used by USD and its partners to hire an Inland Empire program manager who will conduct on-the-ground entrepreneurial outreach and bring together industry and financial stakeholders in support of regional clean energy innovation. The program manager will be co-located at UCR EPIC facilities in Riverside, where they will have the opportunity to collaborate with startup entrepreneurs, mentors and innovators from the region. UCR EPIC also is an i6-funded program focused on jump starting the technology innovation ecosystem in the Inland Empire.

These funds also will pay for student internships and projects that accelerate the development of SDREIN startups, while exposing students to career opportunities in Inland Empire within the energy sector.

“We are excited to lead this effort that will build upon the strengths and challenges of the Inland Empire economy to develop clean energy firms and high-paying jobs,” said USD Shiley-Marcos Professor of Engineering and Entrepreneurship Venkat Shastri, a successful entrepreneur who also has led several large grant awards.

This grant from the EDA and the collaboration with SDREIN will accelerate and complement UCR’s ongoing efforts to build the clean tech sector ecosystem in the region — one of the key areas of research excellence from UCR.

“We are eager and well-prepared to support clean energy innovation in our region, which offers tremendous potential for economic growth,” said UCR Associate Vice Chancellor for Technology Partnerships Rosibel Ochoa.

“The University of San Diego is thrilled to play a leading role in the development of this important ecosystem and in generating high tech jobs for our region’s future,” said USD Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering Dean Chell Roberts.

— Liz Harman


USD News Center
(619) 260-4681

Clean Energy Accelerator Awarded $1.5 Million Federally Matched Grant to Expand Energy Startup Support in the Inland Empire, by Liz Harman, University of San Diego, January 23, 2019.

Imperial Valley’s Mount Signal 3 Solar Farm Reaches Commercial Ops

8minutenergy Renewables LLC and Capital Dynamics have celebrated the completion and commercial operation of the 328 MW Mount Signal 3 Solar Farm in Southern California.

Located in the city of Calexico in the Imperial Valley, the project is the largest in the 800 MW Mount Signal solar cluster. Mount Signal 3, acquired by Capital Dynamics’ clean energy infrastructure (CEI) business in 2017, commenced construction earlier this year and is being brought to commercial operation ahead of schedule.

8minutenergy was the original developer of all three solar farms in the Mount Signal cluster. With Mount Signal 1 and Mount Signal 3 both now complete, the cluster has approximately 80% of its total final capacity online. Mount Signal 1 and 3 will generate a combined 1.29 billion kWh of renewable power annually for the residents of 15 Southern California counties. Southern California Edison and 8minutenergy signed a long-term power purchase agreement for Mount Signal 3’s energy in 2014.

“This is a big day for California and the entire solar industry. As the original developer of the Mount Signal solar cluster, 8minutenergy is incredibly proud to bring this phase of the largest solar plant in the state to completion,” remarks Tom Buttgenbach, CEO and president of 8minutenergy. “Mount Signal is a clear demonstration that solar is ready to power California’s 100 percent clean energy future ahead of schedule. The Imperial County board of supervisors, their staff, our dedicated partners and the outstanding local workforce were all critical in ensuring that we beat our aggressive timeline in bringing Mount Signal 3 to completion. I’d also like to thank Capital Dynamics and Southern California Edison for being tremendous partners on this project.”

Mortenson Construction provided the engineering, procurement and construction contracting for the Mount Signal 3 plant. Key suppliers included First Solar, with 2.8 million Series 4 thin-film solar panels; NEXTracker, with its NX Horizon smart solar tracker; and TMEIC, with 96 Solar Ware Samurai 2700 Central inverters.

“Capital Dynamics is proud to have the development of Mount Signal 3 completed and now providing hundreds of millions of clean kilowatt-hours to the grid. Large-scale solar delivers what California needs – massive amounts of clean energy, reliably and at a low cost,” says John Breckenridge, head of Capital Dynamics’ CEI team.


Imperial Valley’s Mount Signal 3 Solar Farm Reaches Commercial Ops, by Betsy Lillian, Solar Industry, December 7, 2018.

Inland Empire Utilities Agency Selected as a 2018 Cool Planet Award Recipient

Chino Hills, CA – The Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA/Agency) was recently recognized as a 2018 Cool Planet Award Recipient. The award celebrates Southern California Edison (SCE) business customers that incorporate sustainability into their long-term plans while demonstrating exemplary leadership in energy and carbon management within their business size and industry sector.

The Agency has made significant strides in reducing its dependence on the electrical power grid by investing in renewable energy programs. In an effort to diversify and maximize renewable energy generation, the Agency installed 3.5 megawatts (MW) of solar power in 2008 and a 1 MW wind turbine in 2011. Combined, these projects have provided more than 50% of peak energy demand Agency-wide. In addition, the Agency has 4.1 MW of battery storage.

“IEUA is planning for the future, and it is an honor to be recognized for it,” said IEUA Board President Steve Elie. “As a leader in clean energy and environmental stewardship, we are striving to achieve energy independence through a commitment to optimizing facility energy usage for the effective management of renewable resources.”

The Climate Registry and SCE collaborate to recognize SCE business customers in the Water and Wastewater sector who implement energy efficiency projects, participate in demand response programs, and establish environmental and greenhouse gas emissions management systems. All nomination forms for the award were evaluated by representatives from The Climate Registry and SCE using a point-based system focusing on an organization’s participation in a variety of SCE integrated demand side management strategies, including energy management, demand response programs and energy audits.

The Inland Empire Utilities Agency covers 242-square miles, distributes imported water, provides industrial/municipal wastewater collection and treatment services, and other related utility services to more than 875,000 people through its member agencies which include Chino, Chino Hills, Cucamonga Valley Water District, Fontana, Fontana Water Company, Montclair, Monte Vista Water District, Ontario, and Upland.


Inland Empire Utilities Agency Selected as a 2018 Cool Planet Award Recipient, Press Release from Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Inland Empire, November 28, 2018.