Not long after the turn of the 20th century, Los Angeles cityplanners thought it would be a great idea to divert the water from100-square-mile Owens Lake into the city’s aqueduct. They may haveimagined how grateful their descendants would be for the watersupply–but they probably didn’t imagine the nasty side effect of duststorms that sweep the city, whipped up across the dry, uninhabited (andstate owned) lake bed by Pacific winds. According to the Los Angeles Times,the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has thus farspent over $500 million attempting to control this bane of Owens Valleyresidents’ existence, to little avail.
A proposal for a huge solar energy plant in the Owens Valley mightfinally provide at least a partial solution. DWP chief S. David Freemanaddressed valley residents last night about the potential solarinstallations, which ideally could provide five gigawatts of power,about ten percent of California’s total energy use. Shooting for themoon, perhaps? But the DWP is aware that these things go in stages:
The DWP is seeking state approval for an 80-acre pilotsolar farm on the lake bed, which is state land, to determine if itwill be effective controlling dust. If it works, DWP officials saidthey are interested in building a solar array on up to 50 square milesof the lake bed.
If a solar energy plant even a portion this large did go up, City ofAngels Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s plan to take L.A. off coal-poweredelectricity by 2020 would get a huge push forward. Under Villaraigosa,the city has nearly quadrupled its renewable portfolio since 2005. So city officials? Not likely to stand in the DWP’s way on this one.
California solar installations have been booming for years, and thestate’s solar market continues to be aggressively competitive–but thismay be the first time a solar installation has been targeted fordust-reduction use. One issue that will certainly come up is whatmounting systems and types of solar panels to use; while solarequipment comes with sturdy performance warranties that take intoaccount weather variables, a constant barrage of sand and grit may be achallenge. This is going to be an educational project to keep an eye on.
The LADWP offers a production-based solar rebate to its residentialand commercial customers. If you’re a home or business owner in theL.A. area and want to find out how much this and other solar incentivescould save you on the cost of a solar installation, click here.