July 29, 2008

Pro: Transmission line is needed to tap the vital geothermal energy of the Salton Sea


by H. David Nahai
Special to The Desert Sun

I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight on the Green Path North Project — why it is necessary and where we stand.

There has been much discussion in the local media and among citizens of the desert communities, speculating that the city of Los Angeles plans to forge a “path of destruction” through this pristine desert, taking and devaluing properties, damaging the economy and shattering scenic vistas.

These charges are unfounded and not our intentions.

Let me first say that this project is still in its infancy.

On Saturday, July 19, we came together with the community in the first of many meetings to listen to your concerns and consider your input.

We have not yet even embarked on the rigorous environmental planning process, which will entail extensive public outreach and opportunity for public comments as required by the National Environmental Protection Act and the California Environmental Quality Act.

Careful environmental review

Through the environmental planning and review process, the various conceptual alignments for Green Path North will be evaluated; some will fall out because they are infeasible while new potential routes may emerge.

Moreover, the technology options will also be weighed, such as opportunities to underground portions of the line and other alternative circuit configurations.

Our goal is to access vital geothermal energy in the Salton Sea.

Utilities throughout the state of California are now required by law to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by generating energy using fossil fuels, such as dirty coal power, and to increase the amount of renewable energy.

Geothermal is critical

Geothermal energy is crucial to meeting these goals, because it provides power continuously and can be relied upon to replace coal as “base load” generation.

This cannot be said of solar or wind power, which are intermittent resources. Furthermore, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is pursuing aggressive energy-efficiency and solar rooftop programs within Los Angeles to curb our greenhouse gas emissions, along with a multitude of renewable energy projects throughout the western region.

However, none of these initiatives can replace geothermal energy needed.

Searching for the best route

We do not yet know what the best route and the best configuration will be.

At the outset, we have pledged to minimize impacts on the environment and on local communities as much as possible.

We believe the best project will emerge as we proceed with the rigorous environmental planning process.

It is my sincere hope that we can work together in a meaningful and productive way to achieve the best possible solution.

David Nahai is chief executive officer and general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Reach him at Joseph.Ramallo@ladwp.com.