Monday, June 01, 2009

Claim Jumping in the Name of Clean Energy

The government apparently is waking up to the consevationist vs. alternative energy controversy.

The LA Times reports that the Interior Department smells a rat in the recent spate of acquisitions within the renewable energy sector, speculating that the deals have more to do with land speculation (with government land) than energy. A formal investigation is underway.

Much like the dot-com companies of a few years ago, it's difficult to put a valuation on green energy start-ups, and often their land rights are their biggest assets, so companies are filing applications at a fast and furious pace.

According to the Times:

"Three years ago, the bureau had six applications for solar energy projects on file. Over the last year, it has received 130 additional applications from 50 companies, covering about 600,000 acres -- much of it in one of the sunniest regions on Earth, the Mojave Desert.

Some applicants are asking for parcels as small as 250 acres. Then there is Cogentrix Solar Investments, which is seeking more than 300,000 acres."

The companies themselves say they are just doing what needs to be done to meet the renewable energy mandate set forth by the state of California and that environmental trade-offs are inevitable.

San Francisco Peter Weiner who represents some of these companies was as candid as anyone has been in this whole debate, telling the Times:

"But it would be a mistake to think we can free ourselves from foreign oil and fossil fuels without impacting other environmental values."