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Economies of Wind Discussed at San Diego's First Wind SymposiumWith San Diego Gas & Electric looking to wind as a source for much of its growth in its renewable energy portfolio, San Diegans and a group of experts from different fields converged Tuesday at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego for the city's first-ever Wind Energy Symposium.
SDG&E's vice president of electric and fuel procurement, Matt Burkhart, has recently said that wind power will continue to be significant for the utility. Currently, about 60 percent of SDG&E's renewable portfolio lies in wind. And with the potential addition of projects like Energia Sierra Juarez, which may straddle parts of the U.S.-Mexico border and generate up to 1,000 megawatts of wind-generated energy if all plans and phases come to fruition, SDG&E doesn't plan on depending on wind any less any time soon.
Burkhart was among a half-dozen guests taking part in panel discussions at the event. He said Tuesday that San Diego County itself -- not including potential across the border -- is capable of producing 500-plus megawatts of wind power.
But there are numerous questions still surrounding the growth of wind energy, including economic impact, health concerns and environmental issues. With jobs, growth of industry and housing of major concern across the country, issues of that sort made for much of what was discussed.
Touching on the subject of economic benefit, Erik Bruvold, president of National University System Institute for Policy Research, said California in general has its place in the manufacturing sector, but in different ways than may be seen in other parts of the country.
San Diego, in particular, has an opportunity to capture growth in the development of technology, he said, pointing out the city's reputation for innovation and its numerous members of technology alliance groups like CleanTech San Diego, the nonprofit that co-hosted Tuesday's event.
"The biggest issue, and I think the most interesting one for CleanTech San Diego, is on the research and development side," Bruvold said.
Based on estimates from wind technology manufacturers, Bruvold added, between 4 and 6 percent of gross revenue will be invested toward research and development in the coming years. That's an important statistic for San Diego in the economic aspect of wind generation, he said, because much of the manufacturing itself has become concentrated in right-to-work states.
"When we look at the issues about storage, when we look at new technologies in terms of materials, there are some strengths in San Diego on the research and development side."
Bruvold went on to say that whoever "cracks the storage nut" is poised to be the "Bill Gates of the next decade." In another take at the economic effects of the wind industry, Dr. Mark Thayer, professor and chair in San Diego State University's economics department, distributed and discussed the results of research he helped produce looking at the impacts of wind projects on residential property values.
According to his findings, which looked at 7,459 single-family home sales before, during and after wind farm development in different parts of the country, there was no real impact on sale prices. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and carried out by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the study tested for three potential stigmas: scenic view, area and nuisance.
The bottom line, Thayer said, is that no impact was found. Most of the data in the study was post-construction, though, meaning it didn't reflect changes during planning stages of projects. But even more recent findings, which did separate the time frames, found only some pre-construction drop in prices, he said, with prices settling again once the hubbub of worry declined.
"What happens is, people announce a wind farm, there's a lot of discussion, people get apprehensive … and it looks like property values take a little dip during that period of time," Thayer said. "But after the wind farm is built and operational, there's no impact on residential values."
So as SDG&E looks to expand its renewable portfolio, the viability of locally-generated wind power and associated industry work, it appears, still has the OK from local experts.