The Navajo Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant in Arizona, is a hothouse of carbon emissions that Sierra’s (Jan.-Feb. 2010) Paul Tullis says “rivals one of the most significant geologic features on the face of the earth.” It also ranks eighth in the nation for the annual release of harmful greenhouse gases–which is on a par with the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by 3 million cars.
Roughly a fifth of the electricity generated at the Navajo plant travels up-coast to Los Angeles, which, coincidentally, looks to be the starting point for a major energy revolution led by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. In 2007, after a drought prompted a three-day fire that ravaged L.A.’s Griffith Park, Villaraigosa had what he describes as an “aha! moment” concerning the potential effects of climate change. Since then he’s been fervently committed to kicking the city’s coal consumption and implementing renewable energy initiatives like converting the city’s street and traffic lights to LED lights, distributing compact fluorescent bulbs, and educating residents about solar panels.
Tullis notes that L.A. is in the process of upping its renewable energy sources from 8 to 20 percent, with a goal of 60 percent by 2030. The plan is to capitalize on nearby sources including a wind farm, a plant that converts methane into energy, and a geothermal project. The city also aims to make a transition to hydroelectric, nuclear, and natural gas for nonrenewable sources. Since this is the nation’s largest municipal utility, the effort is under the microscope; if it is successful, it could be a catalyst for nationwide reform.
David Freeman, former head of the city’s Department of Water and Power, says that Villaraigosa is “determined that we get things sufficiently in place or under construction so that by the end of his term [in 2013] no one can reverse it.”