The success of solar-generated electricity could result in a worsening of air quality in the Central Valley, and an increase in associated negative health effects such as asthma.
For the last 25 years or so, agricultural prunings and orchard-removal waste has been chipped and burned at “biomass” power plants to generate electricity, which is sold to utility companies. This material used to be openly burned in agricultural fields, creating plumes of smoke and other air pollution. Burning it at biomass plants reduces air pollution – control equipment greatly reduces pollution. Also, this reduces the amount of material disposed of in landfills.
However, solar-generated electricity apparently costs less than that from burning wood chips. That is what PG&E and other utility companies are buying. With no buyer for the higher-priced electricity, biomass plants are shutting down, leaving farmers with no economical way to get rid of waste other than to burn it in the field, polluting the air.
The California Public Utilities Commission should put a dollar value on all benefits biomass plants provide, and pass some of their costs to the beneficiaries so that the plants can continue to operate.
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Mukasa Kezala, Fresno