Tough call – California might bail out controversial desert hydropower plant to boost renewables storage

by Sammy Roth, Palm Springs Desert Sun

Eagle Crest Energy Company has been trying to build a hydroelectric power plant in the open desert east of Palm Springs, just outside Joshua Tree National Park, since the early 1990s. But the developer has struggled to find a buyer for the electricity, and environmentalists have fought the project, saying it would damage the national park.

Now the California Legislature may step in to help the developer.

With just a week left to pass bills in Sacramento this year, 10 lawmakers have signed on to Assembly Bill 2787, which would require utilities to buy energy from “pumped storage” hydropower projects like Eagle Crest’s. The bill’s sponsor is Eagle Crest’s development partner, NextEra Energy Resources, which has given more than $200,000 to California Senate and Assembly candidates this election cycle. NextEra has given money to all three state lawmakers who represent the Coachella Valley: Eduardo Garcia, Chad Mayes and Jeff Stone. All three men signed on as coauthors of AB 2787 this week.

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