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Cities Struggle With Access to Green Energy Sources

In cities across the country, officials are faced with the task of getting renewable energy from the outskirts of town to the urban centers where demand is greatest. NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels reports from Los Angeles.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Next tonight, the problem of getting green energy to where it's needed. NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels has our Science Unit report.

  • SPENCER MICHELS, NewsHour Correspondent:

    David Nahai is trying to figure out how to get more electricity to Los Angeles. As general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, he's trying to help reach L.A.'s goal of using 35 percent renewable energy — wind, solar and geothermal — by the year 2020.

    But it is not easy. Renewable energy usually is located far away from urban centers that need the power.

    Nahai flew us 100 miles to the Mojave Desert to show the latest effort by Los Angeles to capture that power: a new wind farm that his department has built in the barren Tehachapi Mountains. It's the largest city-owned wind farm in the nation.

    DAVID NAHAI, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power: The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power just finds itself at the forefront of a debate that is going to repeat itself again and again throughout the nation. And it's really the central question: How do we gain access to renewable energy, while at the same time building the transmission to bring it to population centers?

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    To hook the energy from these 80 wind turbines into the grid and make it useful, L.A. had to build new transmission lines and upgrade existing ones at a cost of $16 million. It took more than five years to get approval and to build.

  • DAVID NAHAI:

    With conventional fuels, we can take the fuel to the power plant. We can transport natural gas; we can transport coal to a power plant. With renewable energy, that is not possible. You have to go where that energy is located.

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