What's Happening in the Eastern Sierra?

Inyo County:

  • In 2010 the Bishop Paiute Tribe received a grant to train tribal members to weatherize tribal homes.
  • In 2012 Inyo County approved an Energy Action Plan and created a baseline for measuring GHG emissions for 2011. The plan lays out strategies.
  • In 2015 Inyo County prepared a Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment and an Environmental Impact Report to address where utility-scale renewable energy projects could be sited within the County and how large they may be.
  • In 2016 Munro Valley Solar installed a 4MW solar array along Highway 395 by Olancha and sells its power to Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
  • In 2017 the Bishop Paiute Tribe installed solar panels on 56 homes on the reservation and plans to keep going to reach their goal of 200 tribal homes. Funding also provided training to 18 tribal members to do the installations.


 Mono County:

  • In 2014 Mono County completed a Resource Efficiency Plan that quantifies GHGs emissions county-wide excluding the TOML The plan sets a goal to reduce GHGs by 10% of 2005 emission levels and 20% of 2010 emission levels by 2020. They also set a goal to add 38 MW of additional renewable energy by 2020. 30MW of that will come from the new Casa Diablo IV geothermal plant. The plan will be updated in 2021 and the GHG emissions will be measured and compared to the county’s 2015 baseline.

  • photo of Solar Pavilion at Hess ParkThe County has added solar panels to two community centers, upgraded HVACs in existing county buildings, installed a biomass heater in the Bridgeport maintenance building, has encouraged renewable energy within the county and plans to install solar panels on the new Civic Center building.  The County charges only $4 for a solar permit.
  • In 2018 community members built a solar pavilion at Hess Park in Lee Vining to demonstrate the potential of solar, to provide outlets for the public, and shade. In 2019 a universal, level2 electric vehical charger was installed.
  • In 2019 the County updated its transportation plan for alternative fuel vehicles, allowed free charging of electric vehicles at Hess Park because of the solar offset, and plans to install EV charging stations at the new Civic Center.
  • Mono County has identified 5 sites within the county suitable for solar arrays. If built, these solar arrays could feed “the Grid” and be part of SCEs Community Renewables Program or the County could form a Community Choice Aggregate (or join one).


Mammoth Lakes:

  • In 2000, MMSA created a Department of Environmental Affairs. In 2008 it completed the first LEED building at Tamarack Lodge. In 2010 MMSA implemented several other environmental programs.
  • In 2004, citizens formed the High Sierra Energy Foundation. They explored how to use geothermal energy in the town. In 2008, they shifted their focus to energy conservation. They apply for grants for the community to help reduce energy consumption—i.e. retrofitting older buildings and homes.
  • In May 2007, Mammoth’s Town Council passed Resolution 07-05 in support of the Kyoto Protocol and joined the US Conference of Mayors. It is reflected in the 2007 General Plan under Resource Management and Conservation (R6-R11). This gives the TOML the authority to direct staff to do tasks and spend money in support of this resolution.
  • In 2011, the Mammoth Community Water District (MCWD)’s 1MW solar array came online. It generates energy for their wastewater treatment plant and recycled water pumps. Surplus electricity goes to the grid. 
  • 2019 The Town of Mammoth Lakes approved a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and updates to the General Plan to mitigate some of the predicted impacts of wildfires, drought, rain on snow events, etc.  However, the town does not have an energy efficiency or energy resource plan or a baseline of GHG emissions.


What are the Renewable Electricity Possibilities for Mammoth Lakes?

Mammoth gets its electricity from Southern California Edison (SCE). An Ormat geothermal plant is just outside of the town and generates electricity from geothermal heat that goes to the “Grid”.  Ormat sends its electricity to a nearby sub-station. A line comes off of that sub-station that goes to the town and to Mammoth Mountain. Ormat does not officially supply Mammoth with electricity, but the electricity from the sub-station will travel to the nearest consumers, which would be in the Mammoth area.

Utilities are required to publish their mix of energy sources annually. It is called the Power Content Label. SCE’s Power Content Label for 2016 shows a power mix of 28% Renewables, 19% Natural Gas, and 41% untraceable sources. But for CA, the renewable energy power mix is 25%. SCE’s goal is to get to 50% renewable energy by 2030, so we can’t rely on them to get us to our goal.

We see two likely possibilities: buy power from Ormat through a Power Purchase Agreement (or Community Choice Aggregate) or take advantage of SCE’s Community Renewables Programs. With the Community Renewables Program, a turnkey solar company could set up a 1 or 2MW solar array out by the Mammoth Airport that feeds “the Grid” and provide an offset on their SCE bills to those households that join in. It would be like buying shares in a solar array and the offsets would be similar to net metering. Here are some other thoughts: 

  • Reduce energy consumption—join forces with High Sierra Energy Foundation. The energy you don’t use is the cheapest. Many of the buildings date back to the 1960s and 1970s and need better insulation, weatherized windows, and upgraded HVAC systems.
  • Signup for SCE's renewable energy only rate plan. They offer this to customers, but charge 3.5 cents/Kwh more for it.. (Tier 1 rate=16 cents, Tier 2 rate= 25 cents, Tier 3 rate= 31 cents per KWh.
  • Increase rooftop solar on homes, businesses, and town facilities.