Supervisors Grant Permit for 4400-Acre Solar Power Project in RivCo

March 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Riverside County supervisors Tuesday signed off on a solar power company’s plan to build a generating facility near Blythe that is expected to net the county hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and create several hundred construction jobs.

“This is a great day. I’m glad we’re moving forward,” said Supervisor John Benoit, whose fourth district includes the 4,400-acre site where the McCoy Solar Energy Project will be built. “This is about creating jobs and renewable energy in the county.”

The project will require use of county roads and the stringing of transmission lines across county land, making it necessary for the developer to obtain a conditional use permit, as well as enter into a 30-year development agreement and get an environmental impact report certified by the Board of Supervisors, which was unanimous in its approval.

There were some concerns expressed during a Feb. 25 public hearing on the project regarding potential ramifications for area wildlife and whether unionized labor would be utilized. Those concerns were echoed Tuesday. But Benoit said all issues had been “adequately addressed.”

“There’s no reason why this project shouldn’t move forward,” he said.

Supervisor John Tavaglione agreed, noting that “this is about jobs, good jobs.”

“This is about getting our economy back to work,” the supervisor said.

According to county Transportation Land Management Agency documents, the McCoy Solar Energy Project will entail erecting 516,000 solar arrays across 4,442 acres, with the possibility of generating up to 750 megawatts of photovoltaic energy.

The initial build-out will involve installing solar panels on 2,262 acres of mostly U.S. Bureau of Land Management property north of Blythe Airport, near the intersection of Black Rock Road and Mesa Drive, documents stated.

As part of the county’s agreement with McCoy Solar LLC — a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy — the developers were granted easements to facilitate portions of the project, including the placement of a “Gen-Tie Line” that will carry wattage to a power substation run by Southern California Edison about 16 miles away.

The solar power will be fed directly to the statewide grid, according to TLMA documents.

Around 340 construction jobs will result from the project, and 20 full- time permanent positions will be supported, county officials said.

McCoy Solar will be paying $1.21 million in development impact fees to the county up-front and make ongoing payments of $150 per acre under county policy B-29, enacted in 2011 to ensure the county receives compensation from developers for utilization of land that might otherwise go to farming, recreation and housing, as well as for the permanent alteration of pristine desert landscapes.

According to county officials, 200,000 of the roughly 300,000 acres in California eyed for solar development lies between Palm Springs and Blythe.

Under the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, California’s so-called greenhouse gas emissions must be scaled back to 1990 levels. That includes a renewable energy mandate that 33 percent of all production sources be from solar, wind, natural gas and anything other than fossil fuels by 2020.

Critics say the mandate will result in mounting energy costs for consumers and businesses, but proponents argue it’s the only way to achieve clean-air standards.

— City News Service.

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