Fairmont Town Council’s Solar Merry-Go-Round Ride

By Patric Hedlund

UPDATE: Monday, June 27, 2011 at 1 p.m.—The office of Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit confirms that his resolution proposing a 2 percent county fee on revenues earned by First Solar’s installation in Riverside County will be before the Riverside Board of Supervisors tomorrow, Tuesday, June 28. It has been estimated that the benefit to the county could be $2.5-$3.5 million per year, or about $100 million over the life of the project. The energy to be generated from this plant has been pre-sold to Southern California Edison, which is required under state law to derive 30 percent of its ‘energy portfolio’ from renewable energy sources by year 2020.

FOR THE RECORD: In another matter, Fairmont Town Council President David Kerr points out that he has not included mention of payments to Antelope Acres from First Solar in his emails. That was from a personal communication from another source.

Report from June 24, 2011: It can be hard to keep track of the 33 utility-scale renewable energy facilities targeting the Western Antelope Valley near the area designated as Fairmont, east of Neenach, west of Antelope Acres. For instance, one company named First Solar acquired another named NextLight in July 2010 to become Anetelope Valley Solar Ranch One. Acquisitions and name changes are frequent among these companies.

AVSolar Ranch One plans to put photovoltaic (PV) panels on 2,100 acres to yeild 230 megawatts (MW) of power. That is enough, their website once said, “to serve the needs of about 75,000 average homes per year, displacing approximately 140,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year—the equivalent of taking about 30,000 cars off the road.” They’ve taken that page down now, but you get the picture: big numbers. Wholesale. They state “Pacific Gas & Electric Company has contracted to purchase the project’s output for 25 years.”

Now they say they’re about to begin to build. But the Fairmont Town Council is having an email tiff with James Woodruff, their vice president of state and local government affairs, this June. Woodruff says he’d like to meet with the council privately. Council President David Kerr says he thinks a public meeting is a good idea.

About $140,000 that Antelope Valley Town Council has reportedly received from AVSolar Ranch One has also been a concern to residents of the Fairmont area [updated June 27, 2011—editor]. Kerr protests that Fairmont represents the project’s real neighbors. Meanwhile, Woodruff appears to be dodging emails. He “disconnected” when this reporter c alled to ask about Kerr’s impatience. The Fairmont Town Council had a meeting slated for Thursday, June 23 to discuss sending a letter of protest to the L.A.County Regional Planning Commission and to discuss taking legal action against First Solar.

Woodruff is over in Riverside County this week, working on a problem with another facility First Solar is about to build. Riverside is proposing a 2 percent annual surcharge on gross revenues. That could mean $3.5 million a year, or $100 million over the life of the project. No doubt others are paying heed.

This is part of the June 24, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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