First Solar Updates the Neighbors

By Patric Hedlund

Dust storms, dysfunctional landscaping choices and a waiver granted by Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (DPW) drew fire from about 25 Western Antelope Valley residents May 1. They spoke at a briefing with First Solar, Inc. managers at Fox Field airport, hosted by Norm Hickling, community liaison for L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich.

Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1) Construction Director Tony Perrino said 350 construction employees will be needed for about six months after a “negotiation” with L.A. County inspectors is resolved over lack of Underwriters Laboratory (UL) certification for First Solar photovoltaic modules. Under 200 workers are currently on the job while construction is held up by “code interpretation discussions” with the county, Perrino said, adding that site preparation is 36 percent complete.

Neighbors said ongoing construction activity at 170th Street West is still causing dangerous dust storms that engulf cars traveling Avenue D (Hwy. 138) “and spreads dangerous illnesses” such as Valley Fever.

Barbara Rogers of the Fairmont Town Council asked why DPW granted a waiver for the facility’s Conditional Use Permit, allowing a spotty 109 trees to be planted along the AVSR1 perimeter instead of the 4,700 trees that are required to shield visual blight and block blowing sand along Avenue D.

Three Points Town Council’s Susan Zahnter said, “We should not set bad precedents here; this is just the first of 33 of these [facilities] that may be coming into this area….”

Former construction manager Gary Baumeister has been replaced by Tim Harris, who was introduced with V.P. of Engineering Jim McRea, both of Arizona.

Labor commission complaints were being discussed on the sidelines of the meeting. Documents from a lawsuit filed last week regarding labor practices were acquired by The Mountain Enterprise and are still being investigated.

Hickling said he would have answers about the CUP waiver and dust abatement at the next meeting, June 5 at 5 p.m.

This is part of the May 04, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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