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An assistant holds a photo for Cliff Graham (right) showing NextEra Energy’s 492 -foot wind turbines. The company seeks to plant about 80 of them initially in the Antelope Valley/Ridgecrest area. [Patric Hedlund photo for The Mountain Enterprise photo]
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Above, This is a chart generated by the Calfornia Public Utilities Commission in November 2010. California Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) to the left in this chart are expected to have fewer environmental concerns per unit of energy production, and CREZ toward the bottom are expected to have lower cost and/or higher economic value per unit of energy. The area of the Western Antelope Valley known as Fairmont is a standout on both scales.
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An estimated 55 people came to the WeeVill Market Thursday, Jan. 20 for a meeting called by the newly formed Fairmont Town Council in the Western Antelope Valley. Two renewable energy wholesalers made their pitch to recruit community support. Both said they intend to complete full environmental impact reviews.
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Margaret Rhyne (standing, center) is a co-founder of the Friends of Antelope Valley Open Space. They joined with Westside Concerned Citizens and the Fairmont Town Council to file two appeals on January 3 and 4 with the Los Angeles County Planning Department against allowing a large-scale solar facility to be built with no environmental impact report.
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There are said to be 33 companies buying up land and seeking Los Angeles and Kern County permits to develop energy generation facilities in the region. This map shows just 10 of them concentrated in the West Antelope Valley area. The community is concerned about cumulative impacts. They insist that Environmental Impact Review and full compliance with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) procedures for public input are necessary. L.A. County, four days before Christmas, gave a conditional use permit to a solar company's project, with no EIR required.
By Patric Hedlund
Solar and Wind Energy Companies Make Bid for Community Support
A staggering full moon, bright and round as a gold doubloon, rose over the western Antelope Valley last Thursday, Jan. 20. It was $1 taco night at WeeVill Market on Highway 138, near Neenach. The tacos are delicious, we’re told, but that is not why there were 50 cars out front at 6:30 p.m. Inside, there was a meeting going on. At times the dialogue was hotter than the WeeVill salsa.
The new Fairmont Town Council and about 55 residents of areas known as Neenach, Antelope Acres, Holiday Valley Estates, The Lakes and Fairmont had gathered to hear from alternative energy companies that are seeking to build solar and wind turbine facilities in their neighborhood. Residents have counted 33 such companies that have expressed intentions of building wind or solar facilities in the California Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) known as Fairmont. Fairmont’s placement on a chart published about the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI) makes Fairmont look, literally, like a low hanging plum. The land rush toward this windy, dry region that springs alive with glorious poppies once a year was manufactured in Sacramento last year.
The area the energy wonks called “Fairmont” was not even a name often used by the people who have lived in the area for decades. It is a region on the tax rolls and in the history books: “It is a tax district, used by the county,” said David Kerr, an L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy who is now president of the council. He said historically there have been references to Fairmont, but there is no current town or population center with that name.
Nonetheless, the western Antelope Valley was targeted in November by the California Public Utilities Commission as one of the three most efficient regions for generation and transmission of solar and wind energy in the state, and the gold rush was on.
The Fairmont Council was formed, Bob Plumlee, a rancher who was born and raised here, and David Kerr said, in large part to give the people who live in the area a chance “to avoid being steam-rollered by all these companies.”
The Fairmont Council and attorney David Jefferies have already filed an appeal to the “negative declaration” status given by Los Angeles County Planning Department to NRG Solar’s Alpine Solar Project. The company hoped to rush into construction without an Environmental Impact Review.
The Fairmont Council’s appeal was accompanied by a second lodged by Friends of Antelope Valley Open Space and Westside Concerned Citizens, filed on January 3.
“We want to set some standards and criteria for how these projects are going to be handled,” Margaret Rhyne said.
Rancher Plumlee agrees.
He said he is “basically an advocate for development. We need some development out here, but I want to see them do an environmental review first.”
The good news is that the two companies that came to meet the residents on January 20 got the message loud and clear. Both vowed that they intend to do full environmental impact reports.
Next Week: Wind and Solar
SEE PART TWO
SEE PART THREE
This is part of the January 28, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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