Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wind Turbines and Solar Projects Moving Forward West of Lancaster, Ca. in Los Angeles County areas of Neenach and Fairmont Butte

According to the Los Angeles Times recent article, Element Power of Portland Oregon is planning to erect a 230-megawatt green energy facility with solar and wind generation abilities. The planned installation is very prettily and non-threateningly named “Wildflower” and is set for 2,200 private acres of former grazing land where the current property owner operates a horse ranch. Healy Ranch runs west of Fairmount Butte south of Ave E along 160th Street West. Most of the ranch is south of Ave F between 160 to 170th street West to the aqueduct at approximately Ave H. It also runs south of Ave G to 130th west in a u shaped form.
The company will have to tread carefully wind energy and solar power projects proposed in California often attract opposition from residents worried about encroachment, or animal rights groups concerns with endangered species and others with a host of complaints. A number of solar projects have been given the green light such as AVSolarRanchOne a close neighbor, Tuusso Energy at 100th West at H, and E-solar, Sunlight Partners closer to down in Lancaster. Wind projects are abundant in Kern County primarily in Tehachapi. Previously a wind project was proposed by Scottish Power near Fairmount Butte but that was rejected. Element Power US LLC has an uphill climb on its wind proposal, but Solar projects have been successful in the valley.
Element has filed an application for the project with the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning. The company is gearing up for environmental studies and research on how much local property tax revenue will be linked to the proposed facility.
The wind and solar farm, to be located on Antelope Valley’s west side and it is expected to create more than 300 jobs during construction in an area currently suffering a 17% unemployment rate. The site will produce enough power for more than 70,000 California homes, which will be sold to a utility through a power purchase agreement.

NRG Solar Gets Green Light and Wins Community Backing

Patric Hedlund of the Mountain Enterprise reported, In a surprising move, the Fairmont Town Council voted March 24 to withdraw their appeal to the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission against a solar farm given a “fast track” permit. NRG Solar was given a green light to begin building its facility in the Western Antelope Valley without first providing an Environmental Impact Report, which competing renewable energy developers have agreed to perform. The council filed an appeal, then went into private settlement discussions with the company. The appeal was scheduled to be heard on March 30. At the March 24 public meeting held at WeeVill Market, Keith Latham of NRG read the terms of the agreement, which he said will not be public until construction begins in June.
Some of the points: About 40 acres of land for conservation purposes will be “dedicated in perpetuity” to the community. Fences are limited to a height of six feet and no razor wire will be used. Access for wildlife movement through the fenced solar farm will be established.
NRG agreed to plant indigenous trees around the property and “adjacent to the lower fence” to mitigate visual impact. Wildlife movement through the trees will be encouraged. Outside of that “there will be a maintained area, so people can walk and get from one side of the project to the other, without undue problems” in case there are “wall to wall” energy projects.
A parcel of land is allocated for community services. A “small amount of money” will be provided to the community annually for 20 years through a conservancy created by the town council, he said, to benefit the community.
Several of those at the meeting said they are in favor of renewable wind and solar energy, but a regional plan needs to be created— with community involvement— before it is too late.
Members of the Fairmont Town Council said they had talked with “about 80 percent” of the residents within their boundaries, and that there was consensus to accept the plan. Attorneys Pat Murphy and David Jefferies said they had been involved in structuring the deal.
Some at the meeting said that those protesting the vote do not live within the boundaries of the Fairmont Council. In turn, the legalities of a town council forming a conservancy and entering into an agreement with NRG were questioned by some Western Antelope Valley residents after the meeting.
Wendy Reed, executive director of the Antelope Valley Conservancy issued a cease and desist letter immediately, regarding the name chosen for the Fairmont Council’s conservancy. She said it was too similar to her group’s registered service mark. Jefferies is reported to have agreed to use another name. —Reported by Patric Hedund

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sunlight Partners Gets Initial Approval for Photovoltaic Solar Site at 40th Street East at K8

The Lancaster Planning Commission minutes from their recent meeting indicate that Sunlight Partners is requesting a conditional use permit for the construction and operation of a photovoltaic solar electric energy generating facility in the Rural Residential Zone. The proposed project consists of rows of PV panels on single axis trackers which would generate approximately 1.5 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The City of Lancaster has determined that the development and use of alternative energy is beneficial to the community, and this determination is evident in the decisions made by the City Council. The City Council has implemented several solar and wind energy programs thus far and they are working to install solar panels on City facilities. Additionally, the City’s General Plan has several policies pertaining to alternative energy. These objectives address the need to develop new sources of energy, as well as reduce energy consumption, and it is consistent with the City’s goals according to the Commission.

The project site is currently vacant and zoned SRR (Semi Rural Residential). However, the City’s zoning code does not permit the development of commercial-style solar energy facilities under the current SRR zoning; therefore, rezoning of the site to RR-2.5(rural residential) is necessary to allow the project to move forward. The proposed project would operate year-round, producing a total of 1.5 MW of renewable electric power during daytime hours. Power generated by the proposed project would be sold to Southern California Edison. The proposed project consists of rows of photovoltaic panels on single axis trackers with three inverters in the middle of the project site. These photovoltaic panels would convert sunlight directly into electrical energy without the use of heat transfer fluid or cooling water. The project would tie into the transmission lines that run along 40th Street East. A chain-link fence would surround the project site and a 10-foot landscaped planter would be provided between the fence and property line to screen the development from the surrounding uses. Access to the project site would be provided via a gate on 40th Street East. Irrevocable offers of dedication would be provided for both Avenue K-8 and 37th Street East. Avenue K-8 would be dedicated at 42 feet from the centerline, and 37th Street East would be dedicated at 32 feet from the centerline.
The proposed project has the potential to impact views from the surrounding roads and nearby residences. The photovoltaic panels are low profile with a maximum height of approximately eight (8) feet. While the views of the project site would change, the development would not impede long range views. Additionally, the project site would be fenced and landscaped around the entire perimeter.
Construction of the proposed project would generate noise, which has the potential to impact surrounding land uses. Mitigation measures are required which would reduce noise impacts to a less than significant level. Minimal amounts of noise would be generated by the operation of the proposed project and only during routine maintenance as the panels and tracking system are silent. Most of the time the facility would be remotely operated and no noise would be generated. Additional environmental impacts could be generated during construction of the proposed project with respect to biological resources and geology soils. The construction of the proposed project has the potential to impact burrowing owls during vegetation removal and grading operations. The applicant is required to conduct a pre-construction burrowing owl survey prior to the issuance of any permits. In the event burrowing owls are encountered on the project site during the survey, the applicant shall coordinate with the California Department of Fish and Game to determine the appropriate procedures/mitigation. Therefore, potential impacts would be less than significant. The applicant is also required to prepare and implement a dust control plan in accordance with AVAQMD Rule 403 which would ensure that impacts from dust during construction are minimal. Therefore, staff is recommending that the Commission approve the zone change and conditional use permit subject to the proposed conditions, based on the site having sufficient area to accommodate the proposed development, adequate access and services being available for the use, and the lack of significant adverse effects on the surrounding area.