PROPOSED SOLAR ARRAY IN JOSHUA TREE
August 2011 Information
MBCA hopes you will find the following links and documents informative concerning the Cascade Solar project proposed for the Sunfair area of Joshua Tree.
1. Here is a copy of the Application for the project
2. Here is the Letter of Intent
3. Here is a map
4. Here are the publicly-available details of the agreement between SCE and Cascade Solar:
5. Notes on the first public meeting about the project held in Joshua Tree in June 2011 are provided below:
Axio Power (Cascade Solar)
Meeting sponsored by Joshua Tree Community Association
Saturday, June 18, 2011 @ JTCC, 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Ricardo Graf (Real Estate, RGP Group), Jeremy Krout (plans, environmental review), and Will Plaxico, Project Manager. Jeremy and Will are Sun Edison employees, as Axio has been recently acquired by Sun Edison (not related to SCE). Axio started with rooftop, now moving into small-scale utility solar.
Ricardo (714) 549-1944 x 201
Note: application for this project is not yet complete or accepted but they have submitted environmental reviews etc. County will evaluate. Check their FAQ page for more details. http://cascadesolar.axiopower.com/faq/
Total project (two phases) would provide 18.5 megawatts. Maximum panel height would be 12-14 feet, although most will be more like 7 ft. Would provdie power for 7000 homes.
The total demand for the Morongo Basin is about 16 megawatts. This project (both phases) would provide 18.5 megawatts. Southern California Edison is purchasing 8.5 megawatts in the first phase.
PV panels, not solar thermal. 1st phase will be fixed, 2nd phase probably tracking.
They provided a number of slides with projected photos of local views before and after. They have a big setback because the County has plans to widen the roads in the future.
There will be an additional power pole and connection facility, possibly some new lines but probably only the existing lines will be needed.
Construction should take less than 9 months.
They plan to source some concrete from the plant that’s right there in the Sunfair area.
Will use water only for washing panels. Panels will not heat up the area.
A: Not much, and it will be mostly directly up.
Q: Glare for airport?
A: Not a problem; many examples. It’s the concentrating solar that is problematic.
Have completed biological, archaeological, paleontology, tortoise and sensitive plant studies. Had multiple tortoise studies done. We really feel we’ve chosen a good area.
Local Benefits = green energy created locally; about 90 jobs during construction and they will try very hard to hire locals; materials and supplies will be sourced locally where possible. Will have a few permanent hires related to security.
This project will not be a burden on local infrastructure.
Q: Own or lease?
A: They both own and lease the land; 7 landowners are in their contract.
Q: Why go this big? Why not continue focusing on rooftop?
A: We are supporters of rooftop, but renewables are such a small proportion of energy creation we need to move forward on all fronts. The south (1st) phase is contracted to SCE. The rest (2nd phase), north side, is not yet contracted.
Q: Lighting as it relates to night security?
A: Planned with dark skies in mind. Shielded lighting, and only at entrance. Motion cameras.
A: First phase is stationary, not tracking, so no significant noise. Noise from the inverter is well inside the site, so shouldn’t be a problem.
Q: Long-range plans?
A: Capacity of nearby infrastructure is the limiting factor, so big solar growth is not possible.
Q: Access to dry lake blocked?
A: No. Fences don’t block any roads that access the dry lake.
Audience comment: You really will need 24/7 security, not just the occasional drive-by you mentioned earlier, based on what kind of activity we see in that area.
Q: Permanent jobs?
A: Security, engineering, electrician for maintenance.
Q: Aren’t you stripping the property?
A: Would leave 120 ft. setback untouched. Land is already OHV-disturbed. From our studies, there are no tortoise and no sensitive plants.
Q: When are additional opportunities for public input?
A: We expect to be on the JT MAC’s agenda in August. There’ll be public input after CEQA review (30 days). This is a conditional use permit that will go to the SB County Planning Commission.
Q: Where are the panels produced?
A: St. Louis. Rest of structural parts could be from elsewhere. (They were strongly encouraged to use American-made parts wherever possible.)
Q: Project/panel lifespan?
A: 30 year lifespan on panels. Can be “repowered.”
Q: Can you return the site to original condition?
A: SB County requires that we collect plants from the site during development and replant and/or collect seeds and plant elsewhere. Plus there’s a decommissioning plan required.
Q: Cost of Phase I?
A: $30-40 million construction.
Q: Guarantee that power remains local?
A: It’s only connected to local distribution lines, not major transmission lines. Edison ultimately decides, not them, on where it “goes.” The Axio representatives reminded the audience that there’s no way to track locally produced electricity once it streams into the grid. It’s like pouring water into a pool; it becomes part of the whole and can’t be specifically followed.
Q: Are there really no wildlife or wildlife corridors on that site? How will the fencing affect wildlife?
A: We understand that full site fencing is important to keep wildlife from harm within the solar array. We believe there are no critical wildlife corridors in this area. (Audience member commented that the type of fencing is important because there is always some wildlife, and they said they would make note and investigate.)
Q: When did Sun Edison start?
A: First projects were in 2004.
Q: What about obsolescence of this project?
A: It’s common to replace old with newer technology as it comes in. Now, 16-18% of sunlight is converted to electricity. But here it’s collected and converted on the same footprint without costs of transportation—that makes it competitive. (I think they were implying competitive with newer technologies that might get a larger proportion of conversion.)
Q: What about water use?
A: Only a couple of times a year to wash the panels. JBWD has assessed it at about 2 acre-feet per year.
Q: We visited the site this morning. What other water use will there be, i.e. dust control?
A: There’s little traffic, and we will put a dust palliative covering/stabilizer on the ground. Yes, that will be a chemical product, but will try to find the least toxic version.
Q: Total cost? How is this better than 7000 homes with rooftop solar?
A: It’s a “levelized cost of energy.” Rooftop could not be afforded by everyone (yet). This project is about 11-12 cents/kW hour; rooftop would be about 20-30 cents/kW hour. But we would love to see both, and both are needed.
Q: What about our SCE rate impact?
A: Although not specific to our project, when utilities procure renewable energy, it adds to their cost, but is necessary and right. Hopefully solar cost will be going down.
Q: Are any of you from this area?
A: No, but we are active campers/cyclists and have visited the area often.
Q: What is the benefit to the community?
A: We’ll be paying local property tax, plus state and federal tax on revenue.
Q: There are 15-20 adjacent properties; will their value drop?
A: (A man from that area talked about his $20K “standby costs” on another speculative project. There really wasn’t any answer here.)
Q: What criteria were used to select the property? Why weren’t the nearby disturbed lands chosen?
A: We have spent about 2.5 years getting this together, doing the studies, getting the leases, and think it’s the best solution for us and the community. Disturbed properties were available but rejected due to drainage and run-off issues.
Q: Seismic issues?
A: That’s part of the planning. Design of the footprint will depend on the seismic study results and will meet code. (Audience comment was made about extreme wind speed and even a tornado in the area.)
Q: Timeline for draft EIR?
A: Likely in 1-2 months, depending on County planning workload. Going for negative declaration with mitigation as needed.
Q: Wouldn’t it be better if the panels were lighter in color so they wouldn’t stand out so much?
A: They have to be dark to absorb the sun to create the energy—would be less efficient if light-colored because it would reflect instead of absorb sunlight.
Q: What about loss along transmission lines?
A: Doesn’t apply here because they’re just local distribution lines, not big load centers and big transmission lines.
Q: What about giving the community good deals on rooftop solar??
A: We’ll take that back to the company.
The speakers told meeting organizers that they would soon send an overview of the meeting with additional information on some of the questions asked.
6. And finally, here are links to local media coverage of the meeting: