Friday, March 16, 2012

Largest U.S. Solar/Wind Hybrid Project Proposed for Antelope Valley

California’s Antelope Valley is a 3,700 acre site, home to burrowing owls, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, and deer. It boasts a bright and colorful poppy preserve, and the natural views help make it a popular horseback riding and hiking spot. It also sees strong winds and a lot of sun, which makes it ideal for America’s biggest wind-solar hybrid farm yet. As Element Power’s Wildflower Renewable Energy Farm Project manager Nat Parker says, “The trees grow sideways and the sun burns bright.”

The ambitious project, citing 100 megawatts of solar and 150 megawatts of wind, is slated to cover just 22% of the land on-site in two separate locations – 840 acres in total. The northern site is to hold all of the solar panels, as leveling the southern site’s topography to accommodate the arrays would be both difficult and disruptive to the local ecology. 33 3-megawatt wind turbines would join the solar panels in the north, while the southern farm would hold just 17.

Element Power’s formal proposal also includes 347 acres of conservation area, adjoining the existing protected areas, and includes football-field-wide wildlife migration corridors. A total of 1,000 acres in the southern site will be left undeveloped so as to preserve wildlife habitats.

Parker’s team studied the area closely for a year before finalizing the proposal. “We know from having been out on the site,” the former Sierra Club Regional Manager explained, “that it is good burrowing owl habitat [and] that it has elevation features that make it an avian species foraging area — and we also know that people like to ride horses into the area.” Element Power is committed to protecting that land for those uses in perpetuity. “…The southern energy farm has greater wildlife movement because it sits very close to the Portal Ridge area just south of our project,” he added, explaining why the company would not undertake the earthwork necessary to build more solar there.

Also included in the proposal was a new network of trails for both hiking and horseback riding – visitors will still have gorgeous scenic views of the valley itself and its famous poppy reserve.

The project is not without some opposition, although polls commissioned by Element Power indicated majority support in the region for development of renewable energy. While communities closer to the immediate vicinity of the project were less positive, Parker feels that “these are projects that will have huge economic and jobs benefits for the entire Antelope Valley” and points out that even in the closest small community, strong opposition was only 27%.

Element Power’s report on estimated economic benefits is currently in development and will be available in two weeks.

840 acres of Antelope Valley’s 3,700 acres requested for solar/wind farm2 sites proposed – northern and southern347 acres of conservation area included1000 acres preserved as wildlife habitat in perpetuity6.7 miles of new horseback riding/hiking trails150 megawatts of wind power (50 turbines in total)43% total opposition – but only if poppy preserve were to be affected27% strong opposition nearest to site

Any thoughts on putting solar panels in wind farms in Antelope Valley – or anywhere else? Let us know what you think, in the comments, below.

No comments:

Post a Comment