Inyo Supervisors won’t gamble on BrightSource

From BrightSource website.

Image of proposed Hidden Hills Solar project – from BrightSource website.

They like the idea of a major solar project in Inyo County, but the Board of Supervisors do not want to gamble with tax dollars when it comes to the service impacts of the BrightSource Energy Hidden Hills Solar project in far eastern Inyo. After two hours of talk Tuesday, the Board declined to support an agreement proposed by BrightSource but did approve a sales tax agreement of its own.

As Supervisor Rick Pucci said, it’s “an extremely complex matter.” He pointed to the national and state benefits of solar power but also to the potential costs to Inyo taxpayers, mostly for law enforcement and road costs in the project area which will include 170,000 solar panels that generate 250 megawatts of power.

Two reports faced the Supervisors – one in which the California Energy Commission claims Inyo will net more than $61 million over the course of the project and the other report from Inyo’s own consultant and staff that says the County will lose nearly $22 million. Supervisor Pucci said, “This huge discrepancy really bothers me.” He said as a representative of the public, “It’s difficult to be a gambler. We can’t gamble with the public’s money.”

Pucci also pointed out that a state agency, the California Energy Commission, has overall authority on this project. So, in the end, that agency can make the decisions. Meanwhile, Inyo has taken its stand – that BrightSource will cause some $90 million in impacts – mostly with the addition of seven Sheriff’s deputies and a new substation plus major repairs expected to the Old Spanish Trail road due to significantly increased traffic by 2300 employees on the project and delivery vehicles.

Both BrightSource and the County seemed to agree that the project will generate $7.8 million in sales taxes. BrightSource would agree to guarantee that much plus $1 million more if Inyo would agree not to seek the some $90 million in impacts.

BrightSource Vice President Chris Moore told the Inyo Board that there are different assumptions. BrightSource doesn’t think their project will require seven new deputies and a new substation. Moore said, “Two deputies might be needed during construction and then would go away over time.” He did agree BrightSource would repair the Old Spanish Trail if damaged.

Inyo County Administrator Kevin Carunchio said County Department heads took a conservative approach when they estimated the cost impacts of the big solar project. Inyo Sheriff’s Lieutenant Jeff Hollowell said the Department does not agree with the estimate of two deputies for the new project.

The agreement proposed by BrightSource would guarantee $8.8 million but require Inyo County to agree not to go to the State for the some $90 million in impacts.

The private land owner working with BrightSource favored the project and so did a real estate agent connected with the Charleston View development in the area. Another land owner who owns a bar close to the project wants it to happen. The Tecopa Fire Chief Larry Levy warned of the need for more law enforcement.

The Supervisors unanimously approved their staff’s proposed agreement. It is unknown if more negotiations with BrightSource will follow.

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20 Responses to Inyo Supervisors won’t gamble on BrightSource

  1. Ken Warner December 11, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    Brightsource should incorporate the area and form it’s own police department. Not much different than what Mammoth Lakes did for MMSA.

    Inyo Co. did the right thing by not agreeing to front any money before the project is built. Let Brightsource build the project then see what sorts of county assistance is really needed.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 6

  2. Trouble December 12, 2012 at 6:38 am #

    Why is BrightSource against Inyo getting 90 million in impacts from the state?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    • Benett Kessler December 12, 2012 at 10:02 am #

      Probably because the State would require BrightSource to pay it.
      BK

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  3. Bighorn December 12, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    Good for Inyo County. BrightSource got 1.7 free billion dollars of your taxes to build their Ivanpah boondoggle which will run on solar energy, but will need natural gas to keep it going when the sun won’t shine. Huge carbon footprint, an environmental disaster for the tortoise and the jobs were not local. Las Vegas is the closest community, but BS hired 80 percent of the workers from California Unions. They are tax dollar parastites and I am glad that the county won’t make us pay for such a major project that will produce so little energy. The Public Utilities Commission is strating to reject these bad ideas. They said no to the BrightSource Siberia Project and cut the Rio Mesa boondoggle in half because they know how theoretical BS technology is.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

    • Ken Warner December 12, 2012 at 10:50 am #

      Well, Ivanpah is in California which contributed some money so hiring from California makes sense.

      Natural gas is the fossil fuel most used in the U.S. to generate electricity and since the Ivanpah site generates a significant portion of their generating capacity from the Sun, one would think that it’s carbon footprint would be much less than the typical all gas generation station.

      http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/ivanpah/

      “Each plant also includes a partial-load natural gas-fired steam boiler, which would be used for thermal input to the turbine during the morning start-up cycle to assist the plant in coming up to operating temperature more quickly. The boiler would also be operated during transient cloudy conditions, ”

      And given Ivanpah’s location, cloudy conditions would seem rare.

      Further, government subsidies for electricity generation is nearly universal so the money Ivanpah got isn’t unusual.

      There were only 166 tortoise impacted that were hand carried out of the area. Further, the real danger to the tortoise is not Ivanpah but the population growth of SoCal which encourages OHV sports in the area. Blaming Ivanpah as a primary threat to the tortoise is uninformed. And a lot of the cost you are worried about is related to the protection and relocation of those tortoise.

      http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/04/local/la-me-solar-tortoise-20120304/2

      Your concerns are valid but the alternative is either to forgo the use of electricity or get electricity from the same old dirty fossil fuel generating stations. Nothing is free and nothing is easy.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

      • Joe Orawczyk December 12, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

        Well said Ken Warner, but there is an alternative to large scale remote solar, and a better one at that! Distributed rooftop photovoltaic (PV) panels is arguably far superior to huge projects such as Ivanpah or this one proposed for construction in Inyo County at the Hidden Hills location. Distributed renewable energy generation comes with its own challenges, but distributed rooftop PV benefits far outweigh remote generation and transmission costs and problems. Among the benefits of distributed rooftop PV are more permanent jobs in construction and maintenance as well as increased tax revenues for local governments in both sales and property values. See these pdf documents for a clearer understanding of this topic: http://solardoneright.org/index.php/briefings/category/C6/

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

    • Big AL December 12, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

      Not defending all of this but the comment about the environmental disaster for the desert tortoise, I don’t believe that is really the case on the magnitude it is intended to help your case.

      The reason I say that, it is very fashionable to throw in something like the desert tortoise to help sway people for the cause. Not to say they do need protection, but there are millions of adjoining acres that support them.

      If you want to help the tortoises, get the state to open season on ravens with a small bag limit, Ravens are the number one reason for their decline. There is no shortage of ravens.

      I do agree that this project might be a good thing, but these companies usually do not do much other than use up money and write it off on their taxes. It might be a good thing if the companies were willing to sink their own money into the project, rather than our tax dollars.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  4. skandar December 12, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    I was actually at the meeting yesterday.
    Brightsource most recent video on their current project,”Ivanpah” has no audio describing what your seeing…..If this is how they up-date the public with their projects, with no voice-over script,
    one would have to wonder what else that doesn’t go on with their projects……

    http://youtu.be/LObUGBSiLoE

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  5. Kevin K. December 12, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    It looks like the supervisors finally learned something from the Mammoth Lakes bankruptcy debacle. Or are they just “playing poker” to see what kind of money they can get out of Bright Source?

    Either way, they should take careful note of how inaccurate the Bright Source estimate of costs of public services was if they have any further dealings with them.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  6. Steven Most December 12, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Building solar should always be encouraged but I can’t see why any county should be in the red from such a development. If anything large projects should bring net profits through the various forms of taxes paid either by the employees or from the developers themselves.
    Just be smart about these things and don’t leave the county holding the bag after the project is completed. Doesn’t sound impossible to me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  7. Joe Orawczyk December 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Supervisor Rick Pucci is right to be concerned about security costs of the proposed Hidden Hills project. I can imagine a plot where a terrorist use a kids’ field trip school bus to transport a large bomb into the facility, and what an explosion would do to the field of mirrors or the tower itself. Such damage in the middle of summer could have a devastating effect on our economy. Large scale remote solar plants make a fine target. Distributed rooftop photovoltaic panels make this sort of concern moot.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

    • Ken Warner December 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

      You could imagine the same scenario at Main Lodge — or Vons — or anywhere. That doesn’t validate home photovoltaic systems. They are a good idea but not an ultimate solution unless you have the money to make your home completely off the grid. And then you’d still have to have water and sewer and roads and all the rest of the infrastructure that supports everyday life.

      I’m all for individual energy solutions but the technology and the cost aren’t there yet. A centralized system with a smart grid is currently the best universal solution. The best investments are in renewable energy AND smart grid technology.

      There’s something that is rarely mentioned: high temperature superconducting materials. Just replacing all current transmission lines with ambient temperature superconducting lines would nearly double the existing generation base — I say without proof. Transmission losses are huge. Which is one reason why individual solutions are a good idea.

      But none of that stuff is ready for wide scale deployment yet….

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

      • Big AL December 13, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

        interesting Ken.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Bob Loblaw December 13, 2012 at 7:20 am #

      That’s ridiculous. Terrorists don’t care about targets like that, because blowing one to bits doesnt cause fear in the population, it just costs money. People just shrug it off, and mumble something about insurance. Probably make a good movie though.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Trouble December 13, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

      joe- you have been watching to many Bruce Willis movies.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. Miscellaneous employer December 14, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    So, $90m for 7 deputies?

    Point and match, misc ee!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  9. sandcanyongal Tehachapi Pass March 2, 2013 at 1:13 am #

    December 21, 2012 NOTICE OF AVAILABILITY OF FINAL STAFF ASSESSMENT FOR THE PROPOSED HIDDEN HILLS SOLAR ELECTRIC PROJECT (11-AFC-2)

    1. As stated on page 2 of the document.

    Once operational, the entire 500-MW net project would require up to 140 acre feet of groundwater per year (an acre foot of water equals 325,851 gallons).

    where 1 acre foot = 325,851 gallons o water per year
    multiplied by 30 years = 1,368,574,200 gallons of desert groundwater over 30 years

    The wildlands will waste away and perish for lack of water for nearly 1/3 of a century.

    Speaking of wild lands, both the Nopah Wildlands and Pahrump Valley Wildlands on either side of this planned Hidden Hills solar plant, were granted BLM wildlfe status through a vote and approval by the House of Representatives and Senate for the special value they bring for future generations. What will future generations see if this is approved but parched land with nothing but a solar plant that becomes a boneyard some day. (40) and (46) identify these wildlands December 21, 2012 NOTICE OF AVAILABILITY OF FINAL STAFF ASSESSMENT FOR THE PROPOSED HIDDEN HILLS SOLAR ELECTRIC PROJECT (11-AFC-2)

    1. As stated on page 2 of the document.

    Once operational, the entire 500-MW net project would require up to 140 acre feet of groundwater per year (an acre foot of water equals 325,851 gallons).

    where 1 acre foot = 325, 851gallons of water
    multiplied by 30 years = 1,368,574,200 gallons of desert groundwater over 30 years

    These wildlands will waste away and perish for lack of water for nearly 1/3 of a century. The plan is to drill 6 wells. The hills on either side of this planned industrial complex are Nopah Wilderness and Pahrump Valley Wilderness. They hold special status to protect them for future generations. The House of Representative and Senate voted to give them this status. What good is conservation protection when a company can move in a remove the water that will severely affect special status wildernesses. All that will be left is wasteland in 30 years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. Dolores Parsons April 4, 2013 at 12:22 am #

    First off it is a desert a beautiful desert. It was a desert before us even before the arrival of man, a non-native species and will continue to be when we are all gone.

    First thing why I do not like PV:

    1. Panels are mainly made in foreign countries so they do not employ U.S. Workers, The owners of First Solar, representatives were evasive where the panels were made, they said Malaysia, I asked then they said a little in Arizona and Malaysia, too non-specific especially when it will be subsidized by U.S. Government and Taxpayers.

    2. The Green energy was supposed to help create jobs, remember when Obama bailed the cars manufacturers out and bailed out the banks, then his buddies got millions yet defaulted in Solyndra like dealings also PV.

    3. Solar towers help the worker and help the State of California especially when Obama placed a moratorium that all public utilities purchase electricity from Green conscious producers, they got their hands tied and have workers who need jobs too!

    4. My gripe with all this bullcrap is that our country really has very little manufacturing.
    My union business agent says “you need to buy a union car” I tell him “when you show me a cell phone, television, computers that are truly made here then I will buy one”

    You see Obama mandated a “Green” policy but failed to recognize that we need to get the manufacturers to be American to hire American workers, then they can build the necessary parts for “Green energy” Most of these solar plants purchase everything from Mexico, Indonesia, Malaysia, Germany etc even the toilet paper was from Mexico! All the money from taxpayers!!! Then on top of that they hire engineers from India who hire students from their own university, this should not be, it should be U.S. engineers and if they need students we have plenty of our own.

    On top of that everybody and their grandmother is claiming they are Native American they have a special “Trail” they want to have a portable trailer museum. All hands are out.
    Then the people of Pahrump say they have a say so when they did nothing on controlling population and building in the Valley! 30,000 residents and growing unchecked!
    Pahrump and surrounding communities have had a more damaging impact on the land than any solar tower would ever do. Septic, Home Depots, Brothels, garbage, “Johns” .
    Then the greedy land speculators trying to sell properties and no water moratorium to limit hosing developments.

    Brightsource needs to just leave the area you all are pathetic, pretending to be concerned about the enviroment when you cannot bullsh*t a bullsh*tter. Hopefully Obama will extend the moratorium for 5 or more years that way we can have real jobs not foreign countries with our jobs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

    • Benett Kessler April 4, 2013 at 8:11 am #

      BrightSource has placed the Hidden Hills project in Inyo County on hold and has notified the
      California Energy Commission of such. We will post a story on this today.
      Benett Kessler

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Outsider April 4, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Funny to reread this, considering the new board did end up gambling after all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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