The big question now in the solar future of Inyo County is whether or not the State Energy Commission will let BrightSource Energy build its major Hidden Hills Solar project near Death Valley. Hearings on the proposed 500-megawatt project were scheduled to start Tuesday in Shoshone.
Hearings will then take place next Monday and Tuesday in Sacramento at a California Energy Commission hearing room. The purpose of the hearings is to establish a factual record for the Commission to decide the case. Inyo County and BrightSource will present their individual facts.
The staff of the California Energy Commission did find that the Hidden Hills Solar project would create significant environmental impacts. Inyo County Administrator Kevin Carunchio had earlier said that the CEC would need to consider overriding circumstances on a variety of issues in order to give approvals to BrightSource.
The Inyo Board of Supervisors has continued to support their staff’s findings that the project would cost Inyo County many millions of dollars in law enforcement and road repairs. At last word, BrightSource also failed to submit a complete General Plan Amendment application needed for their project.
The CEC staff report says the big project would seriously impact biological, cultural and visual resources. The staff report also says the Hidden Hills project does not comply with all applicable laws, ordinances, regulations and standards.
The State, not Inyo County, will have the final word on whether or not this project goes forward. As with any large solar project, BrightSource would get a major tax break that Inyo County says would leave lots of costs unpaid and no clear benefit for Inyo.