Land that once was home of an en­vi­ron­mental hazard is now generating clean solar electric power, Kern County Director of Plan­ning and Resource De­vel­opment Director Lorelei Oviatt said last week.

The property is in Can­til, a small community north of California City.

In the mid-1990s sew­age sludge was trans­port­ed to farms in the Can­til area from several south­ern California cities and spread on land used to grow alfalfa.

Cantil residents pro­test­ed and then-Kern Coun­ty Supervisor Steve Perez and his top aide, the late Don Maben, took Can­til residents com­plaints to the board of su­per­visors.

Residents and bus­i­ness­es along the route of the sewage haulers also com­plained, especially fast-food operators in Mo­jave unhappy with the smel­ly trucks parking any­where near their bus­i­nesses. School bus dri­vers and riders who drove behind the stinking ve­hicles also complained.

Maben and I visited an L.A. plant where the stuff was collected and processed.

All of this resulted in county voters approving a ballot measure drafted by Perez called Keep Kern Clean being approved, a measure invalidated by the courts ten years later.

Perez’s action did result in eliminating the smelly sewage sludge being spread in East Kern.

Clean energy

Now, land that once was a problem has become a source of clean energy in a county that is one of the leading U.S. sources of renewable energy.

In a telephone inter­view, Oviatt said interest in renewable energy in the Cantil area began when a firm called Beacon En­ergy proposed building a thermal-powered energy plant in the area in the mid-1990s.

“That would have used a lot of water and been too complicated and too expensive, so they turned to solar” she said.

I attended one in­for­ma­tion meeting on the plan at the Bureau of Land Management’s Jawbone Visitor Center.

The main objection was the plan to use water in a desert (!) to generate power, one of many un­suc­cess­ful proposals over the years to mess with East Kern’s water by polluting or trying to steal it.

At that point, “Kern County and the Los An­geles Department of Water and Power started talk­ing,” Oviatt recalled.

LADWP has a mandate to increase the amount of power the city uses to be generated by renewable resources began installing wind and solar generation projects in Kern.

Tax revenue

In addition to gen­er­a­ting clean power, re­new­able energy also generates jobs, business, and tax revenues.

“State law will not allow counties to re-assess prop­erty used to generate solar power but we have made a determination that we can re-assess land used for battery sto­rage because we can store elec­tric­ity generated by wind energy as well as solar,” Oviatt explained. “We have told every com­pany that we will re-as­sess them for batteries in buildings.”

(Southern California Ed­ison has an ex­per­i­men­tal battery storage buil­ding at Monolith).

“We’re not sure what that will bring in but that’s the name of the game,” she said.

“We also have an agree­ment with (DWP) that we get the sales tax they pay for the solar panels,” Oviatt noted.

“We also asked that they hire 20% of the workers locally and they gave us 80 percent.”

“So that area (Cantil) became a very rich center for renewable energy, cen­tered on their Barren Ridge power line that runs from L.A. up to Inyo Coun­ty and their local power station,” Oviatt noted.

The power is generated by several private firms that have power purchase agreements with DWP.

“Now they’re going to do battery storage which we do not require but everybody wants it so we’re processing it,” she said.

Clean air

Oviatt said that a ben­efit of solar power projects in the Cantil area is that it replaces farming which generated dust.

“If we did not have solar on that 4,000 to 5,000 acres we would have even more dust over the town of Cantil so it has really been a good solution,” Oviatt noted.

Oviatt said the coun­ty worked with Red Rock Canyon State Park officials who were con­cerned about solar proj­ects being visible from the park, “we configured them so they can’t be seen from the campgrounds in the park,” she said.

Dust concerns

Some concerns about dust from solar projects have been voiced by Cantil area residents.

Long-time area resident and community leader Dawn Martic said dust from solar project sites is a continuing problem.

Martin, who has been active in ongoing efforts to reduce dust in the area, said she regularly in­ter­acts with solar industry rep­re­sentatives and coun­ty officials on the issue.

“They do not maintain their property to reduce dust,” Marin said of some of the firms.

The major problem in the Cantil area, which Martin acknowledges, is that it is downstream from silt that flows from Red Rock and Jawbone can­yons when it rains.

When the silt dries it becomes dust.

In the latest of many efforts over the years to try to control dust in the area, at their meeting Thursday, the Eastern Kern Air Pollution Control District board if directors approved an agreement with the Antelope Valley Dust Control Group for dust control planning and mit­ig­ation measures in the region, according to EKAPCD Air Pollution Con­trol Officer Glen Stephens. P.E.

Stephens said dust in the area does not interfere with solar panels an is easily removable.

New Cantil project proposed

Kern County super­vi­sors will consider ap­prov­ing a new solar project proposed for the Cantil area at their March 26 meeting at 2 p.m. in their chambers at 1116 Truxtun Avenue in Bakersfield.

The Eland 1 Solar Proj­ect by 8MinuteEnergy, LLC, would generate 500 mega­watts of clean energy according to a notice from the Clerk of the Board.

Current zoning on the land proposed for the pro­ject is Exclusive Agri­cul­ture.

According to the notice, the project would be con­nect­ed to LADWP’s near­by Barren Ridge sub­sta­tion by 230 kilovolt power lines.

The project site is in the vicinity of Phillips, Chey­enne, Dodson and Neu­ralia roads and is between Cantil and California City.

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