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Courtesy of Soitec Public Relations
Panels from the Newberry Springs Solar 1 power plant are 1,130 square feet in size.

Controversial solar plant completed in Newberry Springs

CPV power plant largest in the state

STAFF WRITER

NEWBERRY SPRINGS • A solar plant that caused an outcry from its Newberry Springs neighbors and spurred the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to pass a moratorium for future solar projects has been completed.

The 1.5-megawatt Newberry Solar 1 project by Soitec Solar Development LLC is the largest concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) power plant in California.

The plant comprises 12 panels, each one 1,130 square feet in size. The panels will operate under unique sun-tracking technology and allow for greater efficiency, or the delivery of about twice the efficiency of conventional photovoltaic panels, according to a news release. The solar power plant also connects directly to Southern California Edison’s distribution network and will provide approximately 500 Southern California homes with renewable energy, the release stated.

Newberry Springs residents were outraged after new owners of the project dramatically increased the size of the panels. The original plans included the use of photovoltaic panels about 6-to-7 feet in height. The current panels are 27 feet tall and 47 feet in length. A county notification sent to locals stated that modifications meant the project would “use less land disturbance on the same 27-acre portion of a 73-acre parcel.”

Local resident Robert Berkman found that deceiving. He had said that the project’s location contradicted the reason he lived in the unincorporated community — to view the natural scenery.

“The road is called Mountain View and right now there are no mountains in that view,” Berkman told the Desert Dispatch in March.

Jim Doles of Newberry Springs lives across the street from the project on Mountain View Road. While initially opposed to the location of the solar plant, Doles said he has now warmed up to the company and the project.

“As we went along I found myself speaking at public hearings against the project and I found myself opening up with the statement ‘I’m not opposed to solar energy but it doesn’t belong across the street in a neighborhood,’” Doles said.

Later he said he saw “things almost in direct opposition.” He said he didn’t want to be a “NIMBY” or “Not In My Back Yard” person.

“My belief system in all of this is not that shallow,” he said. “The project planners through Soitec are doing all they can to mitigate the affects of the project they put in.”

For example, after Doles was outspoken about one particular issue, loose dust in the area of the project, he was also able to sit down with the project manager Brian Barker, he said. Barker worked with Doles to prevent what is termed “fugitive dust” from the solar plant lands. When the panels were installed the company graded the land and uprooted the natural “desert asphalt,” he said.

The company plans to install soil stabilization fertilizer that will help to alleviate the issue, according to Doles.

“I’m accepting it because I’m in favor of alternative energy and as long as they can address my little concerns — having dust burying my house — then I’m for it,” he said. “They’re going to be quiet neighbors; I’m not going to hear loud rock music. It’s going to be a silent operation for the most part.”

The county’s temporary 45-day moratorium on future solar projects was approved on June 12, following the Newberry Springs solar plant complaints. The moratorium put a temporary hold on all industrial solar projects that have not been approved and allowed the county time to incorporate renewable energy into their General Plan, according to previous reports.

Contact the writer:BSelf@DesertDispatch.com or 760-256-4123.


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