When the residents of Newberry Springs first learned they’d have a new electricity option, they were all for it. But when the size of the solar energy project changed without notice, it created a stir within the community.
That once dreaded solar panel project is still creating problems for those living nearby, from the loss of a mountain view to now a 6-foot-high sand pile.
Newberry Springs resident Mona Doles claims that grading the land for the San Bernardino County-approved 2013 solar panel installation caused an extreme overflow of sand to pile up in her backyard.
Doles, who lives adjacent to the solar farm located on the northwest corner of Cottonwood and Mountain View roads, explained that it took two years for the sand to accumulate and that it’s a growing problem.
Doles claims she can no longer water her plants in the front of her property and cannot see half of her 6-foot chain-link fence, as it’s covered in sand.
“It’s the fact that they cleared the land for the solar panels,” Doles said. “You are not supposed to do that out here, that is kind of a no-brainer.”
It was around 2009 when the owner of Solutions for Utilities inherited an acre of land, leading the company to install a solar panel farm.
The solar panel plan was originally approved to have a relatively low profile of 6 to 7 feet from the ground, although a financial delay prompted Solutions for Utilities to sell the project to Soitec in 2010.
Once Soitec had the reins, the company switched the proposed technology of the project. The original plan of 6- to 7-foot solar panels changed to an installation of 27-feet-high by 47-feet-long solar panels.
Numerous residents on Mountain View Road disapproved of the size as they predicted the irony of losing their mountain view.
However, complaints were not enough to solve the situation. The solar panels have been up and running since the installation in June 2013.
“Those solar panels have caused a lot of problems downwind,” Newberry Community Services District General Manager Le Hayes said.
If the project operator does not address Doles’ issue of moving the sand in her backyard, San Bernardino County will take matters into its own hands.
“If the project operator proves unwilling or unable to satisfactorily address the issue of the movement of sand in the project area, the county will absolutely consider taking enforcement action to ensure that the project operator takes adequate measures to manage the impacts of moving sand caused by the installation of the project,” San Bernardino County Public Information Officer David Wert said.
The company that runs the solar farm could not be reached for comment. Even the county has found it difficult to communicate with the company.
“The changes in ownership have been making it difficult to determine who exactly is in charge out there,” Wert said.