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BrightSource plans to work with county despite project opposition

The developers of a 400 megawatt solar plant near the Nevada border will continue communicating with San Bernardino County officials even though the Board of Supervisors announced its plans to intervene Tuesday.

Another company that is developing a solar project east of Newberry Springs also plans to step up communication with the county because of the Board’s decision, according to a representative.

Officials with BrightSource Energy have discussed economic development around the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, about five miles away from Primm, Nev, according to Keely Wachs, the company’s director of corporate communications.

“We’re having very productive conversations with the county,” Wachs wrote in an e-mail Wednesday. “We share their concerns around the amount of land required for mitigation.”

The project is planned for about 4,000 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Environmentalists and county elected officials are concerned about impacts to wildlife and future land uses. BrightSource is required to purchase an additional 12,000 acres of land to mitigate impacts to the California desert tortoise and other wildlife. Construction is expected to begin later this year. The project’s contractor, Bechtel, signed labor agreements with several unions representing local workers in December.

The county is concerned that the project could affect property tax revenues if the additional land the company must purchase is private land, according to Andy Silva, spokesman for First District Supervisr Brad Mitzelfelt. If BrightSource purchases public land it could inhibit other uses such as mining.

Mitzelfelt announced his opposition to the project’s location in December, saying it would benefit Las Vegas job markets. Officials are discussing ways solar developers can offset those impacts, Silva said.

“The goal is to come up with a strategy to address all these issues on a broad scale and that way the county can be certain that our interests are going to be protected,” Silva said, adding that donating funds to build a fire station or buy a fire engine is one benefit solar developers can provide. “We want to make sure that we don’t have to bear the impacts without some kind of offsetting benefit.”

County officials will file a statement with the BLM, Thursday. It will also file a legal brief with the CEC. That deadline is in three weeks.

Representatives with Tessera Solar, which is developing the 850-megawatt Calico Solar One project east of Newberry Springs, met with county officials, including planning commissioners, the fire department and Mitzelfelt several times, said spokesperson Janette Coates.

“Based on the recent meeting we will certainly continue to work with the Board of Supervisors and hear what things would benefit the county,” she said.

Construction is planned to begin in September, Coates said. She noted, however, that the project’s development is further behind the Ivanpah project. The Solar One project is projected to power about 600,000 homes.

BrightSource’s project is projected to power about 140,000 homes.

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