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Locals press First Solar on job opportunities

BARSTOW • Jobs were the main concern for community members who attended the public meeting held in Barstow for the propsed Stateline Solar project near the California/Nevada border.

A dozen people from around San Bernardino County attended a public meeting held last Monday at the Hampton Inn in Lenwood, where First Solar employees and contractors explained the current status of the Stateline Solar Project, a 300 megawatt project that will power 90,000 homes when completed.

Members of the project explained that the team had done and is continuing an environmental impact assessment and a cultural assessment on 6,000 acres of the Ivanpah Valley where the project site is located. According to the environmental studies, the team observed 33 adult tortoises in that area and the project has decreased in size to avoid areas of higher tortoise concentration. There were a dozen tortoises observed in the possible site area. The cultural assessment determined that there were no Native American resources in the area.

Multiple people asked about who will get the estimated 400 jobs the project will create.
Gabriel Villarreal from the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron workers, asked if First Solar could promise that the jobs would go to local union and skilled workers.

“What guarantee can we get?” he asked.

Michael Argentine, project manager for First Solar, said it was too early in the process to determine how the jobs would be allocated, but that First Solar projects have been union projects, non-union jobs and a combination.

“We’ll try to hire locally to the extent that we can,” Argentine said.

The project’s draft environmental impact report will be released near the end of the year for public review. First Solar plans to start construction on the project in April 2013.  

Calico and BNSF hearing set for Oct. 3

In early October the California Energy Commission will hear BNSF Railroad’s complaints that the Calico Project misrepresented facts in its application for the solar project 17 miles east of Newberry Springs.

BNSF had filed a complaint in July against the solar project, claiming the project’s original application promised to use a newer “SunCatcher” technology. Since the project changed ownership from Tessera Solar to K Road Power in late 2010, the majority of the project will now use photovoltaic panels. The company asked in the complaint that the Commission revoke Calico’s certification based on the misrepresentation.

The case will be settled by a two-member Commission team that makes compliance decisions for the Calico project. Commission staff had responded to BNSF’s complaint in mid-August and said that BNSF’s complaint was insufficient to revoke Calico’s application.

This response is only an advisory tool for the Commission members who will make the decision after the Oct. 3 hearing.

BNSF had also filed a complaint this summer that the project will create glint and glare that will affect the railroad employee’s ability to see important signals. Calico plans to release a report on glint and glare findings in November.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4126 or smitchell@desertdispatch.com


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