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Ivanpah solar project construction soon to begin

BARSTOW • Construction workers are raising fences and biologists are rounding up tortoises as the groundbreaking for BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah solar project nears.

After three years of environmental studies, workers with BrightSource will begin construction of the 392-megawatt project on public land near the California-Nevada stateline Oct. 27. The project’s construction jobs will primarily be coming from union halls in Barstow and the High Desert, officials say.

The first phase of the project comes will be finished at the end of 2012, said BrightSource spokesman Keely Wachs. The first phase is 126 megawatts, capable of powering about 45,000 homes. Once the entire project is completed it will  generate enough energy to power 140,000 homes.

Surveyors from Redlands and fencing workers have already been hired, said William Perez, executive secretary for the Riverside and San Bernardino Building and Construction Trades Council. Laborers will be coming form Barstow. And a handful of electrical workers will be likely coming from San Bernardino and Victorville, he said. Perez couldn’t say how many workers will be coming from the High Desert.

BrightSource is currently focusing on determining how many California desert tortoises are on the project site and preparing to move them. In addition to fencing, nurseries are being built to house the tortoises until they can be moved to another location. According to BrightSource spokesman Keely Wachs, scientists are testing the tortoises for a respiratory disease. They will be moved in the spring, he said.

To build the project, the Bureau of Land Management and the California Energy Commission have required BrightSource to find 10,500 acres of additional land to make up for lost desert tortoise habitat. Wachs said one of the company’s options is to pay a fee and the state and federal governments will acquire the additional land. The company may also purchase the additional land from private owners — something the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors opposed.

According to county spokesman David Wert, San Bernardino County is still concerned about the loss in property tax dollars if private land is purchased for tortoise habitat. Officials are still discussing the issue with the federal government, he said.

The project will be built on about 3,471 acres of land. BrightSource is building the project with a $1.37 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy. Because construction is beginning before the end of 2010, the Ivanpah project will be eligible for federal stimulus funding.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com


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