Eco-Living Magazine

California Valley Solar Ranch Gets Underway

Posted on the 15 December 2011 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

California Valley Solar Ranch Gets UnderwayA number of large solar projects have been dogged by issues of environmental degradation, of all things. Last year, several concentrated solar power installations ran afoul of environmentalists due to the sites chosen. One in particular, the Blythe Solar Power Project, which was the largest installation at the time, was planned on critical habitat for desert tortoises. A more recent project in San Luis Obispo County has taken a number of steps to minimize the impact of its installation on the ecology of the region.

One of the most striking features of the California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR), as it’s known, is that the land it sits on was retired from agricultural use due to a lack of water. A substantial portion of California’s agriculture depends on imported water, making it unsustainable over the long run. This solar power plant has undergone a number of steps to reduce the impact of the project. These include:

  • About 70% of the site, or 3,200 acres, will be permanently conserved and managed to meet conservation objectives for a range of species
  • Worked with experts to design the solar farm’s layout around the critical habitats to allow species migration
  • Reduced traffic during construction by implementing an incentive program for employee transit use
  • Designed fencing and alternate wildlife corridor to minimize visual impact, grading and species impact
  • Reduced planned water use by 20% annually, implemented a water recycling plan and confirmed that the plant will not affect water use by nearby residents
  • Added a water tank for safety and community firefighting

CVSR broke ground a few months ago and has moved forward with a plan to erect roughly 1 million solar panels. The output from the system is expected to generate enough power to provide electricity for roughly 100,000 homes, which is about the total number in the county. Economic benefits include the creation of 350 jobs over the next two years, plus an anticipated $315 million that “will be injected into the San Luis Obispo County economy through direct, indirect and induced impacts over the life of the project.”

The EPA estimates that the project will negate the production of 750 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually. For comparison sake, that would equal:

  1. Removing 62,000 cars from local roads and freeways every years
  2. Taking 23 billion pounds of coal out of power plant production
  3. Planting 2,343,180 acres of trees

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