Groups declare support for 600 megawatt solar projects in Imperial County, California
SAN DIEGO – Four major conservation groups today announced their support for a set of proposed large-scale solar power projects in Imperial County, Calif., because of the project meets the need to promote well-located clean energy development, demonstrate the care taken to address wildlife concerns, and create good union jobs. The Sierra Club, Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council all support the projects, which the Imperial County Board of Supervisors approved today.
When completed, the Mt. Signal, Calexico I and Calexico II solar projects under development by 8minutenergy will produce about 600 megawatts of electricity each year, enough to power more than 200,000 households. The projects are located on privately owned, disturbed land currently used to grow highly water-intensive landscaping grasses. The biological effects from the projects are significantly less than proposed renewable energy projects on environmentally sensitive public lands. These Imperial County projects show that it is possible to develop viable, cost-effective projects without sacrificing our precious desert wildlands.
"After close examination, the Sierra Club decided to support these projects due to the developer’s willingness to provide support and funding for a program that should provide a higher level of protection for the imperiled burrowing owl, a species potentially affected by the large-scale development of solar," said Bill Corcoran, Western Regional Campaign Director for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "We strongly support moving the development of large-scale clean energy projects away from pristine lands, and 8minutenergy’s proposal is an appropriate balancing of solar energy production with the protection of our natural legacy."
Importantly, the Sierra Club introduced the developer to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which was critical in helping to finalize a Project Labor Agreement to employ local, Imperial Country workers for the projects. Imperial County has the highest unemployment rate in California (27%), and the projects will provide important economic benefits to the area.
"These projects are truly a win-win for local Imperial County workers and the environment," said Johnny Simpson, Business Manager with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 569. "They will create good, middle-class green jobs with skilled training, healthcare benefits and pension retirement while reducing polluting greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change."
The projects will likely share and co-locate transmission lines, towers and other infrastructure with other solar developers and utilities, preventing additional threats to nearby lands and communities.
"The Imperial Valley is an Audubon Important Bird Area of global significance, and sensitive species of birds depend on the agricultural lands for nesting, foraging and roosting," said Garry George, Renewable Energy Project Director with Audubon California. "This project developer is siting it right by carefully choosing the lands that have the least impact on birds, and by working with the California Department of Fish & Game and Audubon to avoid, minimize or mitigate for the species affected by the project."
"The Mt. Signal Calexico I and Calexico II solar projects show that solar development can be smart from the start," said Helen O’Shea, Deputy Director of NRDC’s Western Renewable Energy Project. "NRDC supports these Imperial County projects because they make use of appropriate lands that reduce on-site water consumption and will bring clean energy to the grid faster."
"By choosing a project site with very few impacts to wildlife, 8minuteenergy has shown that renewable energy can be developed quickly and without sacrificing sensitive wildlife and wild lands," said Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife’s California program director. "These projects are shining examples of how to develop solar energy right."
The Sierra Club testified in support of the projects at today's Imperial County Board of Supervisors’ meeting.