Local residents got their chance to comment on solar energy zones that are set to take hold in various areas throughout the state and nation.
The Bureau of Land Management had originally chosen 24 solar energy zones, but after more study, it was narrowed down to 17 areas, including one in Imperial County near where Interstate 8 meets with Highway 98 east of Calexico. The solar energy zones are priority areas that have faster and easier permitting through a streamlined authorization process.
Shannon Stewart with the Bureau of Land Management.
Residents spoke out about the supplemental environmental documents released a few months ago, along with the idea of putting solar farms in the desert.
“Once this is gone, you won’t get it back, and there’s no place that looks anything like this desert,” said Janie Hall of Whitewater, who drove down for the meeting. “It’s just silly that there’s so many simple alternatives that haven’t been looked at.”
Many gave what they felt are alternatives to putting in utility-scale solar facilities in areas of the desert like the Imperial Valley.
Terry Weiner with the Desert Protective Council said she was surprised and appalled that some alternatives for where to put solar projects haven’t been considered. There are millions of acres of abandoned, contaminated land that could be cleaned up and have solar put on it instead of destroying the desert, she said.
Arguably, none of the land in Imperial County should be disturbed, she said, saying it should be promoted as natural heritage because the whole Valley is one of the richest areas for cultural sites.
The comments presented at Wednesday’s meeting will be used to help refine the analysis and program elements for a final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, Stewart said. A final statement is expected in the summer, with a possible final decision by the fall.
Public comments will be accepted until Jan. 27. Comments can be given by mail at Solar Energy PEIS, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 S. Cass Avenue — EVS/240, Argonne, IL 60439 or online at http://solareis.anl.gov
Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at email@example.com or 760-337-3441.