The costs of providing county services to industrial solar projects can be substantial. Inyo County calculated that BrightSource Energy's proposed Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System would impose approximately $11,000,000 of extra burden on county taxpayers during construction, and $1,700,000 in annual costs during operation, according to documents submitted to the California Energy Commission (CEC).
First Solar representatives from Oakland apparently traveled down to Riverside for the board meeting in November to voice opposition to the project fees, according to county records. Before Riverside County voted to approve the fee in November, First Solar's lawyers (San Francisco-based firm Morrison/Foerster), sent a letter threatening the County that such fees were against the law, and that the County would be held accountable for any delays in its 6 square mile Desert Sunlight project. The Desert Sunlight facility will be built on ecologically intact desert habitat just outside Joshua Tree National Park, and will require a transmission line interconnection through the town of Desert Center.
First Solar Puts Money Behind a Walking Environmental Disaster
|Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries|
First Solar Contributions
Other County Recipient Not Influenced by First Solar Cash?
Before Riverside County voted on the industrial solar fee, First Solar also provided $1,000 to Jeff Stone, who currently serves as Riverside County Supervisor for District 3. Mr. Stone, however, approved of the industrial solar fee at the November vote. Regarding the fee on industrial solar, Mr Stone told the press that "[o]ur citizens should be compensated for the ambiance of the desert being forever scarred," said Supervisor Jeff Stone. "The demand for this electricity is being created by the coastal communities. We're sacrificing the desert for the benefit of the coast." Mr. Stone is also a supporter of more sensible and efficient local clean energy, and has argued in favor of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), which would allow homeowners to finance energy efficiency improvements and install solar panels on rooftop through their own property taxes.
|In this aerial photo taken by Chris Clarke, you can see the desert bulldozed by First Solar for just a fraction of its 6 square mile Desert Sunlight solar project in Riverside County. Much more of the desert habitat has probably been bulldozed by now.|
First Solar Lurking in SacramentoOf further concern for California residents, First Solar appears to be on a campaign to win influence over policymakers in the California state legislature. Campaign finance records show that the company has donated to California legislators that are assigned to committees responsible for regulating the utility industry and adjusting environmental review for industrial-scale energy projects. The company gave $3,900 to John Perez, who is the speaker of the California Assembly and has substantial control over the legislative agenda. Nancy Skinner, who is a member of the California Assembly's Utilities and Commerce Committee, as well as Natural Resources Committee, received $3,500. Michael Rubio, a California State Senate member, received $2,000 and has introduced legislation (SB 16) that would rush the environmental review process for industrial scale renewable energy projects (a recipe for disaster).
The Large Scale Solar Association Political Action Committee (PAC), of which First Solar is a member, has also been busy lobbying state lawmakers. The PAC has given money to many of the same legislators already reached by First Solar, including Skinner and Rubio. The PAC also donated to a fundraising committee established by Assembly Member Felipe Fuentes. In September Fuentes received $1,000 from the PAC, and in February he introduced emergency legislation that helped clear a bureaucratic roadblock for K Road Power's Calico Solar power project. The Calico Solar power project is opposed by many conservation groups because it would destroy nearly 7 square miles of ecologically important desert habitat.