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John Stewart

Solar power plants burden the counties that host them

The "gift horse" of economic income to counties from siting of solar energy projects appears to be a tired horse ready for retirement.  The below article from the LA Times notes "Eager for jobs and tax money, Mojave Desert counties welcomed big solar projects. But they may have been too optimistic. And expanding emergency services and infrastructure isn't cheap."

While companies will reap profits, taxpayers and rate payers will be footing the bill for many years to come...

By Julie Cart, Los Angeles Times,  November 25, 2012 - Solar power plants burden the counties that host them Eager for jobs and tax money, Mojave Desert counties welcomed big solar projects. But they may have been too optimistic. And expanding emergency services and infrastructure isn't cheap. When it comes to attracting business to California's eastern deserts, Inyo County is none too choosy.

Since the 19th century the sparsely populated county has worked to attract industries shunned by others, including gold, tungsten and salt mining. The message: Your business may be messy, but if you plan to hire our residents, the welcome mat is out.

So the county grew giddy last year as it began to consider hosting a huge, clean industry. BrightSource Energy, developer of the proposed $2.7-billion Hidden Hills solar power plant 230 miles northeast of Los Angeles, promised a bounty of jobs and a windfall in tax receipts. In a county that issued just six building permits in 2011, Inyo officials first estimated that property taxes from the facility would boost the general fund 17%.

But upon closer inspection, the picture didn't seem so rosy.

An economic consultant hired by the county found that property tax revenue would be a fraction of the customary amount because portions of the plant qualifiy for a solar tax exclusion. Fewer than 10 local workers would land permanent positions — and just 5% of the construction jobs would be filled by county residents. And construction workers are likely to spend their money across the nearby state line, in Nevada.

Worse, the project would cost the county $11 million to $12 million during the 30-month construction phase, with much of the money going to upgrade a historic two-lane road to the plant. Once the plant begins operation, the county estimates taxpayers will foot the bill for nearly $2 million a year in additional public safety and other services.

Two of California's other Mojave Desert counties, Riverside and San Bernardino, have made similar discoveries. Like Inyo, they are now pushing back against solar developers, asking them to cover the costs of servicing the new industry.

Source: Los Angles Times

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John Stewart

Fast-Track for Solar Energy Development on Western Lands

Secretary Salazar, Senator Reid Announce ‘Fast-Track’ Initiatives for Solar Energy Development on Western Lands

LAS VEGAS, NV (Jun 29, 2009) – Under initiatives announced today by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), federal agencies will work with western leaders to designate tracts of U.S. public lands in the West as prime zones for utility-scale solar energy development, fund environmental studies, open new solar energy permitting offices and speed reviews of industry proposals.

“President Obama’s comprehensive energy strategy calls for rapid development of renewable energy, especially on America’s public lands,” said Secretary Salazar.  “This environmentally-sensitive plan will identify appropriate Interior-managed lands that have excellent solar energy potential and limited conflicts with wildlife, other natural resources or land users.  The two dozen areas we are evaluating could generate nearly 100,000 megawatts of solar electricity.  With coordinated environmental studies, good land-use planning and zoning and priority processing, we can accelerate responsible solar energy production that will help build a clean-energy economy for the 21st century.” 

“I want to thank Secretary Salazar for his commitment to renewable energy, and for being here in Nevada today,” said Reid.  "This is the Secretary's second visit to Nevada to announce key renewable energy initiatives that will help make Nevada the blueprint for everything that’s right about the future of our nation’s energy policy. We’ve got sunny skies, strong winds, and land that when used properly, will allow us to lead the nation’s children into a cleaner, more efficient, and more profitable tomorrow.”

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