Solar power plants burden host counties

November 26, 2012

With many California counties struggling to keep out of debt, several have embraced the development of solar power plants and the bounty of jobs and taxes windfalls they promise. [LATimes]

In Inyo County, officials grew giddy last year as they considered the proposed $2.7 billion Hidden Hills solar power. County officials estimated that property taxes from the facility would boost the general fund by 17 percent.

However, upon closer review, the picture was not so rosy. Fewer than 10 local workers would land permanent positions. And worse, the project would cost Inyo County $11 million to $12 million to upgrade a small two lane road. After the plant begins operation, the county estimated taxpayers will foot the bill for nearly $2 million a year in additional public safety and other services.

With two of the largest solar plants in the world under construction in San Bernardino County, local officials are not sure if revenue from the projects will offset the cost of additional fire and safety services, which analysts say will amount to millions of dollars a year, the LA Times said.

In San Luis Obispo County, construction of the 550-megawatt Topaz Solar Farm in the California Valley began in Nov. 2011 and is expected to wrap up in late 2014 or early 2015.

Meanwhile, much of Highway 58 on route to the plant has required upgrades to keep up with the increased traffic. At the same time, several long-time residents of rural Santa Margarita told CalCoastNews that workers driving home toss beer cans from their vehicles and regularly run several local stop signs.


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

The reason this is such a burden is because the technology isn’t ready for large-scale production of electricity. Solar panels are 25% efficient at best, and they generate DC, which has to be converted to AC for transmission, causing more loss of efficiency, and they only work during daylight hours. So to reach project break-even, the ‘solar farms’ have to be ridiculously huge to come close to making money and paying back the investors. With that scale comes big infrastructure costs. Solar works great in small-scale, but commercially not so much.

Its amusing that the government regulates utilities and mandates that by a date certain, the utility must produce X% of its power by renewable means (i.e. hydro, wind, geothermal and SOLAR), won’t allow permits for the most efficient power source (hydro) and whines when the solar plant starts costing them instead of enriching the government coffers.

The bureaucrats paint the utilities into a corner, and then complain about the color of the paint.

There are a lot of reasons why solar power is a burden on the counties where it is located. The linked LATimes article has a handy list of the reasons.

Now if we can only get some investigative reporting into all those wasted millions for parking lot solar panels at our schools. Sure beats actually educating the kids, I suppose…

I’ve never seen so many trees cut down so fast as I did at Laguna Middle School. Wow, had to be a government project. Private sector would never destroy the environment that fast; such rich irony: kill some trees to go green!

No, a well respected winery would never cut down 900 native oaks just so they could grow more grapes. That would never happen, right?

Not if the government is involved, no. That would take some serious red-tape and bribery.

The Solar Plant is a horrible idea!! Not only are they hiring local convicts to do the work, they are paying them over priced wages for doing hardly anything. I have met several guys who work out there and they are arrogant as all get out!! They run around town sayin “I work at the solar plant …blablabla, the bigest one in the world…blablabla. Ever heard of being humble people. It is a no brainer job peiople really??? The bubble will birst next year for all of the alcoholic workers out there though. What are you going to pay your bills with when the plant is done!! 2014…sad sad sad GOOD LUCK

Do you mean EX-convicts? Or is the Department of Corrections loaning out their chaingangs?

What is wrong with hiring ex-cons? I’d rather give them an honest job than have society turn their backs to them. Time served and all.

A pro-Oil hit piece!

This article is poorly written and is intended to appeal to emotions…

On one hand you have a 17% increase to the general fund without giving an amount and then they say they have to pay $2M for public service and upgrade a 2 lane road. For crying out loud, what do you expect, everything is free?

How about the amount of money being spent on the Industrial Military complex to maintain the free flow of OIL!!! The “War on Terror” and the Patriot Act are costing us more than unsustainable debt. Most importantly our freedoms as well. Using the military to fight a Stateless enemy, that waht law enforcement is for. The military doesn’t think, it just acts by the will of the Executive Branch and now we’ve go the military involved in chasing criminals.

You don’t need people with M-16’s defendeing a solar instalation like a military installation like a Nuclear facility.

This arguement is short sighted and these Burden’s of Energy production should be tied with any feed-in trariffs or Tax incentives and have been better negotiated (like snooky156 suggests)

I would redirect the DOD & DOE budgets to address these costs.

Hey man, the 1970’s called and want their ideological battlecries back.

This plant was and continues to be a totally BAD idea. Taxpayers and politicians were warned countless times that this Topaz plant was a massive boondoggle that would cost taxpayers in so many ways.

Anyone who supported that project was either a sucker or part of the scam. And now we ALL will pay the price in so many ways.

Not even rabid environmentalists wanted that solar plant to be built and the land rezoned. It was SO obvious that this solar plant project sucked. Interesting that so many rightwing “lower-our-taxes” extremists pushed for this project that will cost taxpayers millions of dollars. So typical!

I couldn’t believe what I was reading in your post. I was floored that your first two paragraphs seemed out of the norm for you. BUT then the usual you came through in the last paragraph. Enviro’s didn’t want because they didn’t want the land disturbed and the animals disturbed. And as the right wing you mentioned WHERE have you seen that??

At least when you started your usual spin there at the end, I knew your opinion hadn’t changed. So typical!

Please enlighten us as to what you consider to be the “norm” for me? Maybe that will help us understand what point you are trying to make. With that being said, I think you are on a shaky foundation when you start making assumptions and prejudicial judgements about me. I know it is a tendency to want to label and pigeon hole people who you don’t agree with, but that often leads you astray.

Yeah, when I first started reading your post, I thought “OMG, could it be that even some of our biggest lefties are starting to realize that this whole environmental/green movement is nothing more than a redistribution of wealth and a power-grab?” Then I finished reading your post… oh well, so close.

rOy, whatever point you are trying to make is not clear. The fact is that environmental organizations throughout California were adamantly opposed to the Topaz Solar boondoggle. So, it looks like they will once again have an “I told you so” moment.

Do you have a problem with that?

By the way, rOy, what do you use to measure whether a “leftie” is one of the “biggest” or not? Seriously. How do you even measure the “leftiness” of someone?

I happen to be a business owner who makes a living through capitalism. What does that make me in YOUR pidgin-holing mind?

Better headline: “NEWS FLASH: Some county agencies are bad negotiators!”

…or a rarer newsflash would be: “We found an agency that is not an incompetent negotiator!”

I have witnessed locals run those same stop signs off of Hwy 58. Just sayin…