If there is a poster child for how to do a solar energy project right in Inyo County, it is likely to be the 30-acre Munro Valley Solar, LLC Project slated for construction in the Olancha area. Power generated from the site will be used for local distribution using existing power lines and will not be exported to Los Angeles.
In its regular monthly meeting in Independence on Wednesday, the Inyo County Planning Commission conditionally recommended the Munro Valley Solar Project in Olancha to the Inyo County Board of Supervisors for final approval.
The relatively modest 4-megawatt alternating current solar photovoltaic generating facility which will be spread over two separate discontiguous parcels south of Olancha on the east side of Highway 395 between Walker Creek Road and Fall Road.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s proposal to build a massive 200 MW Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch (SOVSR) with almost two square miles of photovoltaic solar panels near the Manzanar National Historic Site met with fierce opposition from many Owens Valley residents and outside groups. As a result, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors and Planning Department developed guidelines in the Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment (REGPA) to ban large industrial solar energy plants over 4 MW. The REGPA includes a 25 megawatt cap on any solar energy development in the Owens Valley, including Renewable Energy Development Areas (REDAs) in Laws, Owens Lake, Rose Valley and Pearsonville.
Munro Valley Solar, LLC clearly did its homework and the presentation to the Board of Supervisors painstakingly adhered to the County’s REGPA requirements for solar energy development in the county on privately-owned property. The company is taking advantage of LADWP’s Feed in Tariff (FiT) Program, which allows businesses (and residential home owners) to create solar power plants and sell solar power to the power company.
Three residents in the Olancha-Cartago area and two from Darwin and Lone Pine, registered a number of concerns about the proposed solar project, but every argument was effectively countered by the Munro Valley Solar, LLC representatives. Concerns from residents ranged from worry that this will not be the last solar project in the Olancha area because it is one of the few places left in the Owens Valley with private-owned parcels to concerns over night lighting and water use.
The company assured residents that it has no plans to expand beyond the current project and that the project, even during construction, and especially afterwards once in operation, will use very little water to clean the photovoltaic panels and provide drip irrigation lines for landscaping. The County Water Department agrees with the assessment of water usage as being minimal.
The company is also working with local landscapers to keep the area natural and free of invasive plants. It requested approval for a 9-foot security chain link fence and will be using infrared security cameras which will not require night lighting.
To answer concerns that the project may be a financial burden to the county, representatives told the commissioners that, based on their extensive experience with other rural, solar facilities, the completed project will have a very low impact on county services.
Detailed information on the Munro Valley Solar Project and other projects and planning documents such as REGPA can be found by visiting the Inyo County Planning Department’s website at www.inyoplanning.org/projects.htm.