The Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce will be meeting for a luncheon today, Feb. 18 at noon at Whiskey Creek in Bishop. Guest speaker Gene Coufal of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will present on the Owens Lake solar energy proposal.
The plan is to install a huge solar array that would cover 80 square miles of the Owens Lake dry bed and desert flatlands. The benefits of the project would be three-fold: dust mitigation, water conservation, and solar energy generation.
After DWP began diverting water from Owens Lake to the Los Angeles Aqueduct at the beginning of last century, the region became one of the largest sources of hazardous dust in the nation. Even after spending $500 million on mitigation measures, the dust pollution still exceeds federal clean air standards by 10 times. Proponents of the solar plan are convinced that solar panels would slow the wind down enough to prevent massive storms.
Shallow flooding of the area was one of the dust mitigation tactics implemented by DWP. If solar panels were installed, this water could be conserved for other uses. The solar array would also potentially generate up to 10 percent of all the power produced in California.
Before DWP goes ahead the plan, however, an 80-acre pilot project must be approved and installed, to more extensively test the viability of the plan.