The Inyo County Board of Supervisors reached an agreement with BrightSource Energy on Tuesday in regard to mitigation terms for BrightSource’s proposed $3.2 billion solar electric generating plan to be located in southeastern Inyo County.
The settlement provides $15 million in guaranteed money for Inyo County. BrightSource has also agreed to pay $10,000 for each heavy truck that uses Old Spanish Trail between the project site and Highway 127 in Tecopa.
There had been wildly varying estimates as to the financial impact the project would have.
According to the agenda packet prepared by County Staff, the County submitted an estimate to the CEC (California Energy Commission) which stated that the overall financial impact of the project would be $11.1 million during construction and $1.7 million annually thereafter.
The CEC, however, issued a previous report which estimated a positive impact of $61 million during construction and $1 million per year thereafter.
In short, the estimates were well over $100 million apart.
At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, where the Supes approved the deal in open session following a two-hour closed session, the Supes, to a person, were rather subdued about the deal.
Given that the state, not the county, was the permitting agency for the project, Supervisor Jeff Griffiths said, “We really didn’t have a whole lot of leverage. We were the small fish in this game.”
Supervisor Mark Tillemans added, “I’m generally not supportive of big solar … the political indicators were against us.”
Board Chairman Linda Arcularius elaborated. “It’s a difficult place to start a debate when the state has already made such a clear commitment to renewables.”
As Inyo County CAO Kevin Carunchio explained, without a deal in place, the alternative would have been to forfeit the decision to the state.
That’s not something Supervisor Rick Oucci was willing to do. “I do not trust the state of California,” he said flatly.
The project is expected to employ 2,300 people during its construction phase.
That number of people, and the associated pressure on law enforcement (and costs associated) was a risk that Griffiths highlighted.
“It’s a shame we have to subsidize a multi-billion dollar corporation.”
Griffiths also pointed out that the project is exempt from property taxes and that sales tax for the project will be gathered by another state.