Clean Power

Published on November 30th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


Local Community Benefits From Large Solar Power Plants

November 30th, 2012 by  

We mentioned a horrid piece of solar power reporting from the LA Times this week. BrightSource Energy has a full response to that piece, reposted below (h/t NewEnergyNews):

Solar Projects Benefit Counties

As other reporters and bloggers have pointed out, Sunday’s Los Angeles Times ran a one-sided and misinformed article questioning the economic benefits of utility-scale solar projects on desert counties.

Let’s be perfectly clear – the counties where utility-scale solar projects are being built are benefitting significantly in direct and economic investments, tax revenues and job creation.  For example, our $2.2 billion Ivanpah project is more than 70% complete and is employing more than 2,000 workers on site today.  At its peak, the project employed more than 2,100 workers, and is estimated to generate $250 million in construction wages and $650 million in total wages over its 30-year life.  More than 80 percent of these workers are from the local union halls in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.  Many of these trade workers were unemployed for years following the economic downturn in 2008.  Today, they are earning good wages to support their families and buying goods in their local communities.  You can meet a couple of these impressive construction workers by viewing this video.

The Ivanpah project is also estimated to generate approximately $300 million in local and state tax revenues over its 30-year life.  The wages and taxes generated at Ivanpah only represent the project’s direct economic benefits.  The indirect benefits to local businesses are estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.  The Ivanpah project also takes pride in supporting the local community by contributing to High Desert universities and philanthropic organizations, supporting job training opportunities, youth organizations, veteran’s services and more.

As a solar developer, we understand that our projects will have impacts on local infrastructure, such as roads and emergency services.  This is why we work closely with local leaders to better understand our impacts, identify ways to minimize them wherever possible and fairly mitigate the county for impacts that cannot be avoided.  We took this approach in San Bernardino County when developing the Ivanpah project and we’re currently engaged in similar discussions in other counties for future projects.

The LA Times highlights one such project – Hidden Hills Solar in Inyo County – where we are currently working with local leaders.  The story points out that just five percent of the construction jobs at Hidden Hills would be filled by Inyo County residents.  Yet the story ignores the fact that the primary reason that five percent of the construction workers come from Inyo County is because it has a small population.  According to the most recent census, Inyo County has 18,000 residents.  Compare this with the two million residents in San Bernardino County where Ivanpah is being built.

In fact, according to an independent socioeconomic and fiscal analysis report created for the California Energy Commission (CEC) staff, “Due to extraordinarily high unemployment rates within Inyo County, particularly in the construction trades, it is reasonable to assume that the local labor force will be able to supply all available positions.”  In other words, the project could put all of the county’s unemployed qualified construction workers back to work.

The story also accepts Inyo County’s claim that the project would cost the county $11-12 million during the 30-month construction phase and an additional $2 million a year in public safety and other services, completely ignoring the independent CEC report.  Again, the independent analysis counters these claims and highlights the significant economic benefits of these projects.

The independent report looks at two scenarios – Inyo County’s analysis and its own third-party analysis.  Scenario 1 applies the county’s analysis of $11-12 million impacts during construction and $1.2 million in annual operations, while Scenario 2 applies the independent report’s analysis of $2.7 million in costs during construction and $390,000 in annual operations.  In both scenarios, the net fiscal impacts are significantly beneficial to the county.  Scenario 1 results in a positive net fiscal impact of $61.1 million and Scenario 2 leads to a positive net fiscal impact of $88.2 million.

The bottom line: these projects are providing tens of millions of dollars in positive fiscal benefits to the counties where they are built.  Whether one uses data provided by the county, a solar company or an independent party, the projects are creating jobs, leading to direct investments, indirect spending and tax revenues for the counties.  To argue otherwise ignores the facts and creates false perceptions regarding one of our nation’s fastest growing industries.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Cris Pond

    The LA Times is shite. It’s no surprise they bolloxed the story…

  • It looks like the Ivanpah project would (barely) pay for itself, although, when estimated in a more realistic manner, in which electricity prices would increase as they usually do in reality, the savings would be much greater.

    • Apart from that. It is much better than coal, because it does not degrade public health. Even if it is only a little cheaper than coal (initially), it is still much more acceptable because it is far cleaner.

      Public health is too serious an issue to choose to continue to degrade it with coal because solar doesn’t pay for itself as quickly as one would want it to.

      What matters is that it does pay for itself, even if it just about breaks even, it is still better.

      Human life is too important.

  • I posted the second report we did on this issue. Here’s the first report that includes our analysis of what Tessera Solar’s 200 MW project would cost the county:

  • As a former resident of Saguache County, CO where several industrial solar projects have been proposed (including Solar Reserve’s 200 MW solar power tower on ~ 6,000 acres of PRIME agricultural land) I can personally testify that the LAT report is closer to the truth than BrightSource’s propaganda above. Big Solar companies make Big Promises to get permit approvals no differently than Big Oil companies — by luring locals into thinking they are going to get jobs and revenue when in fact they will be forced to absorb many negative impacts.

    We were suspicious and so we did our own calculations (with the help of the Secretary of State office), here is what we found:

    Many long time solar advocates in our high elevation valley opposed an earlier proposal by Tessera Solar because the negative environmental, social and economic impacts were too great and would ultimately hurt the county and our communities.

    Shame on CleanTechnica for not reporting on this important issue independently. YOu just lost a big chunk of credibility with this reader.

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