Talk of Neenach solar field heats up

Neenach in the morning. photo by Jeff Zimmerman, for the Signal.


Meet the way of land development in the 21st century—vistas of shiny black surfaces like tabletops, some big enough to hide a small town, covering the earth with solar panels.

One such “solar field” is being considered for Neenach at the Kern County line by planners with the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning.

If you can picture yourself sitting in a football stadium and visualizing six football fields long and three football fields wide, you’re halfway to seeing the vision held by officials of Enerparc Inc. who want to turn 18 acres of a 40-acre site into a solar field.

If you can picture such an area, imagine it being covered with one shiny black surface—that’s the Neenach Solar 1B South LLC Project currently waiting for a conditional use permit from regional planners and, ultimately, from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

People in Neenach are picturing it, and many do not like what they see.

The solar field is to be made up of solar panels arranged in rows that run north-south, mounted on either fixed-tilt or single-axis tracking systems on steel support structures. It will have driveways, internal access roads, a retention basic and at least one water tank.

The panels are equipped with an electrical collection and inverter-transformer system with circuits, meters, relays, circuit breakers, fuses, surge protectors and poles.

The unmanned facility will be enclosed inside an 8-foot-high fence described as earth-tone fencing without barbed wire.

It’ll take about 13 weeks to build.

It’ll also use about 730,000 gallons of water during the construction and about 30,000 each year to clean the panels.

Developers appealing to regional planners are asking for permission to build an electric generating facility on the site.

When they first submitted their application to the county they pointed out that the proposed site for the solar field was formerly farmland that has been fallow for decades.

In weighing their decision, regional planners have considered the concerns of residents in the area who have come out against the plan.

Specifically, they’ve received letters from the Three Points-Liebre Mountain Town Council citing “many concerns, including aesthetics, water supply, hazardous materials and biological issues.”

In a letter sent to regional planners by members of the Three Points-Liebre Mountain Town Council in September 2015, concerns were expressed about the dust they fear would be created during construction which might obscure visibility along Highway 138.

The letter, signed by Council President Chris Wangsgard, also expressed concern over the potential loss of “viewshed” which was described as an area “exceptional in its displays of wildflowers.”

The Town Council also wanted planners to appreciate the project’s potential impact on California’s endangered tri-colored blackbirds.

In its most recent report on the project, planners did call for protection of the endangered birds.

The project’s planners have made special mention about the need for a “biological monitor, employee training and awareness, pre-construction surveys, protections for the tri-colored blackbird.” The special note also called for “in-lieu contributions (be made) to organizations that support the preservation of the tri-colored blackbird.”

Three Points-Liebre Mountain Town Council members informed planners of the site being on an “Audubon Globally Important Bird Area.”

At this stage of the project, there has not yet been an environmental impact report, which would typically be required by state law for a project this size.

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