Aug 5, 2010 8:01 PM by Danielle Lerner
A proposed solar project is sparking debate in Carrizo Plain.
The Topaz Solar Farm would not be complete until 2014 but some living near the proposed site are already worried for their health.
First Solar wants to install more than seven million panels across 4600 acres.
It would generate enough electricity to power 150,000 homes.
The panels contain small mounts of Cadmium Telluride, which can be toxic if ingested or inhaled.
Some residents say the project could harm the environment, but a company spokesperson says that is not the case.
Mike Strobridge's farm could soon be surrounded by millions of solar panels, each containing a small amount of Cadmium Telluride.
"I'm concerned for my family, for my community as a whole," said Strobridge.
He also worries about increased traffic on nearby dirt roads and the destruction of the surrounding landscape.
"They're too toxic, there's too many environmental impacts," said Strobridge. "The long-term result will be devastating from these panels."
However just a few miles away at First Solar's test site, Spokesperson Alan Bernheimer says research proves the panels are safe.
"Cadmium is not water soluble, it's bonded to the underside of the first piece of glass, there's a second piece of glass that's sandwiched and sealed," said Bernheimer. "They're very low lying, they use no fuel other than the sun."
Rancher Darrel Twisselman says the project will put acres of open space to good use.
"It's just a win-win," said Twisselman. "If solar will work anywhere in the United States it will work here."
Still Strobridge says he is not convicted.
"Me, personally, I don't know if I want to subject my family to health hazards like this," said Strobridge.
First Solar says it is committed to working with the community to cut down on any potential impacts this project will have.
The project is still in the permitting phase, but a draft Environmental Impact Report should be finished in the next few months.
First Solar is holding an open house from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Carrisa Plains Heritage Association Building to hear the community's concerns.
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