Jan 12, 2011 10:36 PM by Ariel Wesler

Solar Project could bring more than $300 million and jobs to SLO County

A proposed solar power plant could give San Luis Obispo County a big economic boost, but environmentalists say it would harm endangered species.

Sunpower wants to build a 250 mega-watt solar power plant in the Carrizo Plain. The company says it would create hundreds of local construction jobs while generating millions of dollars for the county. Environmentalists say it would wreak havoc on local wildlife.

The proposed California Valley Solar Ranch project would bring clean power to the people. . . a lot of it.

"The plant over the course of the year would generate, about enough power to power every house in the county, about 100,000 homes," said Project Director Chris Baker.

and a whole lot of money into the local economy. . about $315 million.

"It is critical for the county's economy that we embrace a project like this. The impacts are like none we've ever seen in this county before," said Economic Vitality Corp. President Micahel Manchak

It would also provide 350 local construction jobs for about two and half years.

"The world really is watching us right now and I think the timing couldn't be better," Manchak said.

"We've got construction trades that were hit very hard," said Cal Poly Professor and Chair of Economics Stephen Hamilton.

But local environmentalists say construction in the Carrizo Plain would hit wildlife the hardest.

"It's the hotspot in the state of California for the highest number of threatened and endangered species of plants and animals in the state of California, said Sierra Club Chapter Director Andrew Christie.

And there's more than solar plant proposal in the area.

"If they all get approved in this size and this scope and in those spots, kiss it goodbye," Christie said.

"All biological impacts in the F.E.I.R have now been deemed to be less than significant," Baker said.

But environmentalists want to see other alternatives and more science before the county gives the project the green light.

The project would cover 1500 acres of a nearly 5000 acre property. Sunpower says it would turn the rest of the land into a conservation easment for the area wildlife. If approved, it would be the first large scale solar project in San Luis Obispo County.

The County Planning Commission could approve the project as soon as January 27th. The Board of Supervisors would review any appeals in late March, if needed. If approved, Sunpower expects to begin construction this summer. The solar power project would be fully operational by the end of 2013.


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