The controversial Jakuma solar project has been approved by the county but residents say the fighting is not over

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved a master plan for the construction of a controversial solar power project near Jakuba Hot Springs, after the developer agreed to spend $ 4 million on community benefits and expand the project’s zones.

But a business owner in a Far East County village and one of the project’s opponents said he would follow the county’s decision in court.

Prior to approving the 5-0 vote, Supervisors Board Chairman Nathan Fletcher and Supervisor Nora Vargas outlined the county’s goals for reducing climate change and zero carbon emissions to zero by 2035 through a comprehensive sustainability program.

“Our planet is on fire and we cannot continue to delay measures to cope with climate change, to invest in the sun, to facilitate 100 percent renewable energy in our region, and to work in good, cooperative environment,” he said. They said.

The project, called JVR Energy Park, was built by international renewable energy company BayWa re and immediately covers 600 hectares of land to the east of the city.

About 300,000 photovoltaic modules are expected to generate about 283,000 megawatts of power – enough for 60,000 homes. It also includes a 70-megawatt power storage facility powered by lithium-ion batteries, on-site distribution and switching space.

But many in the city – less than 600 people and an average family income of $ 37,000 – have argued over the size of the project, with solar panels covering the north and south sides of the old highway flooding the city. , Disrupts the countryside and may attract visitors. They have tried to halve the impact of the energy park.

“Next we will go to court and see what the courts will decide here,” said Jacob Osborne, owner of Jacqueline Business. We believe you have violated many regulations regarding land use and other violations of the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), so we will argue until we go to fight this injustice.

Osborne recently bought a joint venture with partners at the Jakuba Hot Springs Resort and Spa on Old Highway 80 and is undergoing major renovations to the resort.

At a San Diego County Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday, an entire house is on a 604-acre solar project in the Jakuba Hot Springs, desert community.

(Rob Nikolevsky / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A few dozen Jakumuma residents filled the county courtroom wearing yellow T-shirts, sometimes calling on inspectors to revoke the permit: speeches against JVR Energy Park and sometimes in support of BayWa .re representatives and a handful of speeches. The project. Fletcher called the jewelry and hit the tire twice.

During the discussion, Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remmer said, “Although I strongly support the project, it does not seem fair to the Jakuba community at this time.” She asked developers what could be done to make the project economically viable, and BayWa re Solar Projects CEO Fred Robinson pledged to increase the company’s $ 1.6 million community benefits to $ 4 million.

Osborne told his supervisors: “It’s a problem of size; Not the money. ”

District Superintendent Joel Anderson asked why the company objected to the small footprint. Geoff Fallon, vice president of development at Baywa Re, on his part said the current design uses the most efficient technology and provides the maximum amount of energy due to the limited packages on site.

Anderson’s $ 4 million commitment, including a renewal commitment, calls for improvements to the park’s rocky zones from 300 feet to at least 400 feet and an effort of 1,000 feet.

“We only get one bite on Apple,” Anderson said.

It is unclear how $ 4 million will be spent on community benefits after the vote. Bawa Waw’s earlier pledge includes a $ 435-hectare partnership for wildlife habitat, a $ 250,000 contribution to the city community park and a $ 1 million partnership to install solar systems for residential and commercial properties in Jacomba.

“With the help of county staff and the Office of Superintendent Anderson, we work with the people of Jakuba on a benefit program tailored to the needs of the community, including senior and youth programs, solar energy and environmental resources. Jacomba, ”Falon said in an email. “We strongly believe that clean, reliable energy and the reform of Jakob can coexist.

Cherry Diefenbach, a staunch opponent of the project, said she was willing to meet with Baywawa, chair of the Jacomba Community Sponsorship Group, to discuss where the money was going – perhaps to facilitate the trails in the facility or in the area. .

“We will do our best,” said Defenach. Again, money was not our thing. It was a principle. ”

By the end of this year, Bewa seems to have construction permits, start clearing the land in early 2022, and the facility will run until the first quarter of 2023. At the peak of construction, there will be about 350 workers. He was hired to build the JVR Energy Park.

Headquartered for BayWa re Corporate headquarters in Munich, Germany, and headquartered in the US for solar and storage projects in Irvine. The “re” at the end of the company’s name refers to renewable energy.

Baywa Ri has signed a 20-year power procurement agreement with the San Diego Community Power: The new Community Election Power Program has been built in five cities in the region – to take up all the megawatts of solar and battery storage the project will provide. .

“We are excited about projects like JVR Energy Park, because they are new projects, new jobs and new clean energy in our own county,” said Bill Carnahan, interim executive director of San Diego Community Power. .

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