Firm to reveal plans for its solar, water-banking project
By: Alisha Semchuck
PALMDALE - A firm that selected an eastern Kern County site for a proposed solar and water-banking project will present its plans to the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency board in a special meeting Tuesday night.
One of the water agency's board members, Andy Rutledge, has already voiced objections to the Fremont Valley Preservation Project proposed by AquaHelio Resources LLC. That project, comprising four distinct sites, spans an area from roughly eight miles north of California City to 17 miles northeast of Mojave and would transmit up to 1,008 megawatts of solar energy to Los Angeles.
Rutledge said he thinks much of the Fremont Valley Project plan is too secretive.
"I just felt it's been kept hush-hush, my personal opinion, not as a director," Rutledge said.
However, he said an AVEK ad hoc committee consisting of George Lane, Frank Donato and Neal Weisenberger already "has had two meetings on this."
Donato said the Beverly Hills-based firm has been working on the project for eight years and finally closed escrow around November on some 4,806 acres of undeveloped land formerly owned by the Arciero family.
In addition to the solar power project, the company proposes to bank as much as 200,000 acre-feet of surface water per year from the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which runs through the firm's property. An acre-foot equals 325,853 gallons, the amount of water consumed annually by an average Antelope Valley single-family household.
AquaHelio wants to use the water for a groundwater recharge project. Some of that water eventually would be distributed outside Kern County, despite an ordinance county supervisors passed in 1997 to prohibit a Santa Monica company from doing just that.
"They want to meet with us because we're a conduit to Edwards Air Force Base," Donato said. "It's a very sophisticated project."
The purpose of Tuesday night's special meeting is informational in nature for the public and the entire AVEK board, Donato said.
"We'll be interested in seeing if there's any way we can work with them. Where does the board want to go with this?"
A number of Kern County residents have been less than enthused about the concept of outsiders coming in to construct 3.6 million photovoltaic solar modules, transmission lines and towers in a rural and agricultural setting.
In addition, residents of Randsburg, Cantil and the surrounding area near the site objected to the groundwater recharge and extraction plan during a public meeting in November at the Bureau of Land Management Jawbone Station near Ridgecrest.