David and Goliath

The current view of the land where a proposed solar farm would go
The lot on Viejas Blvd, where a solar farm may go
Newberry Springs panel washing 9-18-13byRobertBerkman
Scale of what one panel looks like. The solar farm may contain up to 200 of these. Not only an eyesore, but they require constant washing in a community that uses groundwater; and they have the potential to be a fire hazard.

Getting more involved in my community and learning about what is happening around me has been one the biggest blessings of my retirement. Before, I got up at the crack of dawn, commuted 45 minutes to work; spent the day in a windowless office; drove another 45 minutes to get home after maybe running a few errands in town; then had about three to four hours in the evening for dinner, household chores, time with my husband, dogs and cats, and maybe a little relaxation before bed. I didn’t have time to find out what was happening in my own little town.

Now that I’m freelancing, I’m discovering so much. Not all of it good.

In my latest story in East County Magazine, I covered a story about our utility company wanting to update and retrofit existing electrical lines in the Cleveland National Forest (http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/14883). Sounds reasonable on the surface. It was for safety and fire hardening. But in working with some local environmentalists, I discovered plans for some massive energy projects in the backcountry — one of which was about a mile from my house. The lot in question is due south of where my cousin has lived since 1970 in a home she and her late husband built overlooking the valley.

Plans are in a “pre-approval” stage for a solar farm on a lovely lot in our mountain community.

I believe solar energy is an important step in the right direction. But I am talking about affordable solar panels on everyone’s rooftops, or covering commercial garages in town. These types of solar farms are large, industrial eyesores that have absolutely no benefit for our own community; in fact, only harm. The purpose is to generate more electrical capacity for growth and development elsewhere.

Here is what Descanso would gain from this solar farm:

  • Increased risk of wildfire, impediments to fire fighting, loss of chaparral carbon sequestration
  • Industrial conversion of a centrally located viewpoint of rural land in order to serve distant cities
  • Perhaps a million gallons or more of irreplaceable groundwater resources for construction (in a community where many homes use private wells and the rest of the community is on a public well)
  • Potential harmful levels of noise
  • Proximity to existing residences, decreasing quality of life and property values
  • Potentially health threatening levels of electrical pollution through ground, air and utility lines
  • Severe environmental impacts to wildlife, including the golden eagle

I now plan to be more involved than ever before. I will do what I can to make sure this plan is not approved. I know that all of the other residents in my town feel the same way (minus one; the man who would become lucratively compensated for leasing out his beautiful property to this monstrosity). Another David and Goliath story here in the backcountry, but David has a history of victory with some of these battles.

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