BORON, Calif. (KERO) — Boron community members are speaking out against a planned solar project Kern County has approved for this town. They said the issue is not that they don’t welcome clean energy, they just don’t want the solar farm this close to the population.
Nancy Smith is asthmatic and said the location of the project is her main issue. A map from the solar company behind the project - 8 Minute Solar Energy - shows where the five sections of the 2,300-acre project would be located, with the nearest area being where Nancy lives.
"It doesn’t need to be right here when you have miles and miles of open vast land. As you can see the wind is howling here and it does about 3/4 of the year but there is no dust coming, no big dust storms and that's because it is undisturbed land right now."
But she said as they clear land to put in the solar farm, the settled dust will pick up and create a dust bowl around Boron. Adding that she does not want to see herself or other people have respiratory issues from constantly breathing in dust.
"Our town is like three miles long and they are completely landlocking us."
During the Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting when the project was approved, the solar company noted they did move back their original plans half a mile when hearing the concerns. They argue there is no other place to go as Borax is on one side and Edwards Airforce Base is on the other.
"What drives the location of where we end up is really substations. So it's not like we get to pick exactly where we want to be it's where are substations with capacity and transmission and all that kind of stuff."
So we really don’t choose where the substations are at," explained Alex Anquest of 8 Minute Solar Energy.
But some community members argue them tapping into the substations in Boron is only convenient to them, and harmful for residents and the nature around them.
"So substations are basically connectors to the grid. We have one over near Borax and we have one down the road from 395 and that's the reason they want to build here is that there is already infrastructure that they can tap into," explained Boron community member Roy Richards.
But Richards said for a large company, it doesn’t seem fair to affect small communities just because it is easier to connect to their resources than starting over.
"So, they could go in there and build in a more remote location and that could potentially create even more jobs this project is not going to create."
The company said they will bring up to 1,000 temporary jobs while they build the farm and then up to 25 permanent ones, which Richards says is not enough to bring real benefit to the community like Borax, which is the towns biggest employer, does.
Several union members in Boron have expressed their support for the project for the jobs they would be able to take.
The project has already been approved, but the building permits will take months and the construction would not start until next summer. Community members against the project have cited similar projects in Mojave and the amount of dust that is already seen there and hope all this helps stop the project from being this close to their town.
Watch the Kern County Board of Supervisors Project Discussion: