Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Solar Power Plant to Develop on Closed California Landfill

A Los Angeles-based environmental project management and consulting firm has entered into a lease agreement with San Bernardino County to develop a solar plant at the closed Big Bear Sanitary Landfill north of Big Bear City.

It is part of a bigger effort by the county to use land at both closed and active landfills for renewable energy projects.

The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32) mandates that California reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Cities and counties up and down the state have taken steps since then to comply with the mandate.

Project Navigator Ltd. is exploring the development of a 2-megawatt photovoltaic solar facility at the landfill, expected to power about 2,000 homes in the Big Bear Valley.

On Tuesday, the company submitted a bid to Bear Valley Electric Service to purchase power from the solar facility and is pushing to have a deal in place by late March or early April, said Robert Potter, project manager for the Big Bear Sanitary Landfill Solar Project.

In June, the county fielded requests for proposals from about 15 companies that want to build solar facilities at county landfills. The county narrowed the scope of projects down to about a half-dozen sites, and is currently negotiating lease agreements for projects in Victorville, Ontario and Devore, said Gerry Newcombe, deputy executive officer and division manager for the county Solid Waste Management Division.

A lease agreement is in the works with Costa Mesa-based Axio Power Inc., which wants to build a 20-megawatt solar plant at the Victorville landfill, Newcombe said.

"Our plan right now is to have a proposed lease in front of the (Board of Supervisors) on March 1," Newcombe said.

Unlike the Big Bear landfill, the Victorville landfill is still active, but the county only utilizes about 70 acres on the 450-acre site. Axio plans to build its facility on 90 unused acres at the landfill, Newcombe said.

While the county is leasing its land to interested companies, the companies are solely responsible for negotiating agreements with Southern California Edison or other utilities to purchase the power, Newcombe said.

"It could be 18 months to two years before they know if they're going to have a deal or not (with power companies)," Newcombe said.

Project Navigator, the company that plans to build a facility in Big Bear City, is hoping to have a deal secured much sooner. If all goes according to plan, the company hopes to begin construction by the end of the year, Potter said.

But before that can happen, the state Public Utilities Commission would have to approve the plan should Bear Valley Electric agree to purchase the power, Potter said.

The county operates eight landfills and three community collection centers, and there are 33 closed landfills dotting the San Bernardino Valley, the mountains and High Desert, Newcombe said.

"This county has operated a lot of facilities over the years, and we have a lot of closed landfills we're responsible for, and anytime we can find a way to utilize those properties, we will," Newcombe said. "The topography may not be great for development...but solar projects make a lot of sense."

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