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DWP chief pitches solar farm plans to Owens Valley residents

The head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power tonight told Owens Valley residents that the utility plans to explore the viability of installing massive solar arrays near Lone Pine that potentially could generate the equivalent of a million households' worth of power

S. David Freeman, general manager and the mayor’s top environmental advisor, met with community members for close to two hours inside a church hall in Bishop to provide details of the proposals, which he stressed were still in the very early stages.

The DWP is considering erecting a solar facility on Owens Lake, drained by the DWP nearly a century ago when it diverted its water supply to the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and also on DWP-owned land stretching from the lake bed north to the town of Independence.

Freeman told the crowd he made the trip in part to assuage any skepticism that Owens Valley residents may harbor against the DWP for its water grab, legal conflicts and clashes over its stewardship of its lands.

“This is a new era. We’re going to tell people what we’re going to do before we do it. That always hasn’t been the case with us,’’ said Freeman, who was peppered with questions by the mostly cordial crowd.

City utility officials hope that along with generating power for L.A., building a solar array on Owens Lake would reduce the fierce dust storms that rise from the 110-square-mile dry lake bed.

To comply with federal clean air standards, the DWP is required to control the choking dust that has plagued the Owens Valley for decades. The DWP has spent more than $500 million on the effort thus far.

The DWP is seeking state approval for an 80-acre pilot solar farm on the lake bed, which is state land, to determine if it will be effective controlling dust. If it works, DWP officials said they are interested in building a solar array on up to 50 square miles of the lake bed.

Freeman said the utility also plans to assess the potential for building separate solar arrays east of the recently restored Lower Owens River in the southern portion of Owens Valley He assured residents, however, that more than 92% of the 310,000 acres of DWP-owned land in Owens and Mono valleys will be preserved and off limits to renewable-energy projects or other development, having “the biggest not-for-sale sign you’ve ever seen.’’

Freeman said solar projects could potentially generate five gigawatts of power, roughly equivalent to 10% of the state’s current energy use. However, the DWP would be limited to transmitting only 500 megawatts of that power to Los Angeles, the maximum it accepts from any one intermittent power source.

The L.A. utility already has engaged in preliminary discussions with other utilities and power providers, including the Edison Co. and Pacific Gas & Electric, about joining in on the Owens Valley solar projects, Freeman said.

The facilities would be a critical component of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's renewable-energy initiative. Villaraigosa has vowed to halt the use of coal-burning power plants by 2020 and -- that same year -- generate at least 40% of the city’s energy from renewable resources.

Owens Valley became even more essential to the mayor’s plans after DWP’s board of commissioners last week suspended all work on the proposed "Green Path North" transmission line that would have delivered electricity from proposed solar and geothermal facilities near the Salton Sea to L.A.

-- Phil Willon from Bishop

Comments () | Archives (8)

Better yet build it in Angeles nation forrest another new dust bowl. DWP would get better bang for the buck. The loss power cause by resistance in distribution lines. Verdugo hills would be a likly place. Close to the city. Less loss through resistance in distribution lines. If Owens valley has dust issues refill the lake with street storm water from L.A. stop the flow from the city to the ocean. Solar panels in Lone pine would need to be cleaned every two days. Stupid plan. Arrogant DWP is.

Oh BTW John Ferraro is a criminal and should be put in an federal prison. Why? his actions in water rights led to me to make this comment. Taking picturs of peoples propert makeing false claims to use zoning enforcement to steal peoples property. Now they install bullet proof glass add secrity guards. Getting scared John? Now Rocky has an adjoining office to John. We are watching your actions closely.

Why isn't Freeman getting us AB 811 loan funding and paying us fairly for producing clean LOCAL power on the baking, sprawling LA metropolis? We hardly need to go hundreds of miles away for prime solar power - any supposed insolation benefits to that location will be more than offset by dust and transmission losses. No, the only reason to build out Owens Valley and DENY us democratically-owned, fairly compensated rooftop solar, right where it is needed, is to monopolize sunshine, bottle it at enormous cost to ratepayers then sell it back to us for far more than it would cost us to produce it ourselves - IF WE HAD THE PROVEN, NO - RISK SUPER LOW COST INCENTIVES of AB 811 loans and feed in tariffs.


These idiots should install solar panels like these over our freeways, on our roofs, and over our parking lots, and not waste 3/4 of the energy in transmission due to line loss.

These people are committed to maintaining a grandiose centralized power distribution scheme from remote sites, rather than developing distributed power generation from our own roofs and parking lots. This is the "corporate" model that generates the biggest contracts and profits to those who benefit from continuing this monopolistic situation. It comes from a mindset that gives us the best government money can buy....

And, then let's look at just how ugly this will be in one of California's most pristine and beautiful locations.

And just to think that I was going to seek employment with the DWP after going to school for this for 2 years.

why complain, why not speak up and out with a large number of people in the area, go to an office and demand answers first... maybe Govt roof tops should have solar first maybe wind on roof tops, bird warnings? people do this overseas,why are we having a problem with this? why not ask how a wind farm would impact the area...or a solar farm,how ofter would it need to be cleaned, demand a meeting be on your public service channel let everyone know before anything is done. The dessert seems a good idea but...research needs to be done, info distributed ... sounds like a lot of jobs could come from Wind and or Solar farms? in the right place, out of the way of Birds and

It sounds like a job creator to me... especially if the panels or turbines are built here in the US ... don't know much about the water grab but this hasn't started yet and the people should get involved, make sure it is done right, doesn't go against the rules and regulations of the EPA and produces jobs... green jobs

Like or not, we need to start coming up with alternative energy sources now. Our energy needs will only continue to grow and with China and India developing over the next few year, the cost of fossil fuels will only rise. Do we really want to be squeezed by the prohibitive cost of foreign oil?

Yes, transmission costs are something to consider, but in the long run it's certainly cheaper than the cost of doing nothing.


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