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Should solar panels replace open land in Owens Valley?

Sunset in the Owens Valley.
Sunset in the Owens Valley.
Dave Schumaker via Flickr Creative Commons

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Owens Valley residents are putting up a fight over the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s plan to build two square miles of solar panels in the desert. The project, the Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch, would generate enough power to serve 75,000 homes annually, and would fulfill the city’s obligation to boost renewable energy supply by 2020.

Residents of Owens Valley have been ferociously critical of the field of solar panels, which would cost $680 million dollars, create fewer than 10 permanent jobs, and bring in no property tax revenue.

Critics have expressed distress at the destruction of the untouched landscape in the valley and the lack of long term economic plans. Inyo County has accepted DWP’s $4 million offer of compensation for potential damage to roads, and a $2 million loan to create short term housing for workers.

How will Inyo County proceed in its dealings with the DWP? Is the renewable energy from the solar panels worth changing the environment in Owens valley? What are the viable alternatives?


Michael Webster,  Assistant Director of Power System Planning and Projects, Department of Water and Power

Bryan Kostors, founder and lead editor of Deepest Valley, a group of community members and citizens that are passionate about the protection and well-being of Inyo County, California