Plans for a large solar energy facility in the unincorporated desert communities of inland Southern California are moving forward, despite opposition from some residents.
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday denied an appeal by opponents of the project on about 5.5 square miles in the Mojave near Barstow, the Sun newspaper reported.
While allowing the solar field, supervisors asked developer Clearway Energy Group to keep it farther away from nearby homes and to use technology to monitor dust and air quality.
County planning commissioners unanimously approved the project in September. The Newberry Community Services District -- which provides fire protection, parks and recreation and street lighting services to area residents -- appealed the commissioners' decision and asked supervisors to reject the project.
The district claims there are deficiencies in the project's environmental documents and that the project will harm the water supply and air quality.
For the past few years, residents have been calling on the county to ban large desert projects to protect communities from potential health hazards caused by blowing dust, which increases when arid land is disturbed by construction. They have also cited the protection of scenic views and preservation of habitat and wildlife as reasons to prohibit large solar development, the newspaper said.
The solar facility would replace the retired Coolwater natural gas-fired plant with clean, renewable energy, has enhanced safety features and a dust-control plan that would improve the land's conditions, said James Kelly, senior director of development for Clearway.
The facility will be built over the next several years, with construction expected to start in 2020. The first phase would be online in 2021, followed by the second and third phases by 2023, the Sun reported.
Once complete, there would be eight to 12 employees and millions of dollars in tax revenue to the county, according to Clearway.