Aerial view of the 22-acre former Soitec
solar facility on Mountain View Road in Newberry Springs.
Like a shell game, the ownership has been flipped multiple times.
The site includes 60 solar arrays placed upon 60
large pedestals. Reportedly, the pedestals extend 15 feet below
the surface. Upon decommissioning, only the top 3-feet of the
pedestals below the surface need to be removed, leaving many tons of
decomposing metal to poison the aquifer long-term and be hazardous
obstructions that may economically prevent many uses of the land
Another danger is the hollow tubular design of the pedestals.
There is no decommissioning requirement that the cut pedestals need to be capped
nor filled. If covered with plywood and sand, this could later lead to people
and animals falling into the tubes like an open well or an abandoned mine.
Yet, another problem is that parcels with abandoned underground
structures do not have to have the buried structures recorded on the parcel's title.
Future buyers would not be aware of the problem nor the potential
liability. Like abandoned fuel tanks, the abandoned equipment may be
later required to be removed. The costs for removing the Mountain View
site's underground pedestals once cut would be extreme, much less the proposed
nearby 4,700-acres now being proposed for solar development. 200-times
the environmental disaster.
If any abandonment is going to be allowed, all buried
equipment should be required to have their positions geolocated on the
parcel's title. This should be a requirement for all parcels in
the county, including federal and state land.
The county's Land Use Services Department was grossly negligent
in presenting their ill-conceived decommissioning ordinance before the county's
Board of Supervisors that allow these hazards, and the County Supervisors were
grossly negligent in the dereliction of their duty in accepting the ordinance without
carefully reviewing it. This appears to be another example where the
Supervisors simply rubber-stamped their staff's work without responsible oversight.
The above aerial image shows a partially developed 22-acre
facility. There are now many thousands of desert acres being proposed
to be added for centuries of hidden and unmarked underground obstructions.
Bea Lint, Field Representative for First District Supervisor
Bob Lovingood, is being requested to have Lovingood sponsor a solution to the
problem that would require full bonding for the removal of all subterranean
equipment upon the decommissioning of a solar facility.
The bonding must remain active until the decommissioning removal
of all equipment. To assure bond continuity, the responsibility of
decommissioning cost needs to be attached as severally liable to each corporate
officer to whom the building permit was issued. Should the bonding lapse,
each original officer needs to be held liable unless a replacement was found
acceptable as asset qualified by the county and a legal transfer of liability
was accomplished under the county.
Usually, each solar development has its own separate corporation
to avoid liability which at the end of the facility's life-cycle can be simply
dissolved or abandoned which leaves communities and the county with little
recourse. Corporate officers who harvest the profits and who are responsible
for bonding must be held personally accountable.
Not to be repeated.
Shockingly, the county found no need to require the Newberry
Springs solar facility on Mountain View Road to have any decommissioning bond.
The Planning Commission didn't want to burden the applicant with another hurdle to
build within San Bernardino County, so the eventual Conditional Use Permit (CUP)
only requires that the decommissioning removal follows a simple plan.
How foolish can a Planning Commission be!!! The solar
facility is a corporation. At the end of the facility's useful service,
the corporation may simply default and close should it be found that the salvage
value wouldn't be worth the decommissioning cost. Hello! Nasty
defunct eyesore for years!
• • •
Note lines 20 to 23 below:
The above is taken from Page 3 of the (proposed) 2011 ordinance
that was passed by the County of San Bernardino's Board of Supervisors (snipped
from the immediate link below).
This is a
to the proposed ordinance that was adopted by the county Board of Supervisors.