Supervisors Approve Dedicating Solar Money to the Communities Nearest Solar Plants
RIVERSIDE – The Riverside County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved measures by Board Chairman John J. Benoit that will make sure communities near solar plants, such as Desert Center and Blythe, receive some of the monies paid to Riverside County by solar developers.
The votes fulfill a pledge Supervisor Benoit made two years ago to bring a significant portion of payments from solar developers to the communities affected by the massive plants that are filling up acres of desert landscape.
“I’ve said all along that these communities should get something back for bearing the brunt of these solar plants, and I’m pleased that my colleagues concurred,” Benoit said. “The residents of Desert Center have been hosts to large-scale solar development, and the city of Blythe will experience the same thing soon. Other parts of Riverside County could also be affected.”
The first agenda item, which Supervisor Benoit co-authored with Supervisor Marion Ashley, relates to solar money collected from developers through franchise, real property interest or development agreements. Twenty-five percent of that money will go to communities in the vicinity of a contributing plant, and 75 percent will be used at the discretion of the board, which could include additional spending in the host supervisorial district.
In a second vote, the board approved Supervisor Benoit’s proposal to dedicate $400,000 in existing solar money paid by the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm to go to renovation of the Lake Tamarisk Clubhouse in the Desert Center area. Desert Sunlight has been paying the county $600,000 in annual franchise fees, adjusted annually to inflation, since entering an agreement in 2011 with Riverside County.
Desert Center is a rural community that sits about 60 miles east of Indio. The community is served by the Lake Tamarisk Clubhouse, which is owned by the public through Lake Tamarisk County Service Area 51. The facility has aged and is in need of improvements. The project will replace the damaged roof, remove asbestos-contaminated insulation, install energy-efficient air conditioning units and new flooring and pave the clubhouse parking lot.
Supervisor Benoit is hosting a public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lake Tamarisk Clubhouse to seek input on near-term and long-term Desert Center community needs. The clubhouse is located at 26-251 Parkview Dr.
In 2011, the Board of Supervisors approved a solar power plant policy requiring developers of solar projects over 20 megawatts to compensate the county for the use of its property and for committing vast tracts of land exclusively to solar development. Last month, the board adopted an agreement that ended the solar industry’s lawsuit against the policy. The per-acre payment was reduced from an estimated $225 after incentives, to $150 per-acre, adjusted annually to inflation.