A PV2 Energy representative addressed speculation about downsizing the Panoche Valley Solar Farm project at a county meeting Tuesday.
PV2 Energy, the corporation constructing the solar farm, has secured approximately 26,000 acres for the project, with around 3,200 acres being used for solar development. The project is located within San Benito County near a major power transmission line and has a planned capacity of 399 megawatts. The project faced legal hurdles in 2016 over environmental concerns.
Director of Project Development Eric Cherniss gave a presentation on the solar project to the county board. Chairman Jaime De La Cruz asked that the discussion remain about revenue. It did, until De La Cruz brought up the downsizing rumor.
“I just want to share with you that, I think it was (former Supervisor Margie Barrios) and myself that went to Sacramento and lobbied for the project,” De La Cruz told Cherniss. “I just want to make sure we’re partners in this project. The rumors that I’ve been hearing about you guys cutting it in half, it’s not happening. I want to hear that from you today.”
Cherniss said the company would move forward with construction.
“The rumor of cutting it in half, that we have been asked to reduce our project in size is true,” Cherniss replied. “We have not agreed to reduce the project in size in any way. We have all of our permits and we continue to move forward with construction.”
De La Cruz asked if that could change tomorrow.
“I’m saying we need to maintain an open dialogue through this process,” Cherniss said. “There are certain barriers associated to modifying the project in any way. Those barriers are things that are not necessarily borne by the project, but borne by other parties that have concerns with the environmental impacts associated with the project.”
Multiple endangered species habitats exist in the selected solar project site, most notably the giant kangaroo rat.
According to the Endangered Species Recovery Program at the California State University, Stanislaus, giant kangaroo rats are an endangered species that once spread out in the western San Joaquin Valley, but have faced shrinking habitats due to development, agricultural and otherwise.
PV2 Energy is permitted to relocate, also known as translocate, a limited number of the rodent due to what’s known as an incidental take permit. However, there is little scientific evidence that giant kangaroo rats can thrive, persist and reproduce following translocation.
After a heated speech from resident Marty Richman during public comment, Supervisor Anthony Botelho had the final word.
“I certainly hope that the whole project is built out and ultimately San Benito County does benefit from this project with in lieu taxes and so forth,” Botelho said. “In our next budget years, we do have a real problem in the near future. We got to fund the jail staffing with the new jail being built. We have to fund more fire. We need these taxes and revenue coming in and we got to make sure we get it.”