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Supervisors talk uses for solar fee revenues

Published On: Dec 18 2012 01:29:15 AM CST   Updated On: Dec 18 2012 07:10:28 AM CST
Solar panels



What to do with future revenue collected from solar power companies with projects in Riverside County will be on the Board of Supervisors' agenda tomorrow.

Supervisor John Benoit has drawn up a resolution listing procedures for the use of development agreement fees, even while the board policy that established them -- B-29 -- remains in legal limbo because of a lawsuit filed
soon after it was approved a year ago.

Under B-29, any solar power company -- with the exception of those producing 20 megawatts or less -- must pay an annual $450 per-acre fee for
access to public rights-of-way and for altering desert landscapes.

In his proposal to the board, Benoit reiterates the reasons for enactment of the policy, which received unanimous approval, though one of its backers, Supervisor Bob Buster, lost his re-election bid to an ardent opponent
of B-29 -- former Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, who takes office Jan. 1.

"The amount of land required to operate solar power plants is significantly greater than the amount of land required to operate other
renewable energy facilities and conventional energy facilities," Benoit wrote.
"Now ... existing and ... proposed solar power plant development in the county equals or exceeds 100,000 acres. The permanent commitment of such a large part of the county to a single use ... has serious consequences."

County officials have emphasized that land blocked off for solar projects might otherwise be used for farming, recreation and housing. Around 20 projects are in the works, planned over an area extending east from Desert Center to Blythe.

Benoit's proposal for managing and distributing funds acquired under B-
29 calls for keeping the money in the districts where the solar arrays are installed. The supervisor represents the Coachella Valley and the entire desert region to the Arizona state line, in which most of the solar farms would be