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LADWP pursues Owens Lake solar project

April 8, 2013

The LADWP is proposing to construct a solar project on the north end of Owens Dry Lake to see if renewable energy can be produced on the lake bed. The department claims the project will have little to no visual impacts due to its distance from roads and communities. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is preparing to move forward with a 500-killowatt solar project on Owens Lake.
Last week, the LADWP released a Notice of Intent to adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration for the proposed Owens Lake Solar Demonstration Project, claiming that there are no significant impacts associated with the project.
If approved by the State Lands Commission, the project will be constructed on an area of the lake where the LADWP has already constructed dust control measures by spreading gravel.
Dubbed the Owens Lake Solar Demonstration Project, the solar panels will be built on a 5.3-acre parcel of property. That piece of the lake is located within the 2.03 square-mile Owens Lake Phase 8 dust mitigation area on the northwest section of the lake bed, south of Lone Pine.
The proposed solar project is a test to see if Owens Lake is a suitable location for larger-scale energy production.
According to the Negative Declaration, “The project would assist LADWP in meeting its renewable energy portfolio standards as well as provide data on the feasibility of additional solar facilities on Owens Lake.”
The LADWP will be accepting comments on the proposed Negative Declaration through April 29. Copies of the study are available for review at the LADWP offices, 300 Mandich St. in Bishop, at the Lone Pine Library, 127 Bush St., the Inyo County Library in Independence, 168 N. Edwards St., and online at www.ladwp.com/envnotices. Comments regarding the study may be submitted to LADWP, 111 N. Hope St., Rm. 104, Los Angeles, CA 90012, attention Julie Van Wagner. Comments may also be emailed to julie.vanwagner@ladwp.com.
According to the LADWP’s Negative Declaration of impacts for the project, the department is planning to erect ground-mounted photovoltaic solar arrays in rows on an aluminum framework “that would be attached to one of three types of foundations, two with concrete block ballasts and one with pile-driven piers.”
The LADWP said the ballasted foundations would use concrete blocks, which would be precast and delivered to the site ready for installation. If the project is approved, the foundations would be placed on top of the gravel that currently covers the site. The piles would be driven through the existing gravel and geotextile into the ground to a depth of 8-10 feet. Approximately 150 piles would be necessary to support the solar panels. All three foundation types are designed to “withstand the harsh conditions of weather extremes and high winds that can occur at the site.”
If the project is approved, the solar panels will be positioned “to receive optimal solar radiation with an anticipated 10 degree tilt angle from horizontal toward the south,” the Initial Study states.” Adjustments to the tilt angle could be made to help reduce ground surface wind speed.
The study goes on to say that the solar panels will “have a fairly low profile, with one foundation type having the high end of the slightly tilted panel a maximum of eight feet above the ground.
Transformer units will be required to step up the voltage of the power from the inverters before it entered the distribution system. These transformers would be installed on a new pole located adjacent to Lubken Canyon Road. New electrical lines will also be installed to carry power from the inverters to the transformers. Installation of the line would require a trench approximately 175 feet long.
The project facilities would be connected to existing LADWP distribution lines located north of Owens Lake. “These lines provide power for operations at the lake and connect to the electrical grid,” the Initial Study states. “No new distribution lines would be necessary.”
The project site is just east of U.S. 395. The department’s Initial Study states that there are no trees, major landform features or rock outcroppings on the project.
“Implementation of the project could alter the view of the 5.3-acre (site), but due to the distance from U.S. 395, the impact on views from a portion of roadway … would be less than significant,” the Initial Study states.
The study goes on to say that the project does not include the installation of new lighting and will not impact dark skies.
The study also addresses local wildlife, saying that there are no significant impacts to threatened or endangered species, as the project site does not currently have water or vegetation on it.
“Owens Lake is an important site along the Pacific Flyway for migratory waterbirds,” the study states. “However, the Solar Demo area is gravel cover, devoid of vegetation.”
Following public review of the Mitigated Negative Declaration, the proposed project will go to the California State Lands Commission for final approval.

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