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Sunday, Dec 09 2012 11:00 PM

ERIC AVERETT: SunEdison's participation promises solar done well

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    Eric Averett

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Kern County has historically served as a preferred destination for renewable energy development in California. Along with the common-sense approach to regulation embraced by our county government, the region boasts ideal weather conditions and a multitude of qualified individuals in search of the jobs and unique career paths offered by the solar industry.

Among the many respected and established solar developers, SunEdison has proposed a number of projects for both the Central Valley and on the high desert, having won the bid from the military to construct a solar project at Edwards Air Force Base. SunEdison is an experienced solar developer with more than 480 projects built, financed and/or being operated throughout the world.

Projects developed on Kern County's vast agricultural lands are required to mitigate the use of that land by conserving an equal amount of farmland for every acre developed. It was through the pursuit of that mitigation land that the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District formed a unique public-private partnership with SunEdison to ensure that for every acre of farmland developed for solar, 1 acre of prime farmland will be preserved by Rosedale-Rio Bravo.

Discussions with SunEdison have evolved into a public-private partnership with an innovative plan for agricultural mitigation in the form of a restrictive covenant agreement. The SunEdison projects will occupy approximately 1,000 acres (0.01 percent of Kern's total irrigated acreage). The lands provided by Rosedale-Rio Bravo for mitigation are designated prime farmland, have access to water, and are capable of growing the very same crops as are currently grown on the solar project sites.

These solar projects in the Arvin and Lamont area have been well-sited directly adjacent to power interconnection and will bring up to 300 much-needed construction jobs to the region while providing clean, reliable electricity to our state. In addition, a study by UC Davis demonstrated that these projects will nearly double the economic benefits derived from the current land use, including approximately $35 million in sales and use taxes to our county along with an additional $7.4 million in property tax revenues.

Our water storage district encompasses more than 44,000 acres of land in Kern County with more than half of that in irrigated agriculture. We fully understand and appreciate the value of our rich farming history and welcome not only new sources of power and jobs, but also creative ways to continue preserving our vast agricultural heritage.

Our community should encourage projects that so thoroughly address every aspect of the challenging development process. We welcome SunEdison to our community and applaud this commitment to preserving agriculture while embracing a vibrant economy and diverse energy future in Kern County.

Eric Averett is the general manager of the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.

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