Southern California's Hemet:
by Craig Shultz
SunEdison is constructing a 20-megawatt photovoltaic solar power generation facility on a 134-acre site
A plot of land in Hemet that once produced a lot of horsepower will now produce solar power.
SunEdison is constructing a 20-megawatt photovoltaic solar power generation facility on a 134-acre site on the southwest corner of Sanderson and Acacia avenues.
The land housed a stock farm for the breeding and training of horses from the early 1940s until 2005 and once was home to a school for jockeys.
A high, tan wooden fence now surrounds the field, obstructing the project from the thousands of cars that travel on Sanderson each day and creating speculation among residents as to what is being built.
While the facility isn't intended to generate power for Hemet, it will produce revenue in the form of fees from SunEdison, which manufactures solar technology and operates solar power systems at more than 1,000 sites around the world.
The fee is to compensate for the loss of potential future property taxes on the site, which is zoned for light industrial.
"It's not the highest and best use for the property," Mayor Linda Krupa said, "however it's what the property owners asked for."
Sun Edison is leasing the land from the Breliant Irrevocable Trust under a 25-year lease with an optional five-year extension. The company will pay an annual solar fee to the city, starting at $700 per acre -- roughly $94,000 per year -- and escalating 1.5 percent per acre per year.
While the city expects to collect about $2 million for its general fund over time of the lease, Krupa said the real benefit is road improvements.
Acacia Avenue will be widened with curbs, sidewalks, landscaping, fencing and streetlights added. Sanderson will get new landscaping and a 12-foot sidewalk and trail, according to SunEdison spokesman John Lamontagne.
The 95-acre field will be comprised of rows of solar panels from 6 to 7 feet in height, but possibly up to 10 feet. The panels are being installed on south-facing trackers, maximizing the collection of solar energy by tracking the sun throughout the day.
Although the project is close to Hemet-Ryan Airport, the Riverside County Airport Land Use Commission approved it, although the developer is required to provide a clear area immediately to the east of the runway.
"We worked closely with city planning officials and the Riverside County Airport Land Use Commission to address any concerns associated with potential glare from the solar panels and adjusted our site layout to ensure that the project would be compatible with the airport's use," Lamontagne said.
Krupa said she has not heard concerns from residents about the project. In the run-up to approvals, the city received letters addressing areas such as its affect on property values, soil hazards and electromagnetic fields.
Those issues were addressed enough for the Council to unanimously approve the project at its March 10 meeting.
The plant will create few jobs after construction, as the site will be monitored remotely.
"There will be employment positions ranging from staff to provide maintenance and security services, as well as a highly skilled position to oversee management of the facility," Lamontagne said. "It is estimated that there will be five jobs created during the operations phase of the project."
More than 200 people are expected to work during the construction process, which has is expected to be completed around the end of summer.
Double J Stock Farm was the last to use the land and SunEdison has removed the 14 structures and a race track left behind.
SunEdison had proposed building the project on land off Domenigoni Parkway, near the entrance to Diamond Valley lake, but the City Council rejected that, saying the land is too valuable for such a project.
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