(August 22, 2012, EL CENTRO) – The board of supervisors unanimously voted to permit 8 Minute Energy, a solar company, to build three solar farms on marginal farm property west of Calipatria.
During the public hearing on the proposal, the board listened to locals such as Doug Kline, Calipatria Unified School District superintendent, Romualdo “Rom” Medina, Calipatria city manager, Kevin Smith, Smith Kendal Reality owner, and Bruce Smith, one of the two landowners of the proposed site, all in support of the building permit.
However, the city of Calipat had several issues they wanted adjusted concerning the final distribution of funds and that one parcel, Solar Farm 1, was adjacent to the city limits. They expressed concerns that the close proximity to the town could hinder future economic developments.
“Before the recession hit, we had some developers interested in building in that particular direction. We want to make clear we are for the solar farms, we just ask for 125 acres out of the 609 to be changed,” said Calipat city manager Medina.
Bruce Smith, Brawley farmer and owner of that land parcel, said “We have had no serious offers on that land. We cannot even keep leasers for the full duration.”
Supervisor Ray Castillo mentioned the ‘thick’ letters of dissent but no one showed at the public hearing to voice their opposition to the solar farms.
The economic benefits were touted as 18 direct, permanent, well-paying jobs; several hundred new construction jobs; 41 (net after agriculture job loss) indirect jobs; and over$539 million in economic benefit to the county with a large share going to Calipat and the Calipat school district.
The board voted 4-0 in favor of the building permits, the last leg necessary before building begins. Supervisor Michael Kelley was absent.