EL CENTRO – Imperial Irrigation District assistant general counsel, Robert Laurie, recommended that IID revise the Letter of Intent (LOI) submitted by DF Ventures for the lease/option for developing a solar generating facility on 762.8 acres of IID lands to one that the IID staff provides with the conditions and milestones they believe is appropriate.
The LOI commits the parties to negotiate in good faith, which in this case would be the completion of a lease/option containing a five-year option period, option payments ranging from $150 an acre per year to $350 an acre per year, lease payments of $1,250 an acre per year, with an escalation at 1.5%, additional payments equal to wheeling charges, and an affected system study agreement, followed by an agreement to pay impacts.
“We found that the specifics included in DF Ventures LOI were a little bit too specific to agree to, at this point,” said Laurie. “We have given you a ten-day calendar in which we would prepare this LOI, have it signed by the general manager and DF Ventures.”
According to the representative from DF Ventures, they feel it is a good project for the IID. IID will be able to receive tenant farm revenue, collect solar option revenue, lease rent, $800,000 per year greater than the current farm lease rent, water conservation savings, affected system impact fee revenue, and receive a transmission access charge.
“I think it is important that people understand that if this would have been a bypass to the IID, under the terms that they are agreeing to, they will, in lieu of a wheeling fee, will pay the IID, even though they won’t be using our facilities,” said board president Bruce Kuhn. “That speaks legions for what we could have lost versus what we will not lose. Certainly, if they are willing to do that, then it makes this palatable.”
“I’d like to say, that if this had indeed been just a bypass, this board would have probably not pass this,” said director Norma Sierra Galindo. “It would have not gone through.”
“I want to make it clear that I am not keen on taking IID tenant farmers off of farm ground we leased to them,” said Kuhn. “Under the circumstances, I am tasked with doing what is best for IID. The income off of this property is almost ten times what we are getting now.”
According to IID water manager, Mike Pacheco, the tenants will be farming until the end of 2018.
“They may be able to pick up some of the land that is coming out of the fallowing program ending this year,” said Pacheco. “On July 1, close to 21,000 acres will come back into production.”
“The board’s approval of this project does not mean that we are condoning free-for-all solar, as is the consensus of the community,” said Galindo. “IID is not in the business to do solar. We have a lot of other things to concern ourselves with energy, particularly, saving our balancing authority.”