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Agency to go solar

Environment: Fossils, birds could complicate Castaic Lake Water Agency’s proposed plan

Posted: January 24, 2011 10:36 p.m.
Updated: January 25, 2011 4:55 a.m.
 

Water resource planners want the public to weigh in on their plan to turn part of the Castaic Lake Water Agency’s back lot into a cost-saving field of solar panels.

Between now and Feb. 10, they are opening their books on the solar-power plan and its environmental review.

The review concludes there is no substantial evidence the solar project will have a significant effect on the environment other than impacts to biological and cultural resources.

In the project’s worst case scenario, both a paleontologist and a biologist would be called in, said Jeff Ford, principal water resources planner.

Ford said there’s a possibility fossils might be unearthed during grading, and there could be birds nesting in non-native trees slated for removal.

“Under the project site is the Saugus Formation, and that could have fossils in it,” Ford said Monday. “There’s a pretty remote chance that once we start grading, it could expose fossils.”

If that happens, the grading will stop as a paleontologist is called to recover anything that resembles a fossil and remove it.

A couple of trees — identified as not indigenous to the area — threaten to cast a dark shadow over the project, literally, and must be removed.

“We want to make certain the site has adequate solar access, and there are some non-native trees immediately adjacent to it,” Ford said. ”But since birds may nest in the trees we’re going to hire a biologist to come in and make sure there are no nests in the trees.”

In the event a nest is found, the tree will be cordoned off, Ford said. Grading will stop and workers will wait until the birds hatch and fly away.

The agency plans to install solar panels on about 8 acres of agency-owned land behind its plant on Bouquet Canyon Road.

The solar panels would generate enough electricity annually to meet the demands of both the Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant and the adjacent agency headquarter offices, water officials said.

The solar project would produce one megawatt-hour of photovoltaic energy — enough to save about 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the air, as it would if the energy came from tradition fossil fuels.

The anticipated solar energy generated by the project is expected to peak during summer when water demand is also at its peak.

Agency officials also said the project would supply the Southern California Edison grid with any excess energy at a set rate.

Installing the panels on the agency’s hilly back lot would require “grubbing and grading” an area roughly the same size as six football fields.

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