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Sun shines on Devil’s Den

Water officials give green light to green project

Posted: January 29, 2009 10:49 p.m.
Updated: January 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
While Devil's Den may sound like an ominous and scary place, local water officials want to turn the Kern County water outpost into a green and sustainable, solar-powered, money-making enterprise.

Members of the Devil's Den Ad Hoc Committee and the Castaic Lake Water Agency's Water Resources Committee went to the desolate outpost on a two-hour drive northeast of the Santa Clarita Valley.

On Wednesday night, the agency's board gave the green project the green light to start turning sunlight into money.

"The Aaasible for its Devil's Den property located in Kings and Kern counties to be used to generate solar power," said Jeff Ford, Acting Water Resources Manager.

"To that end, the board of directors agreed to seek proposals for a feasibility study to see if the site is suitable for such a use and if an economically viable project is possible."

Right now, Devil's Den is used for cattle grazing.

Since there are other solar-generation projects in the area, Ford told the board that, "there is potential for this site being appropriate."

California utilities are required by state law to have 20 percent of their electric supply come from renewable sources by 2010 and 33 percent by 2020.

"The agency believes there will be growing demand for solar power," Ford said.

Using Devil's Den for solar power generation could potentially pay the agency's rent for the land.

It could also make money for the agency if there's enough energy generated to sell.

Some of the energy generated by the agency could be used to offset electrical energy it already uses.

In each of these scenarios, the agency would remain a landlord to the generation operation.

Alternatively, the agency could seek to become a partner with a solar power generation company.

The agency has to request bids for a feasibility study for solar power generation on the agency's Devil's Den property.

Once the study is done and the solar panels pay for its rent at Devil's Den, then the agency could issue a second request for the development of the project.

Although it depends on the results of the feasibility study, agency members suspect the operation could turn pastures of grazing grass into vast blankets of solar panels.

A very large solar project, consistent with similar solar projects already operating in Kern County, could cover up to 2,000 acres.

In November, board members went on a safari of sorts to check out Devil's Den for themselves and hold an official board meeting there.

Agency General Manager Dan Masnada called it, "hot and flat and with lots of bees."

Ford called it "isolated and arid with abundant sunshine."

About 20 years ago, the agency bought the rights to the state water allocated to Devil's Den, a Kern County piece of farmland.

The terrain is dotted with a handful of oil wells and maintained by a single ranching family that lives on the property.

The agency benefits in no way from the oil drilling operations on the property.

Regardless of any solar energy produced there, Santa Clarita Valley residents benefit from Devil's Den with 12,700 acre-feet of water.

The water from Devil's Den alone can fill the bathtub in every home in the SCV every workday for almost a year.

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