Drinking in the sun’s energy, hundreds of solar arrays tile across an unidentified solar field. | STOCK PHOTO

County Approves Niland-area Wister Solar Project

Another solar facility is on its way to Imperial County.

The county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of the Wister Solar Energy Facility Project, a 20-megawatt solar energy project located three miles north of Niland, following a public hearing Tuesday, Jan. 26.

The project, which sits near the East Highline Canal, is not in the county’s renewable energy zone, but sits adjacent to it, according to Planning Director Jim Minnick. 

One difference with this project is that it will not have people on site during its operation, but rather it will be monitored remotely.

The project was proposed by Orni 33 LLC, a subsidiary of Ormat Technology. 

A map shows the approved 600-acre Wister Solar Energy Facility Project site three miles north of Niland, with the site boundaries bordered by the red square but the actual 100-acre solar field represented by the gray shaded area. | COURTESY IMAGE

The project was not without its critics at the public hearing. Kyle Jones with Citizens for Responsible Solar, said the environmental impact review ignored the presence of more than 50 species of animals, and it doesn’t appear the county took previous comments into consideration.

Two representatives from local unions also expressed concerns. Danny Machain said there will be significant environmental impact, especially as the ground is disturbed, and there is the possibility of spreading Valley Fever. This is especially of concern for those who will be closest to the project, the construction crews. 

Even the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office had concerns about the project. The Sheriff’s Office had proposed a mitigation measure of a $70,000 vehicle being added to the final environmental impact report as the Sheriff’s Office would have to respond to calls if needed in the area, Chief Deputy Robert Benavidez said.

Although the project was approved, the board recognized the concerns presented, with two board members even going so far as to say if the project grows, then the company should work more with the Sheriff’s Office to solve these issues.

“Right now, as the project stands, it’s relatively small in a very remote area, and it looks like all the concerns have been addressed by the EIR process,” said Supervisor Ray Castillo, who motioned to approve the project.

The project site is 600 acres, but the project will only sit on about 100 of those acres, according to planning department staff.

A map shows Imperial County’s renewable energy zone in green, with the approved 600-acre Wister Solar Energy Facility Project site represented by the red square, just outside the zone. | COURTESY IMAGE
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