Nation’s largest solar farm planned south of Porterville

Solar farm slated for property near Ducor to produce 1,400 megawatts of energy storage

By John Lindt

Sierra 2 the Sea News Service

PORTERVILLE – The nation’s largest solar farm is in the works to be built south of Porterville. The big facility would be erected on farmland that is in the area of water deficits, perhaps a glimpse of the future for some marginal ag land here.

Tulare County released a Notice of Preparation (NOP) on Feb. 14 announcing the big renewable energy project.

Built on 3800 acres scattered near the town of Ducor, the Rexford Solar Farm will be rated at 700 megawatts in addition to 700 megawatts of energy storage. The solar arrays would eclipse the state’s biggest solar farm in San Luis Obispo—the 550mw Topaz facility built in 2011.

The solar farm is being proposed by a partnership that includes privately-held 8 Minutenergy of Los Angeles who owns several large utility-scale solar farms in the west including four in Kern County. The company said they have a portfolio of over 14,000 megawatts including the 260 MW Mount Signal Solar Farm in Imperial County. It was founded by Tom Buttgenbach and Martin Hermann in 2009.

Last year the company signed a 25 year agreement to provide electricity to Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Rexford Solar Farm’s electricity would be transmitted to the Southern California Edison (SCE) Vestal Substation via an up to 230 kilovolt (kV) overhead and/or underground gen-tie line. The proposed transmission and/or collector lines would extend along existing roadway rights-of-way from various portions of the Project site (where substations are located) ultimately connecting to the Southern California Edison Vestal Substation. The transmission and/or collector lines would be located along portions of Road 232, Avenue 56, Avenue 64, Road 224, Road 240, Avenue 32, Richgrove Drive, and Highway 65, or could possibly utilize additional nearby routings. The total length of the transmission and/or collector lines would be approximately 13 miles in length.

March 5 meeting

A scoping meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 5 at 1:30 p.m. in the Main Conference Room of the Tulare County Resource Management Agency on Mooney Boulevard in Visalia.

The historic Vestal substation near the project site connects the Big Creek hydro project in the Sierra above Fresno through the San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles.

A full environmental impact report (EIR) for the Rexford project is expected. The NOP says the project is located in a generally rural area surrounded by existing agricultural uses including dry-land grain, irrigated crops, and grazing lands and scattered residential buildings. The placement of PV solar panels and associated structures would alter the existing character of the  site and vicinity says the report.

Southern Tulare County already has a water deficit problem and may be further affected by the state groundwater program. The area is expected to see idled land and issues with land subsidence.

The majority of the project site is bisected by Highway 65. Residents and travelers on adjacent roads would observe alterations to the existing landscape. The entire project site is designated as Farmland of Local Importance by the California Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program. The majority of the project site is under Williamson Act contracts. The EIR will provide an assessment of potential project related impacts to agricultural resources.

Tulare County has another nearby solar project pending. Tulare Solar Center is rated at 80 MW is proposed on 1,144.33 acres. The site is on currently undeveloped farmland situated in south central Tulare County. Approximately 572 acres (or approximately 50%) of the proposed Project site is located east of Highway 65 and south of Avenue 24, with the remainder located west of SR 65 and north of Avenue 12.

Another solar project in the area got a hearing last year. The 70 MW Deer Creek Solar project would be located on the north side of Avenue 96 (Terra Bella Avenue), bounded on the west by Road 224 and on the east by Road 232, approximately 0.5 miles west of Terra Bella.

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