The Sierra Club, Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council have pledged thir support, which the Imperial County Board approved. The projects will be located in Imperial County, California.
Additionally the Sierra Club has also brought in to the projects the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which was crucial in finalising a Project Labor Agreement to employ Imperial County workers for the projects. Imperial County has the highest unemployment rate in California at 27 percent and the solar projects will provide employment and economic benefits to the county.
The projects will also most likely share and co-locate transmission lines, towers and other infrastructure with other solar developers and utilities. This prevents any additional threats to nearby lands and communities.
After previous problems between conservation groups and solar developers, this comes as good news for 8minutenergy whose Mt. Signal, Calexico I and Calexico II projects have received the support. The projects will produce 600 megawatts (MW) annually and can power more than 200,000 households.
"These projects are truly a win-win for local Imperial County workers and the environment," said Johnny Simpson, Business Manager with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 569. "They will create good, middle-class green jobs with skilled training, healthcare benefits and pension retirement while reducing polluting greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change."
The projects are located on privately owned, disturbed land currently used to grow highly water-intensive landscaping grasses. The biological effects from the projects are significantly less than those that have been proposed on what conservation groups have classified as environmentally sensitive public lands.
"After close examination, the Sierra Club decided to support these projects due to the developer’s willingness to provide support and funding for a program that should provide a higher level of protection for the imperiled burrowing owl, a species potentially affected by the large-scale development of solar," said Bill Corcoran, Western Regional Campaign Director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.
"We strongly support moving the development of large-scale clean energy projects away from pristine lands, and 8minutenergys proposal is an appropriate balancing of solar energy production with the protection of our natural legacy."