No in Borrego
Last updated 4/28/2023 at 10:37am
“I will do all I can to help lower the costs of electricity bills in San Diego, but CPUC needs to hear from you too. Together we can make a change and make San Diego more affordable.” Supervisor Jim Desmond.
Dear Supervisor Desmond,
Thank you for fighting to lower the costs of electricity bills. We deeply appreciate your concerns for your constituents, and how, as our local government representative, you have stood up for Borrego Springs.
Today, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to block SDG&E from imposing significant price increases in the future. And Borrego Springs needs you to once again be our champion in a manner that puts the future and preservation of our community in the hands of the Board of Supervisors.
We are referring to the County’s Regional Decarbonization Framework (RDF). We assume, you are aware, that the preferred options require large utility transmission lines to move the Solar energy from rural communities, like Borrego Springs, to the coastal communities. For example, the recommended plan that would place industrial-size-Solar plants in Borrego Springs, would absolutely require transmission lines.
The cost of those lines has been estimated at $3.9 billion! We know who will pay for those lines – the consumers; and, we know, who will profit— SDG&E investors.
The hidden costs of Solar plants in Borrego Springs must include the increased price consumers will have to pay for transmission lines. We are not the cheapest choice! Rooftop Solar panels in the urban communities that need the power are the best and least expensive option. Borrego residents are asking, and rightly so, “Why should our paradise be paved over to provide energy to the coast?”
The hidden costs to Borrego left out of RDF include: Damaging our tourism economy. Visitors and residents alike come to Borrego Springs for its weather, and the opportunity to engage in outdoor recreational activities.
Another reason people come is to enjoy the quiet and serenity away from the city crowds, traffic, and air, noise and light pollution. The business of constructing, transmitting, and maintaining buildings and Solar panels will create truck traffic, be noisy, and dirty. The scorched earth, industrial park ambiance will destroy the reasons people come to Borrego.
Covering the Borrego Valley with large-scale Solar plants, will destroy wildlife habitats, native plants, raptors and birds, and exposure to wildlife, biological and geological wonders that are distinctly unique environments found in Borrego Springs, the heart of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Recently, Borrego celebrated the annual return of the Swainson’s Hawks. Every year over 800 to 1,000 hawks stopover for weeks. It would be a rare sight to see these “threatened” raptors anywhere in the world, and we are lucky they come to Borrego. To be sure, with hundreds of thousands of photovoltaic panels replacing the native landscape, the hawks will likely abandon their yearly visit and never return. Or, they may be electrocuted, since birds and raptors see the panels as liquid; and dive in for a drink or a rest, only to be burned to death.
What about the wildflower Super Bloom that draws thousands of people from around the globe to the desert and Borrego Springs? The grading for large industrial Solar plants will remove thousands of acres of soil where the seeds germinate and flower. The amount of grading required will also destroy nests and habitats of native plants, toads, jackrabbits or burrowing owls.
Stripping the fragile crust of topsoil, holding sand in place and producing living plants, will not only destroy the desert’s vulnerable ecosystems, but encourage non-native, invasive plant species to take root and suppress the growth of wildflowers. Plus, the freed sand beneath the crust, given strong winds, will suffocate the area.
These are just two spectacular events that happen only in Borrego Springs and the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (ABDSP) -- events that bring tourists and residents to this remote community, and coincidently, are the source of our economy.
Imagine, the large, visual scar SDG&E transmission lines will leave on the ABDSP. The Park is no place for huge electrical monsters. It was set aside to protect native species and the rare geological features for the purposes of generating outdoor experiences, and research, from geography, indigenous life, to the rare native species of red blooming ocotillos, and Bighorn Sheep.
The ABDSP belongs to the public, the artists, the curious, the adventurous, hikers, campers, amateur and professional geologists, biologists, archeologists, botanists, astronomers, and bird watchers. It’s a gift that never disappoints and belongs to everyone.
There are many other drawbacks to using utility-type Solar plants in the Borrego desert areas, versus rooftop Solar. The Borrego Valley Basin is classified as Critically OverDrafted by the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). As you know, San Diego County is our partner GSA, helping Borrego Springs to conserve water, which seems a conflict of interest.
We must reduce existing water use by 70% to 75%, by 2040. How can an overdrafted aquifer accommodate the hundreds of thousands – to millions of acres-feet of water needed for construction and maintenance of Solar plants for 30-35 years?
Water is needed for soil binding of easements, and under and around the panels, to prevent air pollution; and to clean panels for the life of the plant. Quarterly panel cleaning requires clean water or the filtration of brine well water. Purchasing water to truck to Borrego will be costly, due to limited water supplies. Add the cost of miles to truck the water from an available water source.
Trucks delivering water for construction and maintenance of Solar panels, workers and employees driving to the site, as well as other uses that may require vehicular traffic throughout the life of the project, will actually be creating an increase in carbon. And that’s not even accounting for the carbon burned, installing and maintaining SDG&E transmission lines.
How will the tons of excess dirt from grading sites be removed – more truck trips? Beyond the physical changes to the landscape, the daily barrage of noise, dust and exhaust produced by hundreds of dump trucks hauling aggregate can have serious effects on the health of people living nearby.
What if there’s a malfunction or accident and chemicals used in the panels, accidently spill into neighboring wells, or our aquifer? Do we really think there will never be accidents, shortcuts, or incompetent employees?
The Borrego Valley Basin is also prone to earthquake swarms, high winds, and extreme heat. Extreme heat, experts say, reduces the productivity of Solar panels. Solar panels also give off a minor amount of heat. However, even a minor amount of heat, multiplied by the number of panels, and the sun-exposed acreage dedicated to Solar plants, added to the desert’s three-digit summer temperatures, might make life in Borrego Springs unbearable.
There are health dangers from dust and sand kicked up by construction and the maintenance of Solar plants. Desert dust is difficult to contain, especially with strong winds. Borrego dust/sand often contains metal and chemical particles unhealthy to breathe, increasing risks of asthma and serious allergy reactions, and aggravating COPD.
Then there is virgin soil sediment that has not been disturbed for millions of years, which is found throughout the Borrego Valley Basin. This soil, like the desert’s ancient petrified mud and rock formations, carries bacteria, fungus, and pathogens that when exposed, become air-borne, causing diseases, like Valley Fever.
We congratulate you for taking on SDG&E. Even working together, we hope, but may not be able to pressure the PUC from raising SDGE rates again.
However, you can help us save future customers from increased costs of electricity by opposing the RDF plan that proposes large-scale Solar plants in the Borrego Springs valley, accompanied by SDGE’s expensive transmission lines through the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
To be fair, the coastal cities that need renewable energy should carry their share of the burden through the use of rooftop Solar. Just as the Pacific Ocean, as one of San Diego’s greatest assets, is worthy of environmental protection, so is the rare and amazing Anza Borrego State Park, and Borrego Springs, which is the living heart of the heart of the Park.
The Borrego Sun