Sunday, October 2, 2011

A quick desert trip and thoughts on a Highland Falls Solar Farm in Desert Hot Springs.

Woke up this morning feeling adventurous so jumped into the morongomobile
and drove up to Joshua Tree to pay my monthly storage bill. Of course, the place was closed. So I stuck the check through the door slot and decided to
see if I could find the Landers landfill to determine their hours of operation and what they would take and for how much money.

Here is why I want to clear out some of this junk in the storage.
092611yvjt 004

Could you find anything in that junk pile?

I did find the Landers landfill site and it was closed on Sunday as well.
100211jtyv 002

But at least now I know all the details.

While in Yucca Valley I came across this Jaguar for sale, 1990 XJS with the
v12 engine. According to a friend this is a smooth powerful engine, I can only add that I have heard that it will pass everything but the gas station!
100211jtyv 005

And another shot.
100211jtyv 010

I wonder how this fine automobile would do on the dirt roads in the Mojave
National Preserve? Just kidding folks, I would never mistreat a fine automobile
like this one in that way.

No the MNP calls for something like this.
image

That’s what I did today, drove 250 miles, back here by 1215, averaged 29.8
miles per gallon on my big boat, a 2002 Chrysler Concorde with a 3.5 liter v6,
and no working air conditioning, no photos of any consequence taken, but one
insight gained regarding renewable energy development in the Coachella Valley area.

It occurred to me that the now defunct Highland Falls development in Desert Hot Springs which is now a gigantic eye sore eroding away in the land above
Hwy 62 and Pierson, and close to the site of the legendary “Devil’s Garden” which was plucked out cactus by cactus at the beginning of the 20th century,
an action that motivated Minerva Hoyt into conservation efforts leading ultimately to the creation of the then Joshua Tree National Monument; this now
bladed and graded giant patch of land which will never recover in a hundred of
lifetimes to its’ former status, might best be used as a site for a solar farm.
image

I have driven by this area hundreds of times since the year 2000. It always
disturbs me seeing it there in the distance, stripped of plant cover, just dirt
eroding and blowing away, degraded land, close in to the end users and
consumers of the power, and close to transmission lines already in; remember
there are thousands of wind turbines in the area.

It is my understanding that water issues suspended the development that was to go on here- about a thousand homes and a golf course or two- I say instead
of letting the land go to waste, why not put a solar farm right here instead of say out at stateline, next to Ivanpah SEGS?

Here is an email I received not long ago, I have only edited out the name. I was
not the recipient, but the sender sent a copy to me thinking I might know what
was going on with the development.

Hello,
I found this article and had a few questions about it.
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/media-archive/Developers%20dirt%20moving%20challenged.pdf
I live in the unincorporated area adjacent to this development. It is
a terrible waste of land at present, huge holes, no vegetation, poor
drainage in the surrounding areas, and an eyesore. I know the date on
that article is several years old. The last paragraph mentions a
possible lawsuit by your  group. I was wondering if anyone there knows
what happened with the whole situation. The fencing permit and flood
wash permit are of particular interest to me. The fence is pointless
and there are severe drainage issues in my area, likely due to the
fence.
I would like to get rid of this eyesore, but don't know how to go
about it. From what I can find on the internet, this development is
permanently on hold. The owner is attempting to sell it, but cannot
due to a water access issue. This issue seems unlikely to resolve
itself, leaving me and everyone else in my area with this permanent
scar on the land. There also seemed to be some talk of an endangered
species, the palm springs pocket mouse.
I'm not sure what can be done, but your group is the only one I've
found on the internet that seemed to care. Any pointers in the right
direction would be appreciated.
Thank you,

Here is my response:

On Mon, Sep 5, 2011 at 11:11 AM,  <morongobill@gmail.com> wrote:
> Good morning,
>
> Thanks for viewing my blog and for the email.
>
> I echo your sentiments and it sure is an eyesore, and a possible scenario to
> be played out possibly
> on federal managed lands as these solar and wind projects go into high gear
> in these very troubled economic
> times we live in, as evidenced by Solyndra going out of business after
> raking a half billion federal stimulus
> dollars.As I posted, square miles of desert wilderness could be scraped
> bare, as next door to you, and the
> money might run out or another problem might pop up and kill the deal- as
> with Schellenberger's project-
> my understanding from contacting another local blogger in your area , was
> that the lack of water or being able
> to hook up to it, killed the Highlands project.
>
> One thought that did cross my mind was that a solar or wind developer might
> buy the land and try to get it rezoned for
> renewable energy. I know that off Indian down the road from you and close to
> Hwy 62, a photovoltaic solar field is being
> constructed- I actually posted about- here is the link:
> http://morongobillsbackporch.blogspot.com/2011/08/new-solar-going-up-next-door-to-wind.html
>
> It is a large site and could be easily regraded to the right slope for solar
> and wind, with the continued deterioration of the
> housing market, something may be in the works already, who knows?
>
> There really wasn't much you or your neighbors could do about the original
> project, I believe it was on private land, and
> I am not sure who you could call for help. I got a feeling that there won't
> be too much help coming from city hall.
>
> If you like I could write a followup post on this, I would like to use your
> email but would of course not mention your name,
> but only if you will permit it.
>
> I am sorry that I can't be of more help right now, I hope to come back up
> and walk over the area myself, all I could see wash the damage caused by the
> desert
> wash going through the project, photo's would really portray the
> environmental damage, close to the area once known as the "devil's garden."
>
> Bill Mcdonald


The reply from the person who emailed me:

Thank you for the reply. Sure you can use my email. I've also
forwarded you an email to a preservation group I found on the
internet. I'm waiting for a response. It contains a bit more
information I found while searching the other night.
It seems unlikely this thing will fix itself, but I wonder if forcing
someone to do something may end up worse than what I have now. I don't
think I'd like that development to turn into a solar cell area, and we
certainly don't need any more windmills.

As you can see, we have come to different conclusions regarding the
Highland Falls project area. The person who emailed me would not like it to turn into a solar or wind site, and I respect that opinion.

Having driven up to the entrance of the development and walking some of the
perimeter, there is so much land, almost beyond comprehension, and it lies uphill from the homes below- I wonder if the panels would even be seen by the folks in the houses below. If the solar farm was built, of course there would be construction traffic for a few months but later it would only be a few workers coming and going, a lot less traffic than if a thousand homes were built there.

I am not so sure that putting a solar farm there might not do more to preserve the rural atmosphere there, than if the development had continued as originally planned.
image

Above is the view looking up the street, notice the rural nature of this street, how much busier would it be if hundreds
of homes were built above it. Which would change the rural area most- putting in golf courses and hundreds of homes, or
putting in solar panels on the scraped ground that would not be viewed from these houses?

But it is a local matter, on local private land, with problems and concerns that
should be dealt with on a local level, rather than being shoved down people’s
throats as in Ivanpah.

For me, I think it has potential, but I don’t live there and have no “skin in the game” as some might say. Anyway, it is something to think about- the potential
Highland Falls Solar Farm in Desert Hot Springs.

Morongobill

A late thought. In my original piece I showed erosion photos and talked about
the wash which I observed. Recent events at the Ivanpah SEGS construction site showed how a severe desert rain storm can wreck major havoc upon a
construction site. Comprehensive planning would have to be done for a hundred year storm event, etc and measures taken to prevent that from
happening at this site.
ScreenHunter_01 Oct. 02 20.46

The above photo shows a closeup of the wash I wrote about in the post linked to about this site. The black line broken
on the left side of the wash is the tall block wall that I wrote of. As you can see, planning will need to be done on how best
to handle flow of water through the area after a desert rain.

Morongobill