Hospitality among neighbors warmed the Lakes Community Center building at 8:30 a.m. April 2. Coffee, cake and cookies were offered in a jovial atmosphere as people filled the chairs and then more found places to stand at the back and around the sides of the pleasant room.
Bob Large, president of Lakes Town Council, said 15 people is usually considered a crowd at their meetings. On April 2 there were 10 times that number. More than 150 Western Antelope Valley residents pressed in to hear from Cliff Graham, project manager for NextEra Energy Resources.
His is one of 33 companies known to be buying up land in the Antelope Valley, seeking to lasso a section of the brand new wholesale renewable energy market created by a state mandate. By year 2020, a full 33 percent of the electricity sold in California must be from renewable sources, such a photovoltaic solar and wind turbine farms.
The energy developers and their lobbyists have a headstart on the people who merely grew up in these hills and live their lives under these wide skies. But the residents are quick studies. They are coming to council meetings like this well-prepared with questions, and their love for this land is evident.
Graham has an answer for all the questions: The FAA will require only perimeter lights that will be less intense than the “old style” flashing versions; fires are averted by temperature sensors that shut down overheating turbines; and “I’m just a wholesaler, we don’t have anything to do with billing for retail service,” in response to the “freebie” request.
Nearly all said they are in favor of renewable energy—many already have residential photovoltaic and wind turbine systems— but appeared to agree with Jill Bays from the Transition Habitat Conservancy: “Utility-scale energy farms should be built on already- disturbed fallow farmland, not in existing wildlife habitat.”
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