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Grading and land preparation for the new Inyokern solar project are now in progress. Laura Austin Photo

Construction begins on a 130-acre solar plant in IYK

By Patricia Farris News Review Publisher

During the early part of last year, Charlotte Parker, Director of Community Engagement for Dimension Renewable Energy (Solar), reported to The News-Review that the construction of the plant would begin in November 2023 and be completed in December 2024. The project has been delayed, but as of last week, heavy-duty construction equipment and workers are preparing the ground for the construction to begin.
According to the site plan, the plant will be located in the Triangle East of North Brown Road, adjacent to the Airport to the West side of Highway 395, and South of the Sewer ponds, just north of Inyokern Road, near Ace Hardware and the Chevron gas station.

The company developing the project is called Dimension Renewable Energy.   The first notice to neighbors in the area was a warning of the potential for Valley Fever, given that the soil will be disturbed, the symptoms of Valley Fever, and the company’s measures for dust control. Parker stated, “The project is a community solar project. Community solar projects save people money on their electric bills.  We anticipate the project will save electricity bills to as many as 2,500 local households. The project will create Kern County jobs.  At peak construction, we’ll have roughly 90-100 union workers on site, 80% of whom are expected to be local Kern County hires through Kern County’s local union, IBEW 428. Our major contractors on the project are union signatories.” she said.

The proposed project would include one unmanned Operations & Maintenance (O&M) building. The O&M building would be a prefabricated commercial coach structure that measures up to 25 feet by 25 feet in area and 12 feet high. The O&M activities would not require permanent employees; therefore, no septic tanks or permanent toilets would be required, and no permanent water source is necessary. Water for day-to-day maintenance will be either from an onsite water well or trucked onto the site. The Inyokern Community Services District (ICSD) will provide water during the construction and operation of the project.

Tim Carroll, president of the ICSD, told The News Review that he hopes to find another water source for dust control as he hates to see spring water used for that part of the operation.

The project will cover 130 acres in the Inyokern area.

The proposed project proponent/operator would be required to comply with all applicable restrictions on groundwater use as applicable to the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin. During construction, operation, and decommissioning, the project shall implement water conservation measures to the maximum extent possible.

MM 4.10-3: Prior to the issuance of a grading or building permit, written documentation shall be submitted to the Kern County Planning and Natural Resources Department that the project proponent has verified the water source for project construction and operation by one of the following methods: a. A will serve letter from the Inyokern Community Services District dated within 60 days of application for the grading or building permit; or b. A letter from the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority dated within 60 days of application for the grading or building permit acknowledging that a new well drilled and developed within the project boundaries, which Kern County Public Health permits, can pump groundwater and state the amount of groundwater pumping allowed per year; or c. A letter from a water provider outside of the Basin showing the source and amount of water and method of delivery to the site. They declined to reveal the source of the water.

Warnings of Valley Fever during the construction phase.

This letter was sent to all residents living within three miles of this project:

This project will involve disturbing the soil in a region of the United States that may have the type of fungus that could cause Valley Fever. This letter includes steps we are taking to limit exposure to the community and background on Valley Fever and symptoms associated with the disease.

Valley Fever, also known as California Fever, Desert Rheumatism, and San Joaquin Valley Fever, is a disease caused by breathing in a specific type of fungus. Every year, 50,000 to 100,000 people get symptoms of Valley Fever, with about 35,000 new infections in California alone.

The fungus that causes Valley fever grows in the soil in the Southwestern United States and Mexico. During the rainy seasons or when soil is disturbed, spores break off the fungus and become airborne. When these spores are breathed in, a fungal infection takes up residence in the lungs and causes the illness. The disease is not contagious from person to person.

People who work in occupations involving soil disturbance are especially at risk for  Valley Fever. These occupations include agriculture, archaeology, and construction. For residents living within three miles of any activity that is disturbing the soil, exposure could occur if the dust created by that activity is not controlled.

Taking common sense precautions may help prevent Valley Fever: Staying inside during dust storms. Wearing a mask while working in dust. Wetting the soil before digging.

During the construction of this site, appropriate dust control measures will be observed. The measures include Continuous watering of roadways. Continuous watering of lay-down yards and office areas. Water during all excavation or grading activities. Stoppage of all dust-causing activities during winds of 25MPH or greater. Continuation of watering during wind events.

Symptoms of Valley Fever include chills, cough, fatigue, fever, headache, joint aches, redness, spotty rash, and shortness of breath. Valley Fever can also create nodules in the lungs. These nodules are usually harmless but can sometimes be mistaken for tumors on X-rays.

The most severe form of Valley Fever involves spreading the disease to other body parts, such as the skin, bones, liver, brain, and heart. This stage of the disease can cause painful lesions in the skull, spine, or other bones; painful, swollen joints, especially in the knees or ankles; and meningitis (an infection of the membranes and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord).

Usually, less than 1% of people infected with Valley Fever will experience the most severe form of the disease. Not everyone infected with the fungus will get symptoms of Valley Fever. Usually, after you have been infected with Valley Fever, you are immune from getting it again.

There is no vaccine against Valley Fever. If Valley Fever progresses to a serious stage, a doctor will usually prescribe anti-fungal medications.

Usually, Valley Fever will go away on its own. Drink fluids: get plenty of rest and use over-the-counter medications to treat the mild symptoms. Seek medical care if the symptoms of Valley Fever won’t go away.

In closing, Valley Fever is prevalent in the Southwestern United States. It is caused by breathing in an airborne fungus that grows in the soil. Not all fungal infections will cause the symptoms of Valley Fever, or some infections will become more severe and require treatment by a doctor. Prevention involves using common sense to avoid breathing in dust where the fungus may reside. At Renewable Energy Inyokern, we will do everything we can to limit exposure to this fungus.