Predicting the Impacts of Future Solar Facilities

Lessons learned from the Nevada Solar One case study and job creation estimates, coupled with demographic data, may be used to predict how proposed utility-scale solar development will impact nearby communities. The Nevada Solar One case study is helpful in understanding the role facility location plays in effects on community. Demographic data helps us to infer what costs and benefits the community’s labor market and rental housing market will likely experience. This analysis also includes a review of why Nevada Solar One’s greatest socioeconomic benefits, lease payments and property tax revenue, may not be factors for California desert communities.

This analysis uses two California desert communities, Lucerne Valley and El Centro, as examples for how to use demographic data to project socioeconomic impacts. As discussed below, we surveyed these same two communities, as well as an area known as Newberry Springs, in an effort to understand the local public opinion of utility-scale solar. The following socioeconomic analysis builds on the results of this survey. Due to a lack of available demographic data, Newberry Springs is excluded from this analysis.

Located in the Mojave Desert, Lucerne Valley is an unincorporated community in southwest San Bernardino County. El Centro is located in the southern part of Imperial County, near the border with Mexico. These residents were chosen for the survey because utility-scale solar facilities are proposed for public land nearby both communities. Chevron Energy Solutions has proposed a 45 MW PV power plant approximately eight miles from Lucerne Valley to be called “Lucerne Valley Solar Project.”1 Tessera proposed a 750 MW CSP facility “Imperial Valley Solar” about 14 miles west of El Centro.2


1 US Bureau of Land Management, “Proposed Chevron Energy Solutions Lucerne Valley Solar Project,” www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/barstow/chevron_energy_solutions.html.     

2 US Bureau of Land Management, “Stirling Energy Systems Solar Two Project,” www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/elcentro/nepa/stirling.html.