EL CENTRO — The Viking Solar Energy Generation and Storage Project west of Holtville will move forward so long as the developer negotiates “fair-share cost” demands made by the Imperial County Sheriff’s Department.

That point was made clear when the Imperial County Board of Supervisors approved a conditional-use permit, among other items, for the solar farm during a public hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 16.

These demands came after both the county and developer Viking Energy Farms LLC failed to include the Sheriff’s Department when they originally developed the permit, thereby failing to develop public safety contingencies.

“Public safety has always been a part of development in Imperial County … I think it is of note that (public safety) is included in these projects for the betterment of Imperial County as a whole,” Chief Deputy Robert Benavides said during the hearing. 

As part of the project development, the Sheriff’s Department would like to see Viking Energy purchase marked and equipped four-wheel drive patrol vehicles, investigatory field cameras, camera vehicle identifiers and license plate readers, as well as have the developer purchase an unmanned aircraft system program, also known as the drone program.

Additionally, the department requested that Viking Energy agree to a “contract cities service rate” for both sheriff and fire protection services, as well as for direct judicial and prosecutor services.

This is a specific cost reimbursement agreement for direct police and fire protection services, stating that for each call made to the project site for such public safety services that the project is responsible for reimbursing the County of Imperial.

This same style of specific cost reimbursement agreement would also be applied if a person or persons are tried in a court of law for potential crimes at the project site.

Benavides said no costs had been applied to any of the requests as of yet.

“As long as you add the words ‘fair share’ to the agreement, we are willing to negotiate with the Sheriff … We will not be the only ones to benefit from this, so we shouldn’t be the only one to pay for them,” said Jurg Heuberger, who spoke on behalf of Viking Energy in his capacity as a private consultant.

Viking Energy is proposing to develop a 150-megawatt solar photovoltaic energy generation project with an integrated battery storage system not to exceed 300 megawatts. The project is to be at the intersections of Nelson Pit Road and Graeser Road.

In addition to the conditional-use permit, also approved on Tuesday was a water supply assessment, certification of the final Environmental Impact Report with California Environmental Quality Act findings, and the mitigation monitoring and reporting program.

Read the full article here.

Source: Holtville Tribune