Renewable energy projects near Rosamond would generate 1,700 construction jobs

Eastern Kern’s renewable energy portfolio would add three large installations producing more than 1,700 construction jobs by the end of this year if the county Board of Supervisors approves the West Coast’s first micro steel mill and two photovoltaic solar developments with power storage set for review Tuesday.

The separate developments, all proposed to be built in the Mojave-Rosamond area, are part of what Director Lorelei Oviatt of Kern’s Planning and Natural Resources Department called the “new future,” in that all three represent clean energy alternatives to conventional industrial models.

By far the smallest of the three projects, San Diego-based Pacific Steel Group’s Mojave Micro Mill on undeveloped land southeast of Highway 14 and Sopp Road, would create the most jobs, employing 417 hourly and salaried workers, plus 23 third-party positions for duties like security.

The plant would run 24 hours per day, seven days weekly, turning scrap metal and raw material into rebar for use in construction mostly in Southern California, with some of the product going to Northern California and some to Mexico.

Carbon capture would be a novel aspect of the project: The 174-acre site would include a system for compressing, dehydrating and purifying carbon dioxide that would be stored on-site and ultimately hauled by truck to a site yet to be identified.

At least some of the power to run the operation, consisting mainly of a 489,200-square-foot steel mill, would come from a 63-acre photovoltaic solar array that would be part of the project. It would also be fueled by petroleum coke or biocarbon.

The board’s approval, as proposed, would entail certifying an environmental review that identified significant and unavoidable impacts to aesthetics, air quality and noise. Supervisors will also be asked to approve a series of conditional use permits and zone variances.

County staff have called for the developer to pay $100,000 for CO2 response equipment and training for the Kern County Fire Department and local fire stations.

If approved, construction would be expected to start in the third quarter of this year; the operation would launch in the second quarter of 2026. At peak construction, the project would employ up to 515 construction workers at once.

The larger of the two photovoltaic projects under consideration is a 600-megawatt plant with 4,000 megawatt-hours of battery energy storage proposed by Enterprise Solar Storage LLC, part of Terra-Gen, which is owned by New Jersey-based Energy Capital Partners.

The project is proposed to be built over 28 months on 2,320 acres of mostly undeveloped land south of Highway 58 and west of Highway 14.

As with the other solar project, it would involve putting up an array of solar panels, an electrical collector system, inverters, battery storage, a substation, transmission infrastructure, communication towers, access roads and security.

Both projects would require the board to certify the respective environmental reviews, zoning changes and conditional use permits. In the Terra-Gen plant’s case, construction would take 28 months of construction averaging 250 people per day, with a peak workforce of 550 workers. The eventual operation would be expected to employ six people on a full-time basis.

The other solar project, called Bullhead Solar, would generate 270 megawatts and offer 1,080 megawatt-hours of battery storage on 1,343 acres of undeveloped, some of it farmland and some grazing property, near 100th Street West and Dawn Road.

San Diego-based developer EDF Renewables LLC estimates construction would take 18 months with an average of 201 people working per day, with a peak workforce of 627. Operations and maintenance would involve the equivalent of 15 people from an adjacent solar project the Board of Supervisors approved in 2020.

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