Solar energy project extending onto Edwards Air Force Base becomes Kern’s largest

A new solar energy project combining almost 2 million photovoltaic arrays with more than 120,000 batteries has become the largest installation of its kind in Kern County. The $2 billion Edwards Sanborn Solar and Energy Storage Project, 57 percent of which is located on the northwest corner of Edwards Air Force Base, began generating 807 megawatts of electricity late last year for clients including every Starbucks location in Southern California. A ribbon-cutting took place last week at the military base east of Rosamond.

When the project’s energy storage component comes fully online later this year, it will be capable of delivering 3,287 megawatt-hours for a total interconnection capacity of 1,300 megawatts, according to the project’s New York-based developer, Terra-Gen Inc. The project stands out as the biggest in a county known for its extensive solar-power assets. The second-largest, according to Director Lorelei Oviatt of the Kern County Planning and Natural Resources Department, is the battery-less Berkshire Hathaway Energy Solar Star straddling Kern and Los Angeles counties.

“Only in America, can we take barren land, embrace the power of the sun and create an engineering marvel,” Brig. Gen. William Kale, Air Force Civil Engineer Center commander, said in a news release. “So, take the time to reflect, see the great work that was done and understand the significance of this project and what it can lead to. Hopefully, this is just the spark.”

The military base will not receive power from the project, but it will benefit from added power-grid resiliency expected to reduce the area’s risk of blackouts of brownouts, said Vice President Simon Day, head of solar development for Terra-Gen. The U.S. Air Force will also receive almost $76 million in lease revenue after signing in November 2018 what’s known as an enhanced-use lease covering 2,600 acres classified as under-utilized at the base. The project’s other 2,000 acres are situated on land owned by Terra-Gen north of the base.

Day said that, during the 35-year term of the lease, the project will pay $135 million in property taxes. That does not include $22 million in sales taxes paid to Kern County or $11 million in sales taxes paid to the state.

Not all of the 17 entities receiving energy from the project have been disclosed. But besides Starbucks, Day said, buyers include a well-known grocery store chain, the city of San Jose, Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and the Clean Power Alliance, which provides renewable energy to customers in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Construction on the project employed 890 union workers paid wages totaling $315 million during a period of about two years, Day said. He noted that not one reportable safety incident took place during the more than 1 million construction hours involved. He noted Terra-Gen has almost three dozen operations and maintenance staff stationed in Mojave.

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