Sterling Solar wants more time to address zoning requests

KINGMAN - Plans for a large solar power plant east of Golden Shores were put on hold Wednesday. Michael Clinton, manager of the Sterling Solar project, asked the Planning and Zoning Commission to continue several zoning requests for the plant for 30 days to allow the company to speak with property owners who wanted to be included in the project area.

The Sterling Solar plant would be built on approximately 10,000 acres of land north of Interstate 40 and two miles east of South Oatman Highway. The plant would generate 1,200 megawatts and use Stirling engine technology to generate power instead of photovoltaic cells or concentrated solar technology. Needle Mountain has proposed 60,000 solar dishes for the project.

According to Clinton, the process uses very little water and would use far less water than the Sterling master-planned community that was slated for the area. The original master-planned community would have covered 16 square miles and was approved to use 8,300 acre-feet of water a year. According to information given to the commission, the solar plant will use less than 500 acre-feet of water a year to wash mirrors and for employees. Clinton said the company has no plans to use, ship, or sell the rest of the water.

According to information given to the commission, the company would employ around 1,500 people to build the plant. Once the plant was complete, approximately 75 to 100 people would be hired to staff it on a full-time basis.

Several residents spoke out in favor of the project.

"This is the one we're in favor of, of all of the solar plants," said Jim Kanelos speaking on behalf of the Northwest Watershed Council. "This is the best technology for the water."

"I encourage this wholeheartedly," said resident Susan Bayer.

Commissioner Bill Abbott asked Clinton if the company needed to go through the federal environmental impact study process.

Clinton said the company was working to start the 18-month process with the Western Area Power Administration. The company hoped to start the early stages of construction on the plant in 2011 and hook up to the power lines in the area in 2012 or 2013.

Trevor Burr from Arizona Game and Fish said the department has been working with Sterling Solar to identify the impact to wildlife in the area. So far, the department has found a population of desert tortoise in the area, which are currently under review as a possible endangered species by the federal government. Burr said the department would continue to work with Sterling Solar.

The commission agreed to continue Sterling Solar's requests for major amendments to the Mohave County General Plan and the Sterling Area Plan, and a request to expand the boundary of the Sterling Area Plan. It approved a minor amendment to the Desert Hills Fire District Plan.