SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Wednesday unanimously approved major-use permits for a 341-acre solar energy project near Borrego Springs, despite opposition to the location from environmentalists and some residents.
The photovoltaic cells would generate enough power to supply energy to 46,000 homes annually. Some of the electricity would provide power to the community in the desert area of San Diego County, while the rest would be placed on the electrical grid.
"I think this is a plus for the community,'' said board President Bill Horn.
Opposition to the proposal was based on the site -- open desert land along Palm Canyon Drive, adjacent to the Borrego Valley Airport.
"The folks in Borrego feel (the project) is a good idea in the wrong place,'' said Mark Jorgensen, the former superintendent of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and a 40-year resident.
Jorgensen and other opponents said there is no need to disturb desert plant and animal habitats when thousands of acres of farmland are sitting unused to the north of town.
David Tomlinson, the project manager for the developer, Eurus Energy America Corp., told the supervisors that it was critical to place his project as close as possible to an existing power substation, so they won't have to build major new transmission lines.
Some of the fallow farmland is as much as five miles from Borrego's substation, Tomlinson said.
Supervisor Pam Slater-Price said she supported the project "reluctantly'' and hopes that future solar projects in the desert can be placed on "already disturbed land.''
Utilities in California are required to generate 33 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.