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The NIMBYs Are Mad: Vandals Caused $100k in Damage to California's Largest Solar Project

Vandals used a Sawzall to cause a hundred grand in damages to First Solar's AV Solar Ranch One.
Image via Antelope Valley forum avhidesert.

Come on, admit it: electricity is the most important thing in your life. Your friends and family would mean nothing if you couldn’t connect with them via Facebook, your wimpy climate-controlled rear end couldn’t survive without AC, and I’m not sure I’d have the will to live if I couldn’t power up my new Super Nintendo. But the big elephant in the room with power is that while everyone wants it, no one wants it produced near them.

Yep, NIMBYs are everywhere, and unless we start producing power in space, they’ll still be around, whether it’s construction of new coal plants, wind turbines or, in a case all-too common in California, massive solar farms. But while there are plenty of legitimate concerns about any new public works project — and a whole lot of selfish, silly ones — sometimes people take things way too far.


A vandal, or perhaps vandals, did just that about a week ago, causing $100,000 worth of damage at a massive 230 megawatt solar farm under construction in Antelope Valley, which is just north of Los Angeles. The plant, called AV Solar Ranch One and run by First Solar, was the largest photovoltaic project in the world when it began, but it’s been beset by local challenges from the local community and county regulators from the very beginning. Yet things looked on the up and up when L.A. County recently approved the restart of construction at the site.

Now, according to a report from Greentech Media, someone used a Sawzall to hack apart a transmission line (!) and a water pipe a couple miles from the main site. The vandalism, which occurred July 9th or 10th, was announced yesterday at a monthly meeting between First Solar and locals, who are clearly still unhappy with the project. From Greentech’s story:

Tuesday’s meeting had a much smaller turnout than previous ones but those present were diehard, angry local people, frustrated that the company still has not seemed to hear what they want from the project. The discussion was permeated with barely concealed hostility on both the company and community sides.

Greentech’s report highlights some of the issues community members brought up, but a number of issues of contention aren’t even related to the solar project itself. For example, residents are unhappy with the appearance of huge transmission lines crossing Antelope Valley, but in fact the local county had approved construction of the lines before First Solar, who will rent transmission capacity, ever came on the scene.

There’s no doubt that power-hungry Los Angeles would love the juice provided by a project as massive as First Solar’s, and Antelope Valley seems like the perfect place for it. At the same time, local residents absolutely need to be assured that their concerns are being heard and considered; railroading a behemoth solar project through would be terrible for locals, unethical, and simply bad business. At the same time, as we all demand more and more power, and more plants are built, people are going to lose patience with the NIMBY types. So while it’s important for Antelope Valley residents to make sure they don’t get hosed by First Solar, vandalizing infrastructure isn’t going to win anyone’s sympathy.

Follow Derek Mead on Twitter: @derektmead.