The project is owned by Pattern Energy and will cover a little more than 12,000 acres of desert while supplying energy to some 140,000 homes in San Diego.
Unlike solar energy production, wind energy is fully subject to property taxes, according to the economic impact analysis by Development Management Group.
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During the first full year of operation, the project is expected to generate about $5.25 million in gross property taxes, the report reads. This assumes that the land value will increase 2 percent every year while equipment and other improvements decrease by 1 percent.
Under these assumptions, it is estimated the county will receive nearly $50 million in property taxes over the 30-year life of the project. In addition, the county could get as much as $9.9 million in sales tax, the report reads.
The general fund, the county library, Imperial Valley College and fire protection agencies are some of the agencies to benefit from these taxes.
Besides revenue, the reports says Ocotillo Express will create jobs. But similar to solar farms, most jobs come during construction. There will be 350 full-time jobs during construction in the first 18 months, the report reads.
Payroll impacts of those jobs carry a multiplier effect for the region. Only during the first year, the facility could bring about $119 million, according to the report.
However, once built, the number of employees is reduced to 18. Payroll for those employees will be about $1.3 million and could generate about $3.2 million every year, according to the report.
But all these benefits come at a cost.
Cultural and archaeological resources such as Native American praying circles and cremation sites, as well as wildlife may be affected.
According to a BLM report, there are more than 287 documented archaeological sites, some have geoglyphs and prehistoric ceramics.
The project also borders some five miles of the De Anza Borrego State Park, the second-largest state park in the country. Some of the project’s area is bighorn sheep habitat, said Mark Jorgensen, a former De Anza park superintendent.
Flat-tailed horned lizard is another animal that may be affected as the project will bring miles of new roads, Jorgensen said. Avian animals like golden eagles, mastiff bats and burrowing owls — these last two listed as BLM sensitive species — also nest in the area, he said and added that the project’s area is also a transit avenue for migratory birds.
All of these animals will be affected, Jorgensen said.
But mitigation measures will be in place, according to Pattern Energy.
Cultural sites will be under constant monitoring and a radar system will look for birds while a person will be on a watchtower for the same reason.
As soon as a bird is seen, the project will be shut down, according to Pattern Energy.
Regarding bighorn sheep, they were never seen in the project’s area during studies, according to Pattern Energy.
But as Pattern Energy’s senior developer Glen Hodges acknowledged at Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting: The “aesthetic view” of the desert will be affected permanently.
In response, some local and regional tribes like the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians and the Quechan Band of Kumeyaay, along with some Ocotillo residents, oppose the project and made that evident during Wednesday’s meeting.
For the tribes, the project disturbs holy land walked by their ancestors, and for residents this project disturbs their way of life.
But much support for the project also exists.
Union workers, construction business owners, economic development leaders and residents from the county’s metropolitan area also spoke Wednesday and made it clear that they, like the planning commission, feel the profitable benefits outweigh the costs it brings.
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or firstname.lastname@example.org