There were two big things First Solar wanted to convey to the community at a recent meeting: The company isn’t the only one building something big in California Valley, and it’s probably a good idea to avoid riding bikes on Highway 58 during weekdays until construction is over.
It all boils down to trucks.
“We’re keeping track of all the stuff; now we need to know who’s not behaving, and then we can take some action,” Dawn Legg, First Solar’s construction liaison and assistant project manager on the Topaz Solar Farm project, told about 20 people gathered in Santa Margarita on the evening of March 19.
Legg and other company representatives went over many aspects of the project now that construction is beginning to peak, but they focused on Santa Margarita’s primary concern: truck traffic.
According to company representatives, First Solar is amping up efforts to track its shipments of everything from aggregate for roads to parcel shipments of office supplies. Legg said the company is still working to keep the impacts low on Santa Margarita residents and roads.
First Solar’s project is sending about 100 vehicle deliveries through Santa Margarita per month, according to a company presentation. Residents said the issues of trucks rumbling through town have gotten better since construction first began on the 3,500-acre solar project, but truck traffic is still a concern for them. Legg told residents the company is tracking all its shipments and using that data to chase any problems with supply companies that might be veering off pre-determined routes and delivery times, namely routes and times that take them through Santa Margarita when children are going to and coming from school.
“We want to be neighbors, and we want to show that we do care,” she said.
Residents at the meeting seemed generally appeased by the company’s attempts to lower its impacts, but they had other worries that the trucks are tearing up Highway 58 and driving recklessly.
“I’m just wondering: Is that road going to last three years?” one woman asked, referring to the anticipated three years of construction.
According to a CHP officer at the meeting, there have been a few accidents since construction began, such as a cement truck that flipped over and a DUI-related accident involving a sub-contractor employee for one of the solar projects (SunPower is also building its California Valley Solar Ranch, but the CHP member didn’t specify which accident corresponded to which project).