600-Acre Solar Project Raises Concerns In Jacumba Hot Springs

Written by Brett Wilkins

Residents of Jacumba Hot Springs, an unincorporated town in Southeastern San Diego County, are concerned as a planned project to install a 600-acre solar field farm up to 300 feet away from homes, will be voted on by the Board of County Supervisors as soon as August 18th. 

German energy company BayWa r.e. signed an agreement with San Diego Community Power in May 2021 to provide 90 megawatts of clean solar energy.  The San Diego Community Power company services coastal towns such as Chula Vista, Encinitas, Imperial Beach and San Diego, as well as La Mesa with clean power leading. Residents such as community organizer and new co-owner of the Jacumba Hot Springs Hotel are worried stating “They’re hiding behind green energy and they’re being bad developers and they’re not considering our communities” in an interview with the Times of San Diego.

In order to get the community on board with the project, BayWa r.e. has instituted deals with local community groups and organizations reaching $320,000 so far, in order to stifle further objections or legal challenges to the planned project.  Some of these deals include $75,000 for an exhibit and general funding to the Imperial Valley Desert Museum as well as a $250,000 donation to the Jacumba Community Services District.  While deals between developers and communities are common, Osborne feels that the money is just “a strategy to circumvent truly working with the community.”

While residents sought to limit the acreage taken up by the project to no avail, concerns over a heat-island effect, as well as aesthetic and environmental impacts of the project, are the main concerns of the opponents of the project.  The environmental impact report has noted the “unavoidable” impacts to the landscape that could harm species such as the threatened tricolored blackbird.  Hotel owner Osborne highlighted the irony of the project as it damages his small town, providing power to 57,000 coastal San Diego homes, and no power to Jacumba Hot Springs which constantly faces power outages due to fire and high wind advisories.  

While the Jacumba Hot Springs Community Sponsor Group, voted unanimously to oppose the project in May, The Jacumba Community Services District, who struck a deal with BayWa r.e., has remained silent as per their agreement.  That said, the general manager of the  Services District, Emilio Gonzalez as per Times of San Diego “told inewsource he understands the community opposes the project and isn’t telling residents to stop fighting. He said that the district and its board agreed to the donation because they felt that if the project went through, the community should get some benefits.”

As the project awaits a final vote from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors this August, the Times of San Diego notes that “six other wind or solar projects are in various planning and permitting phases within 17 miles of Jacumba.” 

Photo via Explore San Diego