Imperial County betting its future on renewable energy

Los Angeles Times | By Shan Li | Link to article

The county, which has the state’s highest jobless rate, needs the construction boom to spur its economy. But some farmers and Native Americans are crying foul.

A worker installs a photovoltaic panel

A worker installs a photovoltaic panel at the Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy South project in the Imperial Valley west of El Centro, Calif.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times / February 12, 2013)

Situated in the southeastern corner of California, bordering Arizona and Mexico, Imperial County has long depended on agriculture and cash crops that grew from the good earth.

But lately the region — which carries the dubious distinction of having the state’s highest unemployment rate at 25.5% — is betting its future on a different kind of farm: green energy.

Spurred by a state mandate that requires utilities to get a third of their electricity from green sources by 2020, renewable energy companies are leasing or buying thousands of acres in Imperial County to convert to energy farms providing power for coastal cities — bringing an estimated 6,000 building jobs and billions in construction activity to the county.

(complete article)