Another solar farm or two could become a reality

There could soon be another giant solar farm in Lassen County, directly north of the Sierra Army Depot. Arcbyt Incorporated, a company out of Berkeley, is requesting the grant of an easement on one of Lassen Community College’s properties in Wendel in order to transfer most of the energy to the San Francisco Bay Area.

The easement across LCC’s property on Wendel Road would allow Arcbyt to use the Lassen Utility Corridor — the needed access to move forward with a more than 500-acre solar farm.

After the completion of the proposed transmission line, Arcbyt or one of its subsidiaries will build a solar farm on LCC’s campus equal to the fair market value of the parcels, and LCC will deed the parcels to Arcbyt.

Arcbyt or one of its subsidiaries will also allow LCC access to the commercial solar farm for educational purposes.

During the presentation to the college’s board of trustees Real Estate Acquisition Director of Arcbyt Joshua Furnald said, “The county’s excited for this proposal because it’s going to generate revenue for the county. It can bring jobs.”

Furnald told the board Arcbyt was excited for the project because their goal is to take renewable energy to where land is inexpensive — as well as appropriate for a large solar facility — take the power and sell it back to the Bay Area “where folks are paying more money for it.”

Furnald told the board one of the first effects of having the solar farm on the college property is an increased value of the land.

Furnald told the board Arcbyt would be willing to either purchase the land or trade it for the construction of a fair market value on-campus solar facility of its own.

“You could use it as a teaching tool, and it would also generate power that would offset your costs,” said Furnald. “We’d be absolutely willing to allow educational access to the industrial solar farm we are building.”

There’s even a potential opportunity to expand the college’s curriculum to include some kind of solar instruction.

The entire power line would be built underground, decreasing the opportunity for malfunctions dependent upon weather conditions and fire danger.

In fact, the line’s proposed to be built more than 40 feet below ground using a newer technology which grinds up to 120 millimeters per minute through hard rock such as basalt, granite and limestone.

The process is 10 times faster than traditional methods and is a tenth of the cost.

The company is also placing a data center at the location.

Arcbyt presented their idea to potentially collocate, or hold fiber internet cables, high-voltage currents, a medium voltage distribution, superconducting high-voltage and potentially water, hydrogen, oil or natural gas lines inside the 2.5 meter wide underground corridor.

Furnald shared the company’s projected economic development from the project. Some of the direct investments were energy storage, gaining an underground utility corridor, atmospheric water generation farm (as well as the data center) potential land lease payments, multiple new jobs during and post-construction as well as revenue from permit fees.

Furnald shared some of the indirect impacts to the community including increased property taxes and assessment values; increased revenues for hotels, housing rentals, gas stations, restaurants, grocery and hardware stores, local contractors; improved roads; export of commodities and fewer imports to the county of the same, as well as available high-speed internet.

The company is also expecting the community to see benefits of energy resiliency, self sufficiency (locally produced power with battery backups), lower inflation from solar energy’s fixed price for more than 20 years; lower electric bills and stable energy prices.

The utility corridor will potentially travel along Highway 32 or Highway 36 or the railroad toward Chico before turning south toward the San Francisco Bay area and could be finished within the next two years.