Western Lifestyle competes with Green Interests

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Christmas valley

Christmas Valley fights to keep its “Western Lifestyle” as businesses target area.

When Gary Perkins heard that solar companies were buying nearby fields and planning to fill them with commercial solar arrays, the Christmas Valley alfalfa farmer snapped up two parcels in front of his log cabin.

He didn’t want to see the sagebrush replaced by solar panels.

“But there’s a limit, I can’t buy thousands of acres,” Perkins said.

Three companies, have bought or are trying to lease more than 1,300 acres in the Christmas Valley area to take advantage of the sunny skies. The first row of solar panels are already in the ground, three other projects have been approved, and two more will be considered next month.

Solar company officials say the projects will bring tens of thousands of dollars of tax revenue to the area, and note that they are private property owners building projects allowed by the county.

But Perkins and dozens of others in Christmas Valley, an unincorporated community east of Fort Rock, have organized a group to oppose the developments. They’re concerned about taxpayer money spent on solar projects and want Lake County to require the companies to put up money to ensure the sites are cleaned up if they are abandoned, like the state does. And with solar farms going in right next door to alfalfa fields and sage brush plains, some feel the solar farms don’t mesh with the Western lifestyle in the High Desert Projects proposed for the area include one by GreenWing Energy America Corp., which has applied to lease 640 acres of state land to install anywhere from 50-104 megawatts of power. A Washington dentist is developing a site northeast of town, and started construction this past winter.

Obsidian Finance Group has spend more than $541,000 to buy about 765 acres in the Christmas Valley area, according to Lake County assessor Phil Israel. The company has the county’s conditional OK to site three solar arrays in the area, each of which will cost between $25 million and $28 million, and the county will consider two more next month.

Oregon land use laws say commercial energy projects on land zoned for agriculture cannot be larger than 20 acres.

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