East County

Jacumba Hot Springs Sues to Stop Mega Solar Farm

The Save Jacumba group says the solar farm will dwarf the small East County town.

NBC Universal, Inc.

One of the smallest towns in San Diego County is putting up a big fight against a planned solar farm that would dwarf their community.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors recently approved the JVR Energy Park that will be built right next to Jacumba Hot Springs in the far southeastern part of San Diego County

“It’s shock and anger that a company can do this,” said Jeff Osborne. “The solar project is about the size of San Diego International Airport.”

Osborne and his partners recently purchased the Jacumba Hot Springs Spa and about 80% of the rest of the town’s commercial property. He said the solar project could ruin the town’s character and ruin any chance at rejuvenating the community.

“What we should be doing as a civilization is putting rooftop solar on buildings and in parking lots,” said Osborne. “And they’re going to go drop [the solar farm] here first into an actual wild place where real wildlife survives.”

Osborne said the solar farm and its 10-to-12-foot solar panels will cover much of the wild land east of town, north of the border wall, and south of Interstate 8. That’s why he and a group called “Save Jacumbafiled a lawsuit to stop the project. The developer, BayWa r.e., would not comment directly on the lawsuit but did send NBC 7 a statement.

“JVR Energy Park is a 90 MW solar generation and 90 MW battery energy storage project that will generate clean, reliable renewable power for use by over 52,000 customers,” read the statement.

“BayWa r.e. has taken significant steps to enhance the buffer between residents and the solar panels, as well as to screen them from view with attractive fencing and landscaping,” the statement continued. “As we complete final engineering, we continue to seek ways to further minimize the project's footprint, and we’re working with residents on community enhancements that demonstrate our commitment to being a good neighbor to Jacumba.”

Osborne said he was disappointed the San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the project.

County Supervisor Joel Anderson represents Jacumba Hot Springs.

“My office proactively engaged with the residents of Jacumba and held a town hall meeting to get their input on the proposed solar project,” said Supervisor Anderson in a statement. “Of the more than 100 attendees, nearly all of them either wanted the project killed or made unviable by reducing its size by 50%. The project was going to succeed with or without my vote. That’s why I worked hard to include $4 million in community benefits for the 284 homes in the Jacumba community.”

“They threw some money at us, hoping that would buy us off,” scoffed Osborne.

He said the $4 million for town residents worked out to roughly $8,000 per person. He argued that wasn’t enough to ruin the wildland next to Jacumba Hot Springs.

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