Behind schedule because of their standoff with Los Angeles County, First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) is powering ahead to get phase one of its 230-megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1) on-line by the end of 2012.
AVSR1 Community Liaison Adam Eventov recently announced to the surrounding communities that the site’s 6:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday hours will be extended to 10 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays; a Sunday 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m shift will also be added.
Eventov pledged that the evening and Sunday activity construction noise would be “within the limits of Los Angeles County ordinances” and that lighting would be controlled.
First Solar’s relationship with local communities has been strained since First Solar bought the AVSR1 project from NextLight in the spring of 2011. First Solar’s $140,000 peace offering, made in January, still has not been accepted.
Though it is doing engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) for Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC), to which it sold the project earlier this year, some community resentment persists toward First Solar.
“It’s nice to tell us that the die is already cast and we are not counted,” read an email to the Los Angeles County Deputy Supervisor from Fairmont Town Council, the community nearest to the project. “If these people are going to run roughshod over us then they better come up with some ‘sugar instead of vinegar.’ Of First Solar’s promise that the AVSR1 project would be a good neighbor, the email continued, “I haven’t seen any good yet, only ‘screw them, get the project done.’ We as a Town Council object to night work.”
An email from an Oso Town Council representative, the next closest community, charged First Solar with “blatant lies and misinformation” and “decisions that are brokered before any attempt to get community input.”
As far as Oso is concerned, the email went on, “We do not want you to create an even bigger problem with bigger and longer shifts. Only when you come to our community with real interest and you start doing those things the community has asked for so many times, can you then ask for us to support you.”
The AVSR1 site “is a terrible eyesore,” the email concluded, asking yet again, as locals have many times before, that the landscaping be modified. “Come back after that and we can discuss things further.”
Local leaders have suggested publicly and privately that such feelings may have been at the root of vandalism committed the night of July 9-10, when an unidentified vandal caused an estimated $100,000 in damages to AVSR1 by cutting both a transmission line and a water pipe.