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Airport commission to seek developer for Palmdale solar plant

Airport commission to seek developer for Palmdale solar plant
By Art Marroquin Staff Writer
Posted: 11/16/2009 06:39:11 PM PST


The Los Angeles airport commission on Monday agreed to seek a developer to build the Western Hemisphere's largest solar energy plant on 17,500 acres of vacant city-owned property surrounding Palmdale Regional Airport.

The commission awarded a three-year, $700,000 contract with the Chicago-based real estate firm Jones Lang Lasalle to assist in the search with Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that operates Los Angeles International and Palmdale airports.

The developer would be charged with building the massive $3 billion renewable energy plant as soon as 2012, generating 1,000 to 2,200 megawatts of electricity, LAWA officials said.

In turn, the airport agency stands to make up to $300 million over 30 years.

"We hope to get a lot of interest and competitive proposals for this project," said Gina Marie Lindsey, LAWA's executive director.

"I think it's a tremendous opportunity for us and for the city of Palmdale." she said. "The resulting development will provide a great deal of job opportunities for construction and operating the plant, while also helping to meet the renewable resource goals set by the mayor and the governor."

The city of Los Angeles used eminent domain to take control of the massive high desert land holding about 40 years ago with the intention of building a large-scale airport.

For several decades, Palmdale airport was considered a critical element in LAWA's regional plan to shift

air traffic from LAX to other Southern California facilities, but the plan never took off.

Several carriers had offered short-lived service to regional destinations from Palmdale, the most recent of which was United Airlines. Last December, the carrier dropped two daily round-trip flights between Palmdale and San Francisco.

But LAWA officials still need to clear several hurdles before the solar energy plant can move ahead.

Federal regulations require that land purchased for an airport must be used for aeronautical purposes, so LAWA must gain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Additionally, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said he opposed the proposed project, saying that the property taken by LAWA should be returned to the county.

"That land was taken by eminent domain for an airport and the city has failed to make good on that promise to the people of the Antelope Valley and anyone in the county who would be served by an airport there," said Tony Bell, a spokesman for Antonovich, whose district includes Palmdale.

"The idea is to create incentives for air service and for airlines to serve that community, and we should do everything we can to attract, rather than discourage, airlines that want to operate there," Bell said.

"We will aggressively move to stop this renewable energy project."

art.marroquin@dailybreeze.com

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