The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors today approved an agreement to receive significant funding for fire protection from the company that is building the first large solar energy project in the County’s Mojave Desert in more than 20 years.

“The Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County is the center of the new gold rush for renewable energy,” said First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who represents much of the Mojave Desert. “However, these projects will require county services, including fire protection, and I have pushed to see that these developments pay their fair share. This agreement will serve as a template for other large solar energy projects now in the pipeline.”

BrightSource Energy is currently building the 370-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System on 3,471 acres of land owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in San Bernardino County off Interstate 15, 4.5 miles southwest of Primm, Nevada.

Supervisor Mitzelfelt supports renewable energy but has raised concerns about the numerous proposed large projects in the desert over which the county has no jurisdiction. Solar thermal projects are processed by the BLM and the California Energy Commission when located on BLM land. One of his concerns was that solar energy plants, which are major industrial projects in remote locations, would require emergency services but it was unclear that revenue from the projects would cover those costs.

The agreement worked out with BrightSource Energy calls for the company to provide a one-time payment of $409,000 for capital costs and an annual payment of $377,000 to support ongoing operations. Any property tax or possessory interest tax collected from the project may be used to offset up to 50 percent of the initial capital payment and up to 60 percent of the annual payment.

“San Bernardino County has been a leader in working to ensure that these projects provide benefits to the local residents and local government, and I would like to thank the hard work of county staff in negotiating this deal,” said Supervisor Mitzelfelt. “I would also like to thank the California Energy Commission for being so receptive to our concerns and BrightSource for negotiating in good faith.”

These contributions are based on a fiscal impact analysis the County commissioned that analyzed the risk associated with the various solar technologies and the share of funding that solar projects should pay for fire and emergency services.