Northrop Grumman's bid to delay Antelope Valley solar project is rebuffed

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors denied a request from Northrop Grumman Corp. to delay final approval of a major solar project in the Antelope Valley near the military contractor's facility for testing radar-evading stealth aircraft.

On a voice vote, supervisors rejected Northrop's appeal Tuesday, opting to let plans for the 2,100-acre complex of photovoltaic solar panels proceed. Final approval is expected Dec. 7.

The company argued that the project would "adversely impact the military mission" of the sensitive, 1970s-era testing center, just south of the Tehachapi Mountains in Kern County.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents the high desert area that hopes to host a dozen wind and solar energy farms, didn't buy Northrop's national defense argument.

Antonovich cited an e-mail from the Pentagon that described the dispute as "a private matter between public parties and Los Angeles County in which the Department of Defense has no position."

Antonovich noted that the project, AV Solar Ranch One, already has received a conditional-use permit from the county regional planning commission.

The renewable energy developer, First Solar Inc. of Tempe, Ariz., has solid backing from area business, civic and government leaders, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and the mayors of Lancaster and Palmdale.

The 230-megawatt project would provide 400 construction jobs in an economically depressed part of the county, said Frank De Rosa, a senior vice president. Once completed in 2013, it would generate enough electricity to power 75,000 homes.

A solar energy generating plant is "the highest and best use for this particular property," said Mel Layne, president of the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance.

marc.lifsher@latimes.com

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