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Our View: Sterling Solar program closer to reality than any previous plans

April 6, 2019 GMT

At one time, nearby Sterling was to become home to tens of thousands of people. More than 20 years ago, the subdivision by that name won county approval to build up to 50,000 homes, multiple schools, golf courses, fire stations and the other components of a city.

It was to be a grand development on a promising, convenient and sprawling 6,000 acres northwest of the State Route 95 and Interstate 10 intersection, the place where SR95 dead ends.

Sterling never took root. Later plans called for the extension of SR95 though the area, providing a faster route between Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City.

The road did happen either.

By 2008, plans for the area shifted to solar development. A locally run group pushed the project almost to development.

One constant during all that planning was the Desert Tortoise, a protected species that helped halt development of the area. There’s little consensus on how many live in the area, but there are at least some. That’s enough, apparently.

Today, things appear brighter for those favoring development of that large area. Two out of state companies announced last week they would begin development of a solar farm on the Sterling Solar site.

Plans call for a solar farm producing some 1,000 megawatts backed by a large scale, 765 megawatt-hour battery storage facility. The first part of the project will access the work from the Golden Shores area.

Though no employment specifics were released, earlier plans called for about 3,000 jobs to be created during multi-year construction and several hundred to remain long term. We’re not tortoise experts, but it seems like the shady solar panels might be a good fit for any ground-hugging animal seeking to get by on that treeless, open section of desert.

Of the various visions for the Sterling land, this one seems closest to amounting to anything. When completed, the solar facility would be among the largest in the state, so it’s a significant development.

Because it will produce both clean energy and lots of jobs, the Sterling Solar project is a big, welcome deal. A major plus for the project is that it finds use for an area of land long eyed for development but never actually developed.

Yet it’s not a done deal. Project owners said the work is to begin in late 2020.

In the timeline of planned Sterling projects, another year and a half is almost no time at all.

— Today’s News-Herald