Victor Valley Thrives on Sustainable Resource Stewardship

Victor Valley is making the most of its natural resources for a sustainable future.

Gary Wollenhaupt
On Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 14:57
Victorville, CA Solar Energy

As the sun beats down on the roof of the Walmart Distribution Center in Apple Valley, the photovoltaic panels turn light into electricity. The solar power project is the retailer's largest, one of the many examples of companies in the Victor Valley tapping into natural resources to boost sustainability as well as their businesses.

The High Desert region receives more than 300 days of sunshine per year, making it a perfect spot for solar power. But local companies are also harnessing wind energy and conserving the local water supply for long-term sustainability.

Renewable Resources

Walmart's Apple Valley Distribution Center solar project uses more than 5,300 ground-mounted solar panels that cover a nearly seven-acre field and supply 1 megawatt (MW) of electricity – the equivalent of powering 175 homes.

“Walmart has company-wide sustainability goals, one of which is being supplied 100 percent by renewable energy," says spokesperson Rachel Wall. "We have made significant strides toward accomplishing this goal by outfitting nearly 120 of our California stores with rooftop solar, including the Apple Valley Distribution Center and eight other stores in San Bernardino County. Wal-Mart’s solar efforts in California are expected to generate up to 70 million kilowatt hours of clean, renewable energy per year – enough to power more than 5,400 homes.”

Another solar project in Newberry Springs, the largest of its kind in the state, generates 1.5 MW of AC power from 12 large concentrator photovoltaic panels that cover 27 acres. Using tracking technology to follow the sun, the panels feed power into the distribution network for Southern California Edison, providing 500 homes with renewable energy.

Additional solar projects are generating power in Adelanto and Victorville. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's Adelanto Solar Project will generate 10 MW in the Mojave Desert. The project, built on a 42-acre site at the Adelanto Switching Station, will generate electricity to meet the needs of 3,300 homes a year for up to 25 years.

The Victorville power plant is a unique hybrid of natural gas and solar parabolic mirror technology that supports the state of California's goal of increasing the percentage of renewable energy. The project incorporates natural gas-fired generating capacity as well as a solar steam turbine system to generate electrical output of 570 MW.

Three more solar power projects are planned for the Apple Valley area, after the town's development code was changed to allow solar farms to operate in more areas.

Other regional businesses are taking sustainability seriously.

Cement giant CEMEX USA commissioned four wind turbines to power its cement plant and quarry in Victorville. The turbines generate 6.2 MW in what is the second wind turbine installation at a CEMEX facility. The power from the wind turbines would power 1,500 households and will produce about 6 percent of the facility's energy consumption.

"Wind power reduces the carbon footprint of our operations and stabilizes our power costs in a highly volatile energy market," says Kevin Kelley, vice president of process technology and sustainability for CEMEX.

Victor Valley College built a solar power plant using a concentrator photovoltaic system that generates 1 MW to power campus facilities. The micro-generating system is connected to the utility grid and produces about 30 percent of the college's electricity demands. The college is developing a curriculum around this innovative solar technology, including installation, operations and maintenance.

Conserving for the Future

The Mojave Water Agency launched the Regional Recharge and Recovery (R3) project to sustainably manage the water supply for the Victor Valley region. This project delivers State Water Project water from the California Aqueduct in Hesperia to recharge sites along the Mojave River in Hesperia and southern Apple Valley.

It's an example of conjunctive use, or the coordinated use of surface water and groundwater supplies to conserve and distribute water resources. The $53 million project features recharge sites along the Mojave River, production wells, and pipeline for delivery. These efforts help protect local groundwater basins and provide water for the region in dry seasons.

Phase 1 of the project is complete with the capacity to deliver 15,000 acre-feet per year for local use, and Phase II, set for completion in 2015, will offer an additional 40,000 acre-feet per year.

"The project was designed around the needs of a coalition of diverse stakeholders, and they wanted a comprehensive water supply project that would provide a drought-proof and sustainable water supply to the entire Victor Valley region," says Kirby Brill, general manager. "This project is a shining example of the growing spirit of collaboration in our region."


Gary Wollenhaupt is a freelance writer covering economic development, travel, technology and green home building.