In a move that illustrates changing priorities in a resource-poor world, Los Angeles officials have decided to scrap plans for an intercontinental airport and replace it with a 100-megawatt solar plant.
If the project is given the go-ahead, the solar plant will use 4,000 acres of airport property in Palmdale, which is near the Angeles National Forest in eastern Los Angeles. The plant could provide up to 8,000 new jobs and drastically reduce L.A.’s reliance on coal power.
L.A. officials have already begun discussions with solar companies about the property, but the FAA still has to assess whether or not the land is needed for aviation. Once this hurdle is cleared, the project could be approved within three years. (Palmdale has proven solar capacity: Bolthouse Farms, growers of organic fruits, veggies, and juice, has a solar power system that provides 80% of its energy needs).
The 17,750 acre Palmdale property was originally bought in the 1970s for an airport that could accomodate 100 million passengers per year and house supersonic jets. Now the supersonic planes are out of service, the airlines are going bankrupt, and travel is down. At the same time, a proposition on LA’s March 3 ballot could require the city to produce 400 megawatts of solar energy by 2014. What better way to move closer to that goal than with a solar farm on airport land?