Community Description and Overview
Inyo County spans a total area of 10,181 square miles, with 92% of the County’s total area managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Independence is the county seat. The 2010 U.S. Census estimated Inyo County’s population to be 18,546, with 1.8 people per square mile. Approximately 82% of the population was dispersed among its four most populous towns: Bishop (3,879), Lone Pine (2,035), Big Pine (1,756), and Independence (669).
Business activity in Inyo County has historically been, and continues to be, dominated by natural resource-related industries and sectors, including agriculture, mining, energy, and leisure. Today, Inyo County’s economy is driven predominantly by three economic segments: tourism, local spending, and mining. Mining has played an important role in Inyo County’s history, and commodities which are or have been mined include gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, borax salt, sulfur, and talc.
Southern California Edison (SCE) and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) provide power to the Inyo County communities.
Renewable Energy Factors
Inyo County’s geography allows for excellent renewable resource potential and its history illustrates a consistent interest in its development. Inyo County has superior opportunities for energy development. Wind, solar, and geothermal resources are present throughout the County, along with existing transmission facilities through the west side of the County. Elected officials and staff are open to opportunities to explore the County’s renewable resources and will continue to find ways to encourage its development.
The RDSBC Inyo County, CA Renewable Energy Resources map (right) shows solar resources for Concentrating Solar Power (CPS) and tilted Photovoltaic (PV), favorability for Geothermal Potential, annual average Wind Resource at 50-meter height above ground surface, Great Basin Pinyon-Juniper Woodland as a Biomass energy source, and transmission lines and substations for capacities 230 kV or greater. CLICK here or on the map image to view or download the 34″ x 44″ PDF version of the map. Please note: the file is large and may take a while to display.
Geothermal: Inyo County tapped into its geothermal resources in 1987 when the Coso Geothermal field was built. It consists of four power plants that have produced up to 273 megawatt (MW) of electricity. The BLM is assessing potential impact of amending the California Desert Conservation Area boundary to support additional geothermal exploration and development in the Haiwee Geothermal Leasing Area, increasing the potential for geothermal development in the County.
Solar: Solar energy potential in Inyo County is amongst the highest in the nation. Because the County is in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada, on average, there are approximately 300 sunny days per year. The wide flat valleys provide excellent locations for solar power generation facilities with limited shadows from the mountains. There are several solar energy projects currently in various stages of exploration and development within Inyo County, including:
- Inyo County’s rooftop solar project for county buildings.
- LADWP exploration of feasibility for solar development on Owens Lake.
- LADWP Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch Project (this project is intended to help LADWP meet their RPS goals).
- BrightSource Energy’s Hidden Hills Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Project.
- Death Valley National Park installed PV for use at all the park’s facilities and was in the process of connecting to California’s electric grid.
- Xanterra’s Furnace Creek Resort located in Death Valley installed a PV system that provides electricity for all of its facilities, including the historic Inn at Furnace Creek, the Ranch at Furnace Creek, Furnace Creek Golf Course, employee offices and housing.
Wind: Inyo County has many areas with wind resource potential suitable for wind turbines. These areas are generally associated with the County’s larger mountain ranges, particularly in eastern Inyo County along the western edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Wind resource areas are also identified along the White Mountains, Inyo Mountains, Grapevine Mountains and Panamint Mountains. The Little Lake South Wind Project was granted a permit in 2010 to place three meteorological towers for the purpose of assessing wind resources near the Pearonville area.
Transmission: SCE and LADWP each own and operate a transmission line which runs north-south along U.S Highway 395. SCE’s transmission line consists of 100 to 161 kV cables, and heads east at Bishop continuing towards southern Esmeralda County. The LADWP transmission line, also known as the Pacific DC Intertie, is a 500 kilovolt (kV) direct current (DC) line and continues to head north past Bishop, through Mono County, California, and into Mineral County, Nevada.
Inyo County Utility Table
A PDF version of a table summarizing Inyo County Load Service Utility Information for the two load serving utilities in Inyo County: Southern California Edison and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
RDSBC Brownfields Properties
Inyo County has two assessed Brownfield Properties:
PPG Industries Bartlett Plant (029-100-63)
The site consists of 100 acres of predominantly vacant land. The site is located on the west bank of the Owens Dry Lake, approximately ten miles south of Lone Pine, California. Originally, the site was used by PPG Industries Bartlett Plant (PPG) as a salt extraction facility until it ceased operation in 1958. Salts were extracted from water collected in Owens Lake and processed to form soda ash.
EPA records list the PPG site as a Superfund site; however, Preliminary Assessments stated the PPG site did not qualify for Superfund status under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The site includes facilities from the former PPG salt extraction facility. Redevelopment ideas for the PPG Plant site include a renewable energy project as well as a manufacturing facility.
Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery (022-070-06)
The 40 acre site was purchased by the citizens of Inyo County in 1915 and donated to the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) for the construction of the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery, which was completed in 1917. The site was scheduled for closure on June 30, 1996. However, due to local and statewide opposition, the CDFG recognized the need to preserve the hatchery. The Hatchery is no longer maintained by the CDFG and is under the stewardship of the Friends of Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery. The site consists of the primary structure, nine small residences, and six commercial buildings.
The redevelopment vision for the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery is to preserve the historical significance of the hatchery facility and its place in the history of Inyo County and California and make the site a community event center for Owens Valley. Redevelopment goals also include use of the site for seasonal housing as well as commercial facilities. A goal is to provide the public with an interpretation of the historical significance of the hatchery, knowledge of the hatchery’s function and an understanding of the property’s distinctive natural resources.