MOHAVE COUNTY – Overwhelming opposition was sometimes fiercely expressed during a raucous public hearing before the Mohave County Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend that the Board of Supervisors deny overlay zoning requested for a renewable energy project about 19 miles north of Kingman.
Chairman LaJuanna Gillette repeatedly pounded her gavel and admonished the crowd against clapping and jeering as she struggled to maintain control of Wednesday’s Commission meeting in downtown Kingman. Gillette again shouted at the audience to end its applause after the Commission approved her motion to recommend that the request be rejected.
Speakers from various Mohave County communities and beyond railed against the project that would employ solar and hydrogen energy production over some 12,000 privately owned acres. They expressed concerns about water consumption, degradation of the desert, property devaluation and public safety worries associated with hydrogen production.
Derek Fromm told Commissioners he applied for necessary zoning for the project that he said solely aims to generate electricity for the Hualapai Valley Farm that currently burns diesel fuel to generate power. And he said hydrogen generated power would be stored in cells for use when the project’s solar farm can’t operate when the sun goes down.
Several speakers, however, implied the power would instead be developed for future sale to utility companies. And several questioned the wisdom and safety of storing hydrogen underground.
John Tolten told Commissioners he was hired to find a way to deliver power to the farm. Tolten said many critics were confusing the Hualapai Valley Farm endeavor with other energy projects, including another hydrogen production endeavor planned to the north at Red Lake.
Commission Vice Chairman John Hassett strongly advised Tolten and Fromm that a town hall to better educate the public may eliminate some of the misinformation and confusion hovering over their project.
While the Commission is recommending rejection, the zoning request is expected to be decided by Mohave County Supervisors at their regular board meeting Oct. 2.