The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors Nov. 23 brushed aside an appeal of the county\u2019s approval of a 230 MW photovoltaic power plant in the high desert. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. appealed, claiming construction of the plant could require it to shut down a nearby defense testing facility \u201cThis project will adversely affect our military mission,\u201d Northrop Grumman engineering director Leonard Figueroa told the supervisors. The board was unimpressed. It acted after supervisor Mike Antonovich called North-rop Grumman\u2019s appeal \u201cunprofessional.\u201d He pointed out that it did not raise any objections during the two years of public notices, meetings, and extensive local press coverage concerning the project. Instead, the defense contractor waited until after the county\u2019s Regional Planning Commission approved the solar plant to voice opposition. Antonovich said the company acted similarly when it recently appealed a solar project slated for nearby Kern County. There, the Kern County Board of Supervisors turned down the appeal November 9. Northrup Grumman also objected to a 250 MW wind project by enXco in Kern County. It said the wind project would interfere with its testing of stealth jets. The project was scaled back to 140 MW and allowed to go forward under a settlement between enXco and Northrup, said Mark Tholte, enXco director for the Southwest region. Construction is slated to begin next month. In Los Angeles County, the board called for its staff to prepare the \u201cnecessary findings and conditions\u201d needed to grant final approval for the project by First Solar at its Dec. 7 meeting. Northrop Grumman representatives claimed they only learned about the First Solar project after the commission approved it and that they quickly filed an appeal. Company attorney Jack Rubens said the defense company is not trying to prevent solar projects in the area, but simply to slow approvals long enough for it to work out its technical concerns with developers in a way that allows continued use of the test range. The supervisors acted amid warnings that the defense contractor could pull 15,000 jobs out of Los Angeles County if it can no longer use the test facility to develop stealth aircraft like the B-2 bomber for the military. Northrop Grumman earlier this year announced it was relocating its corporate headquarters, moving it from Los Angeles County to the suburbs of Virginia just outside Washington, DC, and near the Pentagon. Northrop Grumman uses the area to test stealth planes by beaming radar at them as they fly. In the tests, explained Figueroa, the company looks to see the degree to which radar signals bounce back from the aircraft in an effort to determine if they are truly stealthy. The problem, he continued, is that unlike the ground, which does not bounce back radar signals, the solar panels reflect the radar so much that they are like \u201cstadium lights.\u201d This makes it impossible to distinguish whether the aircraft themselves are bouncing back radar or are stealthy enough to avoid detection. Without the ability to conduct such radar tests, Figueroa said, the company would not be able to develop \u201cthe next generation of stealth technologies\u201d for the military. The Department of Defense is neutral regarding the project, countered Antonovich. Northrop Grumman filed a 1,000-page justification for its appeal late last week. Yet even that extensive filing does not fully outline the technical issues involved because that would breach national security, according to Figueroa. First Solar\u2019s project, slated for the Antelope Valley near the Kern County border, would cover some 2,100 acres of land formerly used for farming. It would provide 400 construction jobs and some $50 million of tax revenue during its useful lifetime, according to Frank De Rosa, First Solar senior vice president. He called the project crucial to the company\u2019s future, adding that First Solar is depending upon final approval this year in order to qualify for a 30 percent federal cash grant under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and a variety of business groups and nearby cities support the project. \u201cWe believe this is the highest and best use for this piece of property,\u201d said Melvin Lane, Antelope Valley Economic Alliance president. He said the land can no longer be farmed due to water shortages and that the economic downturn--which has caused 17 percent unemployment in the exurb of Los Angeles--precludes building homes. First Solar has a power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric. The project, when it is built, will tie into Southern California Edison\u2019s Whirlwind substation, which is to be built a couple miles away. Last month, Northrop Grumman lost an appeal of the Rosamond Solar Project in Kern County, which it filed on similar grounds. The Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected the appeal. Sempra Energy is developing the 100 MW Rosamond Solar Project, which would sit on 960 acres of old farmland in the high desert on the Kern County side of the border with Los Angeles County. Other solar projects in the area are in the planning stage, according to Northrop Grumman, which ultimately could appeal them all in court or relocate its test facility.