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Solar Power Project Could Double as Dust Controller

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The Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power is developing a plan to turn the dusty dry lake bed of Owens Valley, Calif., into an 80-sq-mi, 5-GW solar park. The sea of photovoltaic cells could serve a double purpose, also helping the agency’s efforts to mitigate dust and alkalinity problems. Since 2000, DWP has spent more than $500 million trying to comply with federal clean-air standards to calm the dust from the dry lake bed, which is stirred by local wind conditions that can reach up to 60 mph. Some think the low, densely spaced solar panels could act as a wind barrier, decreasing wind and dust. To determine whether a solar array can double as a wind-calming tool, the DWP board approved last December a 320-acre, 50-MW solar demonstration and information-collection study.

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