A solar array under construction at the local headquarters of oil field services giant Halliburton Co. is the latest sign of conventional and renewable energy coming together in Kern.
County officials say the 1.6-megawatt photovoltaic installation going up at the northwest corner of 7th Standard and Coffee roads in Oildale is intended to generate power to support the facility's operations.
The project is in some ways symbolic of the oil industry's growing interest in solar energy, which on some levels competes with petroleum but in other ways offers complementary technologies.
Conventional and renewable power have long coexisted in Kern, which leads the state in production of both forms of energy. While vast oil fields dominate the landscape of the county's western reaches, massive solar arrays and wind farms in eastern Kern continue to attract large investments.
Details on the Halliburton project were scarce. A local manager did not respond to a request for comment over a period of more than a week and a spokeswoman for the Houston-based company was unable late this week to provide any information about the solar installation.
The project's construction — it appeared to be about halfway built by Thursday — has come as the most ambitious oil-related solar installation in Kern County appears to have hit a stumbling block.
The 770-acre Belridge Solar Project, first announced in 2017, was supposed to use heat from sunlight to turn water into steam for use in oil production.
But the company that came up with the technology, Fremont-based GlassPoint Solar Inc., ran into financial problems. It informed investors one year ago that the project's initial phase had been scaled back as the company looked for financing to begin construction, which was originally proposed to begin in early 2019.
That change apparently was not enough. Fremont's local partner on the proposal, Bakersfield-based oil producer Aera Energy LLC, said by email Friday the Belridge project is not moving forward as originally proposed.
Despite Aera's investment of millions of dollars and countless hours of work during the last two years, it said, GlassPoint had been unable to secure the money necessary to develop the project.
Aera said it continues to see strong potential in the technology and that it is working aggressively to develop "innovative carbon reduction projects in support of California’s ambitious climate targets, including the use of renewable energy projects to support oil extraction, where it makes sense."
The company stated it looks to state government to provide regulatory certainty and market-based solutions to provide a higher degree of certainty necessary for such large investments.
"Innovation and renewable projects are capital intense and have a long term payout period," it added, "but we believe they can be a winning path forward to reducing emissions and improving air quality, while also delivering broader economic benefits to the people who live and work in California."