SCE's Kernville Star Lights the Way During the Holidays

Decades-old community landmark preserves tradition while embracing an energy-efficient future.
Dec 28, 2022 10:30 AM ET

Energized by Edison

By Gabriela Ornelas ENERGIZED by Edison Writer

Few things are more symbolic of the holidays than the smell of fresh pine trees, the sounds of bells jingling or elaborate displays of colored string lights. For nearly half a century, however, the mountain community of Kernville has had its own unique guiding light to kick off the season.

“I can't remember a time during my adult life when the star wasn't lit up during the holidays,” said Derrick Tito, a Southern California Edison foreman and hydrographer. “The star is pretty special for the community, and if it isn't lit up by the beginning of December, we are sure to hear about it from residents.”

For decades, SCE’s Western Operations Generation team has looked forward to a special annual task: electrifying the 20-foot star at the Kern River No. 3 Hydroelectric Project- Opens in new window. Situated at the peak of the project’s forebay and two penstocks, the star overlooks the town of Kernville and several miles into the Sequoia National Forest. No matter how busy they are, crews prioritize making the trek up the hill to flip the switch, so the star lights up the sky from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1, every night from dusk to dawn.

“It’s very important to our team to make sure the star is lit year after year after year. It’s tradition,” said Dan Keverline, SCE senior manager of Southwest Generation. “When we’re coming to work, it’s dark. When we’re going home, it’s dark. We see the star fully lit two times a day, and we enjoy looking at it just as much as the community does.”

“I would see the star every evening on my daily commute back home from working up in the forest,” said Elizabeth Mendia, office coordinator at the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce. “The star, to me, meant that soon, I would be warm and safe in my home, having just driven many miles along dark and sometimes icy mountain roads.”

The star was initially created by one of SCE's earliest-generation mechanical crews- Opens in new window, which pieced together plastic pipes and Edison screw lightbulbs into the five-point shape. Responsibility over the star has since been passed down from crew to crew, with each team adding its own enhancements and sparkle. Crews most recently rebuilt it to replace the screw-in bulbs with energy-efficient LED string lights, which require little maintenance and will help ensure the star continues to shine brightly for holidays to come.

While the years have seen the star undergo changes, what has not changed is the Generation team's pride and dedication- Opens in new window to providing the community they call home with one of its most beloved traditions.

“Many of our local employees are involved in some sort of community effort, whether it’s helping coach sports teams or volunteering for other groups. We enjoy being a part of our community, and this star is just one small thing our hydroelectric projects can contribute to the Kern River Valley,” Keverline said.

For one shining month, Kernville residents and visitors can look up to the northeast and spot the star at the top of a hill, knowing that behind the rays of light is a team effort to bring a little more cheer to their holiday celebrations.

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