Another step toward green energy component to general plan

November 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Last week in the midst of continued controversy, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors took another step toward resolving current issues related to commercial solar projects within the county.
At its November 19 board meeting, the supervisors approved an agreement with Pacific Municipal Consultants to prepare a renewable energy and conservation element for the countys general plan.
The action was the culmination of a series of events that began with a decision by the board in June to place a 45 day moratorium on commercial solar projects. At the time, according to board officials, it was a way to protect rural neighborhoods in unincorporated communities from what it defined as industrial-scale solar projects. Some activists claimed that such projects would hurt property values and may cause so- called reflective light that they claim is intrusive.
The boards decision only halted solar projects that were not yet approved. Solar projects that were already accepted and the approval process completed were not impacted by the temporary moratorium. At the time, board officials also expressed their intent to use the time granted by the moratorium to include a renewable emergency component in this years general plan revision.
In late June, the countys Land Use Services Department (LUS) received a grant from the California Energy Commission to develop a solar energy component for the countys general plan. The effort was to also include the necessary associated development code amendments.
In late July, the board voted to extend the temporary moratorium from 45 days to one year. Officials explained that they not only needed time to improve the planning process for commercial solar projects, but also to develop standards in the countys development code that will help ensure that such projects are compatible with existing land uses.
On September 25, LUS released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) designed to solicit proposals from qualified respondents to prepare the necessary revisions to the countys general plan.
Pacific Municipal Consultants (PMC) was selected as the top candidate to receive the contract. The LUS recommendation was partly based on the fact that PMC received the highest cumulative score from the technical review, reference checks, and interview. Also, according to information provided to the board by Land Use Services Department Director, Tom Hudson, while price was not a consideration in the evaluation process, expertise in general and strategic planning, the approach to community outreach, including interactive and online planning, and superior knowledge in the area of renewable energy were considered in the evaluation.
PMC is a privately held company located in Rancho Cardova. The company provides environmental conservation and consulting services. Its new contract with the county is for a period of 15 months. It extends to February 16, 2015, for an amount not to exceed $566,000.
In June, The Alpenhorn News reported that during 2011 the federal government released its Solar Energy Development Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. The document addressed industrial solar development on up to twenty million acres of public lands across six western states, including but not limited to 24 designated Solar Energy Zones (SEZs). Within these zones, solar projects are encouraged.
California was initially home to four of those proposed SEZs. And, San Bernardino County, because of its size and vast desert area, is one of the best positioned counties in the nation to become a leader in this technology.
However, the countys potential in this area has fostered an interesting conflict. San Bernardino County is represented by a good number of Republicans who are reluctant to embrace the nations push for green energy as many of them may have tangential links to political, financial resources tied to the infamous energy titansthe Koch brothers who lobby against green energy options at every turn.
Although the local growth of a green-energy-industry has potential to bring much needed jobs to the area, many wonder whether the politics of San Bernardino County will take precedence over the future of its citizens. Certainly, only time will tell whether local politicians will use careful manipulation to control/limit/restrict growth in the realm of solar industry that is in alignment with their partys philosophy or whether they will put the will of local citizens and the protection of the environment first.
The Alpenhorn News will continue to follow this story.

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