Renewable energy proponents have gained a tremendous amount of clout in Sacramento in 2011, as illustrated by new laws that:
1. Provide incentives for solar developers to site projects on impaired farmland that are no longer suitable for agriculture because they are contaminated or nonproductive.
2. Allow wind developers to obtain incidental takings of endangered species authorization if a conservation plan is approved and is being implemented.
3. Allow solar or wind farms to be exempt from water consumption analysis if it requires no more than 75 acre-feet of water a year.
4. Reduce the permitting time for solar projects that choose to convert solar thermal to photovoltaic systems or are in urban infill lands.
5. Include all small-scale renewable energy projects in the state’s net metering program by broadening the law beyond solar, wind and fuel cells to include biogas and biomass such as agricultural waste products like wine pumice and nut shells.
This may create political and legal conflicts over viewsheds, endangered species, sensitive habitats, the highest and best use of certain lands, and the cost of water – particularly for our local farmers who provide a basic commodity of life.
Steven B. Quintanilla is an attorney with a private law practice in Rancho Mirage.
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