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Supervisors split on renewable energy study

In a rare show of disagreement, San Diego County supervisors split 3-2 Wednesday on whether to order a study outlining options for a comprehensive renewable energy plan.

East County Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s call for the study was opposed by North County Supervisors Bill Horn and Dave Roberts, who said the effort could slow down solar and wind projects already in the pipeline.

But Jacob’s request was backed by Supervisors Ron Roberts and Greg Cox, both of whom said they were lending “nervous” support but stressed they did not want to see roadblocks placed in the way of renewable efforts.

“We need a plan that contains options of where to put these projects,” Jacob said of her reasons for requesting the study. “I believe it gives industry and communities a clear picture on where these projects are most suited.”

Industry representatives disagreed.

Theresa Andrews with the business-fostering group CONNECT said existing ordinances on solar and wind projects siting were sufficient.

“Adopting an additional renewable energy plan would inevitably slow down projects,” she said.

Jason Anderson from the 120-member group CleanTECH San Diego echoed that sentiment.

“We think that the concerns of small groups that oppose these projects have been met and this would slow down permitting projects, which is exactly what some constituents in East County want,” he said.

Horn said he believes property owners have the right to place wind and solar projects on their land and that a study wasn’t needed.

“I just don’t want to see anything stalled,” he said. “If San Diego County can’t support wind and solar, I don’t know what county can.”

Supervisor Dave Roberts, whose district includes solar energy firms, said he too feared ulterior motives were at work.

“I’m a lifelong member of the Sierra Club, but sometimes things aren’t as they appear,” he said.

Jacobs’ request to attach a revised wind energy ordinance that makes it easier to site small wind turbines to the study was rejected. The revamped wind ordinance for unincorporated areas of the county comes before supervisors on May 8.