VICTORVILLE – Proponents say an ambitious government plan will streamline renewable energy development while protecting wildlife and natural resources. But some locals say it’s a land grab that threatens to carpet the California desert with wind turbines and solar panels.
The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is a state, federal and multi-agency effort to target some areas of the desert for renewable energy development. The proposed development areas are still being drawn up, with desert residents and project developers angling to have a hand in the process.
“We’re not proposing any specific utility-scale projects – we’re not stating the demand,” said Chris Beale, assistant director for the DRECP. “What we’re doing is trying to create incentives for developers to steer their projects to various areas that avoid serious environmental conflicts.”
But Johnson Valley resident Betty Munson says the plan threatens “over 22 million acres of desert – from the Mexican border all the way up to Inyo County.”
Munson proposed an alternative: Limiting solar projects to areas already developed to prevent further industrialization of the High Desert.
“We can build solar generation on rooftops, parking structures, warehouses, commercial buildings already built or in the works,” Munson wrote in an email. “We do not have to scrape the desert bare or live with 40-story-high wind turbines night and day killing birds and bats so indispensable to the California economy.”
Beale’s response to Munson was, “We have heard that suggestion loud and clear, but the state’s view is that we need both.”
Chuck Bell, president of the Lucerne Valley Economic Development Association, claims the plan’s “Development Focus Areas” clash with both Lucerne Valley’s Community Plan and San Bernardino County’s General Plan.
“These create an adverse impact on the area’s current and future land uses, potentially eliminating real economic progress,” Bell said.
According to Beale, if a project proposal conflicts with county land use policy, that project isn’t going to be approved by the county.
“What we’re trying to do is work with each of the counties, including San Bernardino County, and asking them whether our Development Focus Areas are consistent with local land use policy,” he said.
Beale said the agency is working on preparing a draft plan for public review that is expected to be available by the end of the year. After a review period for public comments and input, the agency will prepare a final version of the plan in 2014.
A community discussion on the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan will be hosted by the Lucerne Valley Economic Development Association at 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 7 at the Senior Center, located at 10431 Allen Way in Lucerne Valley.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding