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County looks at moratorium for large energy projects

FAIRFIELD – Solano County could take a two-year timeout on allowing new large-scale commercial solar and wind energy projects in rural areas.

Several concerns have arisen about how the ongoing green energy revolution will affect Travis Air Force Base and agriculture. The county is preparing to launch studies to come up with new policies.

But those studies could take up to two years to complete. In the meantime, the county could simply forgo allowing construction of these big projects that sell energy to utilities.

An initial step would be having the Solano County Board of Supervisors pass a 45-day moratorium as an urgency measure, something that would require a four-fifths vote. That would buy time for the county to put together a two-year moratorium proposal that the board could consider Dec. 3.

Supervisors will discuss the 45-day moratorium when they meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the county Government Center, 675 Texas St.

The issue came up at the Oct. 7 Board of Supervisors meeting. A county report noted that turbines can affect Travis Air Force Base radar and that the Air Force is concerned about 300-foot-tall turbines being built in an area east of the base that it uses for assault landing strip training.

Also, base officials have expressed concern that glare from large groupings of solar panels could pose a problem for aviation.

Meanwhile, Gestamp Solar has proposed building a 14-megawatt solar farm a couple of miles north of Travis Air Force Base. Officials with Solagra have talked of building a 400-megawatt solar farm on Ryer Island about 15 miles east of Travis. EDC Renewable Energy has expressed interest in building wind turbines north of Highway 12 and a few miles east of Travis Air Force Base.

County Supervisor Jim Spering on Monday supported having a moratorium on the large, green energy projects while the county does its studies.

“We have to slow this stuff down,” Spering said. “We’re starting to get applications.”

The county is concerned about preserving the base’s ability to operate. It has a responsibility to preserve the base’s mission, he said.

“I think it’s important Solano County takes a leadership role in this,” Spering said.

Mark Tholke of EDF Renewable Energy disagreed at the Oct. 7 meeting that interim regulations are necessary. EDF Renewable Energy has put up dozens of wind turbines south of Highway 12 in the Montezuma Hills, but has yet to cross north of Highway 12 into the area near the assault landing zone.

“I want to convey that we’d like to continue to work with Travis,” Tholke said. “That’s the only way we could imagine a wind project north of Highway 12. I’m very clear about that. No wind project will be built on my watch without Travis’ agreement.”

Interim regulations are a blunt instrument, he said. EDF Renewable Energy hasn’t filed an application for a project and doesn’t presently plan to file an application, he said.

Supervisor Skip Thomson, while praising EDF Renewable Energy, pressed ahead with having the county Resource Management Department come up with interim regulations.

“It’s about process,” Thomson said. “I want to make sure we’re able to make decisions with all the information we need when it comes to any project, either your project or any other.”