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Solano County may put hold on wind, solar projects

Today, the Solano County Board of Supervisors will consider imposing a 45-day moratorium on any commercial renewable-energy facility in unincorporated Solano County.

The county continues to watch the growing trend in wind and solar energy development which, according to a staff report, needs to be further evaluated in the context of the county’s General Plan and related regulations.

Among the General Plan’s priorities are to protect Travis Air Force Base and its mission, as well as the county’s valuable agricultural lands.

Expanding wind turbines north of Highway 12, according to staff in a report to the board, could have significant ramifications on the Air Force base’s radar operations. There are also concerns about turbine height relative to the base’s new C-17 assault landing zone.

The assault landing zone is a short, unpaved runway where planes practice landing in combat situations.

There are potential wind energy projects near Travis and in the hills west of Interstate 680, according to staff, and an application has been filed for a solar project just south of Cypress Lakes Golf Course. Staff added that an even larger solar project, more than 1,000 acres, on Ryer Island is also a possibility.

“Such projects could have impacts on Travis AFB in terms of glint, glare and radar operations,” staff said. “In addition, commercial-scale solar could have serious ramifications on the county’s long-standing agricultural preservation policies, given the acreage for such projects.”

The report recommends the board adopt an urgency ordinance to preclude “the approval of commercial-scale wind and solar projects … while plans and ordinances are studied and formulated.”

The initial moratorium would be in effect for 45 days, while an extension of up to two years would require further public notice and hearing.

Other options, the report said, include dealing with projects on a case-by case basis, taking no action and coming back when there are significant projects up for consideration, or looking to the Airport Land Use Commission for interim measures.

“A moratorium provides a window of opportunity to focus on completing plan and ordinance updates, without having to spend significant time on bringing projects filed to hearing for entitlement action and avoids the risks of approving a project that ultimately is in conflict with plan updates,” staff said. “This approach is well grounded in state law and was designed specifically for these types of evolving circumstances.”

The Solano County Board of Supervisors meets at 9 a.m. in the County Government Center, 675 Texas St., Fairfield.