Future wind and solar developments have have been put on hold in the unincorporated areas of Solano County.
Tuesday, the Solano County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a 45-day moratorium on wind and solar projects in the unincorporated areas of the county in order to do more research and planning on potential impacts to operations at Travis Air Force Base and agriculture in the area.
They also scheduled a public hearing for Dec. 3 to consider an extension of the moratorium. The county can extend the moratorium for up to two years.
At issue is a new Assault Landing Zone at Travis Air Force Base where pilots train to land on short, unpaved runways for combat situations.
There are concerns about turbine height in wind farms relative to the base’s new landing zone. Additionally, there are concerns with glint, glare and radar operations when it comes to solar development near the base.
Director of Resource Management Bill Emlen said there are times when several priorities converge. In this case it’s the county’s priorities to protect Travis’ mission, agricultural land and investment in renewable energy.
“We need to look at the options we have,” he said and added that the county realizes the significance of a moratorium, but that it’s needed to better prepare for future applications for such development.
Supervisor Jim Spering, who also serves on the Regional Airport Planning Committee, said the No.1 issue the committee faces is encroachment, and it being incremental.
“We ought to be talking about a clear zone where nothing is added,” he said during Tuesday’s meeting. “We ought to be talking how to preserve this area and it should be extreme. … Take a look at the extreme approach. Amend the general plan and keep that area clear.”
Supervisors Skip Thomson and John Vasquez agreed.
“The Assault Landing strip changed everything,” he said and warned that development near the base could make it inoperable.
“This is really about a time out,” Vasquez said and added that there is no compromise when it comes to protecting Travis.
At least 15 pilots in flight suits attended the meeting Tuesday, but none of them spoke during public comment.
Several people representing potential wind and solar projects, however, voiced their concern for stalling progress on their specific project.
Brian Sarantos, project development director for EDF Renewable Energy, said anything longer than a 45-day moratorium will put an end to the relationship with the county built on consensus and compromise.
Marisa Mitchell, representing Gestamp Solar, said their proposed solar project for 154 acres near Travis is in the middle of an Environmental Impact Report and that preliminary studies on interference with Travis have showed no impact.
She added that the moratorium singles out wind and solar projects, but that fencing, cellular towers and mirrored buildings could also impact operations at Travis.
Emlen said wind and solar are included in the moratorium based on the number of applications for that type of development. Before the supervisors voted, they included “wireless communication facilities” in the moratorium.
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