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Renewable energy projects popping up; County revamping land-use regulations for solar, wind power  

Credit:  By Gary Brodeur, Staff Writer | Desert Dispatch | Posted May. 30, 2015 | www.desertdispatch.com ~~

Renewable energy remains a hot topic in San Bernardino County, and not just because of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. The prospect of large solar and wind projects dotting the High Desert landscape concerns many, including residents and public officials.

The county is in the process of revamping land-use regulations in the General Plan that may simplify understanding of what’s allowed where on county administered lands, and it may help the permitting process. With the plan being updated through a program with public outreach called SPARC, short for San Bernardino County Partnership for Renewable Energy and Conservation, more public input is to be sought later this year.

The sPower Bowman Solar project under appeal to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors is representative of the types of projects to be addressed by the county’s update to its General Plan.

The project, if approved, would join eight others on unincorporated county land not under municipal or Bureau of Land Management administration. Its appeal was recommended for denial by the Board of Supervisors but they continued the hearing to June 2, allowing staff members time to file additional reports and answer supervisors’ questions.

“We were encouraged by the Board of Supervisors paying attention to our concerns,” said John Zemanek, a spokesman for Alliance for Desert Preservation. “We appreciate being part of the process.”

He said county planners and administrative officials are more closely working with the community on renewable-energy projects, listening more and developing criteria for rooftop solar applications rather than allowing industrial-sized projects in rural neighborhoods.

“This Bowman project in Landers is a good example,” Zemanek said.

The proposed sPower-filed project is intended to occupy 35 acres and generate 3 megawatts of electricity by photovoltaic solar power generation. The project near Bowman Road is now planned to be developed by 320 Highway 18 AV LLC/The Lansing Companies of San Diego.

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Eight renewable-energy projects, all solar-powered generating facilities, are completed – three near Twentynine Palms, two in the area of Apple Valley, and one each near El Mirage, Joshua Tree and Newberry Springs. They cover a total of 432.5 acres and together are capable of generating 51 megawatts of electricity.

A megawatt hour, the energy generated and used continuously for one hour, is about the equivalent used by 330 homes, according to the Colorado-based CleanEnergyAuthority.com.

Another 15 projects have been conditionally approved – near Apple Valley, Daggett, Helendale, Kramer Junction, Landers, Newberry Springs, Phelan and Victorville.

The proposed Sunray Energy 2 LLC project on 333 acres in Newberry Springs that would generate 44 Mw and replace a facility built three decades ago was conditionally approved by the county Planning Commission but is being appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

Three other projects in the High Desert are under review by staff from Land Use Services and two more in Lucerne Valley totaling 480 acres to generate 63 Mw are on hold.

The county’s approval process generally requires a developer to file an application for a conditional use permit with staff members at Land Use Services, have the matter considered by staff and then the Planning Commission after public comments. Whether or not the project proposal is approved, an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision can be made to the Board of Supervisors.

However, projects for water suppliers do not have to adhere to the county approval process, streamlining development, said General Manager Don Bartz of the Phelan Pinon Hills Community Services District. The district broke ground on a 1.6-megawatt expandable facility in March, sited on the former Meadowlark Dairy in El Mirage.

Go to SPARCforum.org to review progress of the effort. It followed a temporary moratorium on solar energy projects in rural areas of the county that started in 2013.

Go to cms.sbcounty.gov/lus/Home, Planning, Renewable Energy for more information on county land-use services and information on renewable-energy projects.

Source:  By Gary Brodeur, Staff Writer | Desert Dispatch | Posted May. 30, 2015 | www.desertdispatch.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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