After hearing pleas from more than a dozen Antelope Valley residents, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took preliminary steps Tuesday to ban utility-scale wind turbines in unincorporated areas of the county.
The supervisors unanimously approved a draft Renewable Energy Ordinance that updated permitting and regulations on small-scale wind and solar projects and utility-scale solar projects.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich, whose district includes the Antelope Valley, proposed the ban on the large wind turbine projects, which would have been permitted to be up to 500 feet high under the proposed ordinance.
Antonovich said he was sympathetic to the residents’ concerns.
“Generating renewable energy is important and Antelope Valley residents have dealt with the negative effects of solar field development including dust generation, noise and thousands of acres of visual blight,” Antonovich said. “However, wind turbines are inappropriate and should be banned.”
The county’s Department of Regional Planning staff had recommended that the large wind farms, be allowed, but regulated. Utility-scale wind turbine projects generate electricity for off-site use and are usually contracted through a power-purchase agreement with a utility.
The county’s Supervising Regional Planner Susan Tae said the prohibition against utility-scale wind turbines would not diminish the region’s ability to produce renewable energy. She said the county has been receiving proposals for large-scale solar projects, not wind turbines.
“The board’s direction in terms of what they see are the types of renewable energy sources Los Angeles County should be producing and that’s solar,” Tae said
More than a dozen Antelope Valley residents said the wind turbines would destroy their vistas, impede aerial fire fighting efforts, create fugitive dust and noise and contribute to health concerns like valley fever.
At Antonovich’s request the board also directed the Department of Public Health to provide a report on procedures for requiring soil testing for valley fever before utility-scale renewable energy projects are built.
Frank Serafine, who owns Honey Hills Farms, told the board he supported renewable energy and uses solar and wind energy to power his property, but said he was opposed to the utility-scale wind turbines.
“Our entire valley is zoned agricultural,” Serafine said. “Why are we converting this beautiful land that was zoned this way from our forefathers into industrial power plants?”
Marty Foster said he wanted the board to ban all large-scale wind turbines and solar projects that are constructed on the ground.
“There’s plenty of roofs and car ports to put this stuff on and leave the county alone,” he said.
The new regulations incentivize the construction of small-scale projects and projects that are mounted on roofs and other existing structures by streamlining the permitting process and by establishing minimal regulations. The ordinance also standardizes requirements for large-scale solar panel arrays.
Small-scale wind farms, which provide power to the site upon which they are built, are still allowed under the proposed ordinance and may be up to 85 feet tall depending on the size of the property.
State legislation prompted the review of the county’s Renewable Energy Ordinance. During his inaugural address in January, Gov. Jerry Brown called for a statewide plan to increase renewable energy usage to 50 percent by 2030.
Tanya DeRivi, of Southern California Public Power Authority, said the ordinance might deter any new renewable energy projects in the county.
“We are concerned this ordinance would add unduly burdensome requirements, such as under grounding transmission lines, that would likely make many future renewable projects so expensive that very few, if any, prospective buyers would be willing to pay for them,” she said.
Marvin Moon, of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, also spoke against the provision of the ordinance that would require transmission lines to be placed underground.
The supervisors will review a final ordinance before it is adopted.
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