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County imposes moratorium on energy projects

Solano County has taken the first step toward what could be a two-year timeout on building commercial solar and wind energy projects, with the goal of preserving agriculture and Travis Air Force Base. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously passed a 45-day moratorium in rural areas for these large-scale projects that create electricity for utilities. It will consider extending the construction moratorium on Dec. 3 for another 10 months, and could ultimately extend the moratorium even longer.

FAIRFIELD — Solano County has taken the first step toward what could be a two-year timeout on building commercial solar and wind energy projects, with the goal of preserving agriculture and Travis Air Force Base.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously passed a 45-day moratorium in rural areas for these large-scale projects that create electricity for utilities. It will consider extending the construction moratorium on Dec. 3 for another 10 months, and could ultimately extend the moratorium even longer.

All of this is a response to concerns that 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, studies that could take two years to complete.

Wind and solar energy developers asked the board not to impose the construction moratorium, to no avail. Travis Air Force Base officials said nothing during public comments, but 15 men and women in uniform sat in the audience.

“Two years will go by very quickly,” Board Chairwoman Linda Seifert said in response to energy developer concerns.

Supervisor Skip Thomson said he is... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

FAIRFIELD — Solano County has taken the first step toward what could be a two-year timeout on building commercial solar and wind energy projects, with the goal of preserving agriculture and Travis Air Force Base.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously passed a 45-day moratorium in rural areas for these large-scale projects that create electricity for utilities. It will consider extending the construction moratorium on Dec. 3 for another 10 months, and could ultimately extend the moratorium even longer.

All of this is a response to concerns that 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, studies that could take two years to complete.

Wind and solar energy developers asked the board not to impose the construction moratorium, to no avail. Travis Air Force Base officials said nothing during public comments, but 15 men and women in uniform sat in the audience.

“Two years will go by very quickly,” Board Chairwoman Linda Seifert said in response to energy developer concerns.

Supervisor Skip Thomson said he is passionate about both agriculture and Travis Air Force Base. Supervisor Jim Spering proposed having a “clear zone” extending for miles over rural land east of the base. No large-scale development would take place there. The county will look at establishing a clear zone during its Travis Air Force Base land use study.

All of this came in response to concerns raised at the Oct. 7 Board of Supervisors meeting. A county report noted that turbines can affect Travis Air Force Base radar. Base officials have expressed concern that glare from large groupings of solar panels could pose a problem for aviation.

In addition, Travis Air Force Base in the spring opened an assault landing strip. Pilots use it to practice landing on short runways. Training involves flying at lower altitudes and practicing maneuvers.

The Air Force is concerned about wind turbines being built in the assault training zone extending for several miles east of the base, north of Highway 12, county officials said. Turbines can be as tall as 400 feet from the ground to the tip of an upturned blade.

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.

EDC Renewable Energy has already built dozens of wind turbines south of Highway 12 in the Montezuma Hills and has worked with Travis Air Force Base to resolve radar issues. Company representative Brian Sarantos talked about continuing this collaborative approach.

“With a moratorium in place, it makes it very hard to develop and research and look at wind projects in the area,” he told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District has about 100 turbines in the Montezuma Hills that generate electricity for the Sacramento area. Steve Johns of SMUD in a letter to the county said the utility is close to buying land for more turbines.

“However, investment in the development of a wind energy facility is difficult when faced with regulatory uncertainty,” he wrote, adding the county should consider renewable energy proposals on a case-by-case basis.

Marisa Mitchell spoke on behalf of Gestamp. Gestamp is having consultants look at whether its proposed solar farm would cause glint, glare and radar issues for Travis Air Force Base. Preliminary results show no adverse effects, she said.

The county is singling out renewable energy projects, even though such projects as cellular communication towers could also hurt base operations, she said.

Supervisors took that criticism to heart. They added wireless communication facilities to the moratorium.

Spering proposed allowing no large-scale development in the assault strip training zone, which is over farmland. He called this the “extreme approach” and said protecting this area for Travis should be done to the extreme. It was unclear Tuesday how many square miles would be inside a clear zone, though a map showed an area about as big as Fairfield and Suisun City.

“Encroachment is incremental,” Spering said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s one little project and another little project and all of a sudden, it’s a problem.”

Creating a clear zone would give certainty to the military, Spering said. Thomson supported the idea.

“With the assault landing strip, I think it changed everything,” Thomson said.

Spering called the Gestamp proposal a nonstarter for more reasons than the Travis Air Force Base issue. He mentioned concerns that agriculture could be lost to the solar panels.

For supervisors, the conversation will continue Dec. 3 when they look at renewing the moratorium for a longer period.

“This is about defense,” Supervisor John Vasquez said. “It’s also about feeding our country.”


Source: https://www.dailyrepublic.c...

NOV 5 2013
http://www.windaction.org/posts/50316-county-imposes-moratorium-on-energy-projects
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