With County plans for solar development sites much reduced, uncertainties still remain until the Planning Department Staff comes back to the Board of Supervisors with a final revision of the Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment. During the Tuesday discussions about solar development, some legal and environmental issues came up.
Don Mooney, attorney for the Owens Valley Committee, sent a letter to the Inyo Supervisors about the Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment. He said the OVC has concerns about the proposal to locate large-scale industrial solar within the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power mitigation project areas identified in the Lower Owens River Project and other land use documents.
Mooney’s letter says that Inyo County had responded that solar development can be located within the River Project area if it’s on already disturbed land. Attorney Mooney said large-scale solar development would be “inconsistent with the purpose and goals of the Lower Owens River Project and related documents. He said the the idea is to have an “overall beneficial impact on habitat.” At least tentatively, the Board did eliminate the solar development site near the River and across from Manzanar.
Representing the Sierra Club, Mark Bagley said this group also has concerns about impacts on mitigation areas in the Long Term Water Agreement, such as Laws and the Lower Owens Project.
Many speakers at the Board meeting wanted small solar and roof top projects, but admitted that those projects are not included in the State mandates for renewable energy. Several urged the Board members to lobby the State to include rooftop and small solar in the utility company mandates.
Although the County’s Plan for solar sites is still not definite, the proposal supported by most Board members includes half the solar sites of the original plan. The sites are in Laws, the Owens Lake, Rose Valley, Pearsonville, Trona, Charleston View, and Sandy Valley.
Do the many environmentalists who spoke at the meeting believe they are failing to address climate change by fighting the large-scale solar? One man, Alan Pietrasanta said, “I reject the notion that you have to sacrifice our tourist economy to slow down climate change.”
Many also agreed that the County needs to closely watch any expansion of power transmission lines which could bring on even more solar development.