Communities Protest Solar Projects

Many high desert residents, both private individuals and organization members commented at the February 13th County Supervisors meeting protesting a number of solar projects having pending applications with County Land Use Services in Lucerne Valley, Daggett, and Newberry Springs as well as the removal from the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element (RECE) adopted in August of 2017 of Policy 4.1, and the failure so far of the county to integrate the RECE into the County General Plan.

Fourteen speakers, some present in the San Bernardino chambers and some speaking from the Hesperia and Joshua Tree remote locations, offered various reasons why the policy should be reinserted into the RECE and why conditional use permits should not be approved for solar projects proposed in Lucerne Valley, Daggett, and Newberry Springs.

Policy 4.1 and its sub-paragraphs in the adopted RECE read as follows:

  RE Policy 4.1: Apply standards to the design, siting, and operation of all renewable energy facilities that protect the environment, including sensitive biological resources, air quality, water supply and quality, cultural, archaeological, paleontological and scenic resources.

RE 4 .1.1: Consult with Native American tribes in the identification, evaluation, and treatment of cultural resources and in the preparation and implementation of measures required to identify, evaluate, protect, and manage cultural resources. 

RE 4.1.2: RE development applications shall be subject to thorough environmental review, including consideration of water consumption, before being permitted.

Although other provisions of the RECE, and already existing statements in the General Plan seem to restrict the approval of such projects in a fashion which may or may not necessarily be satisfactory to those affected by such installations, this particular policy seems to be so general as to arbitrarily forbid such projects because they could not possibly avoid the intrinsically substantial negative effects, notably biological, air quality, and cultural effects, enumerated by this policy. Perhaps that was why it was removed, or asphyxiated by Land Use Services as one speaker put it.

Speakers enunciated a wide range of concerns the might be addressed by reinsertion of Policy 4.1, as well as the expedited integration of RECE policy into the General Plan:

  1. Utility scale sites have been made obsolete by roof-top installations throughout the state. Why install them? Perhaps the least supportable of the arguments.

  2. There is a power glut with out-of-state utilities being paid to take the excess, causing outrageous power bills. Why build more?

  3. Massive dust storms caused by soil disturbances and clearing/destruction of vegetation. Consequent pulmonary and other health risks.

  4. Destruction of the local ecosystem.

  5. Negative effects on the quality of life and local economy.

  6. Destruction of the view, the desert vista.

  7. Stress on local water supplies.

  8. Destruction of property values.

Although these are not all of the concerns mentioned, like accessibility restrictions caused by the fencing of these projects, possible electromagnetic effects from the installation of additional high voltage transmission lines, etc., the listed items seem to be the most frequent concerns of affected residents.

Local residents are encouraged to consult the RECE, and the General Plan to get a better feel for what approach the county will take to large renewable energy projects.

Obviously from watching the reaction of so many individuals and organizations to the proposed installations, there will be more frequent opposition to these projects as the evaluation process proceeds. Some concerned elements have been notified by County Land Use Services that there will be opportunities for those concerned to express their opposition a the public hearings that will be scheduled for all of these proposed projects.