Solar Moratorium Has Developers Looking To Invest Outside County

(September 20) HESPERIA—The county’s suspension of the consideration and approval process for solar projects is stifling companies interested in moving forward with alternative energy projects and has already resulted in corporate decisions that have steered solar projects out of the county.
Despite the near completion of the Ivanpah Solar Project, which will become the largest solar energy project on the planet when it commences operations later this year, solar power projects in San Bernardino County that were not approved prior to May 31 have been on hold as the county land use services department has imposed a moratorium on renewable energy projects.
In June, the county board of supervisors passed a 45-day moratorium on commercial solar projects. On July 23 the board approved a 10-month extension of the ban on new commercial solar projects for unincorporated private land to allow county staff to refine its regulations with respect to solar fields.
County residents living in proximity to where several solar projects have been approved or are proposed have complained the solar farms are a too-intensive use that clashes with the nature of their rural residential neighborhoods and represent unresolved land-use and zoning conflicts.
But Scott Mazzola, vice president of Apple Valley-based Desert Solar, said that while the county and its land use services division dither over the zoning issues and standards to be applied to solar fields, individuals, companies, corporations and investors interested in pursuing solar development are growing impatient, losing money, contemplating taking their proposals elsewhere or have already pulled up stakes and moved outside of the county.
Noting that Desert Solar long ago committed heavily toward the concept of establishing medium and large scale solar projects throughout the Mojave Desert and that “We’ve spent several years investing time, resources, money to make these projects work, and in preparation with the college (Victor Valley College) to get new employees,” Mazzola complained  the moratorium and its extension has now upset his company’s timetable and cost it a considerable amount of money as well as projected future revenue.
“By extending this out as long as you have, you have really… devastated us,” he told county land use services staff  at a county workshop in Hesperia hosted by the land use services division to gather input from residents with regard to the guidelines they want instituted in the county code relating to solar projects.
Mazzola said Desert Solar had been forced to abandon its San Bernardino County projects in favor of seeking approval in other Southern California jurisdictions where there is less uncertainty as to the standards and restrictions his company will encounter. “We have literally moved two $70 million projects from San Bernardino County to other locations,” he said.
Despite Mazzolla’s lament, residents from Hesperia, Oak Hills, Lucerne Valley and Phelan voiced the belief that large-scale and even medium-scale solar projects are unacceptable in rural areas zoned for residential use. This reflects the attitude of other county residents in desert areas such as Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms who have protested and opposed solar projects in their environs. Some residents from those communities participated in the Hesperia forum via a videolink with the Joshua Tree Community Center.
Canadian-based Coronus Solar, which had earlier proposed constructing two solar fields near Twentynine Palms, dubbed 29 Palms North 2 and 3, has elected to withdraw those plans because of San Bernardino County’s moratorium on new solar development. Coronus intended to generate up to 1.5 megawatts of electricity at each of the facilities, which would have featured conventional solar panel arrays.
At the Hesperia meeting, residents suggested the county code should be amended to prevent solar projects on more than a minimal amount of acres  in or around residential zones and that solar panels or arrays should not be allowed to exceed 8 feet in height.

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