Tuesday, November 9, 2010

CGF comments on small-scale commercial solar facilities in Santa Clara County

(We submitted the following comments on small scale solar facilities and zoning for them in Santa Clara County.  -Brian)

Dear President Yeager and Board of Supervisors:
I regret that I will not be able to attend today's Board Meeting.  I would like to note that in addition to the written input described by staff transmittal memo, the Committee for Green Foothills testified at the Planning Commission meeting on this item.  We identified the difficulty with this issue is that it is difficult to tell at the present time whether small scale commercial solar will be only a minor addition to our rural landscape over time, in which case it is a useful if minor benefit, or whether it has potential to transform hundreds of acres to a new developed use, and should be scrutinized much more carefully.
We were glad to suggest a major review in three years to consider how solar is proceeding, and we appreciate the support from the Planning Commission for this and the other changes that we suggested.  I would suggest the Board direct staff to ensure the review in three years is put on the calendar.
The other issue where CGF expressed admittedly-vague concerns is regarding decommissioning.  Solar panels after their life span could be unsightly and interfere with other rural land uses.  They also contain toxins, and decommissioning could be expensive, raising the concern that it might not occur.  The review in three years should consider whether to require bonding for decommisioning purposes. 
The one additional suggestion CGF makes today is that the permits for commercial solar be given an expiration point after 20 years.  Staff expects that many panels would be replaced with upgrades, and a landowner in that case would likely want to renew their permit.  At that time it would be very easy to make decommissioning a condition of renewal.  As this change is just an additional mitigation, no additional environmental review would be required to add it to the proposed ordinance.
Please contact us with any questions.

Brian Schmidt
Legislative Advocate, Committee for Green Foothills

No comments:

Post a Comment