By Miriam Raftery
December 20, 2012 (Boulevard) –Soitec Solar has applied for amendments to the Boulevard Community Plan in order to build for commercial/industrial-scale solar projects totaling 8,938,000 square feet (over 1,400 acres) of concentrating solar PV. The “super modules”, each 30 feet tall, would track the sun to produce renewable energy. The largest of the projects, Rugged Solar, is proposed for property owned by Hamann Companies of El Cajon.
At a meeting with county staff in Boulevard on December 18, about two dozen people braved cold and stormy weather to attend. “None of the local property owners supported the projects,” Boulevard Planning Group Chair told ECM after the meeting. “They were in shock when I distributed copies of the attached photos.”
The photos show dramatic glare off a Soitec solar panel at the Shiely Eye Center in San Diego, taken from inside the photographer’s car on October 4.
In recent public meetings, Soitec/Concentrix solar project developers, consultants, and property owners have rmphatically denied that acres of Soitec modules may create glare that could adversely impact residents, drivers on historic Highway 80, or low-flying Homeland Security aircraft in Boulevard. But the photos cast doubt on those assertions.
The public has until January 7 to submit comments on the project. Boulevard’s Planning Group has requested a 30-day extension.
Together, the four projects would take up land space the equivalent to more than 48 Walmart Supercenters, according to preliminary concerns listed by Boulevard’s Planning Group. That document contends that the projects are inconsistent with Boulevard’sCommunity Plan approved in August 20121 after many years of efforts, adversely impacting views and the rural character of the community.
The planning group wants the County to consider alternatives such as point-of-use energy production, such as solar on rooftops and parking lots. Planners also raise concerns over potential impacts on property values and heightened wildfire risks, impacts on neighboring homes, electrical pollution, increased fire insurance rates, and light pollution in a Dark Sky designated area that includes the Tierra Del Sol Observatory in Boulevard, among other concerns.
Boulevard residents also want the County to consider the cumulative impact of Soitec’s projects in conjunction with the impacts of SolOrchard, which plans five projects in the Boulevard area, as well as the existing Kumeyaay Wind facility and proposed Tule Wind, Shu’luuk Wind, and Jewel Valley Wind projects, Sunrise Powerlink, substations and other energy projects dramatically impacting the rural character of the region.
The projects proposed by Soitec are:
Rugged Solar: 80 MW on 765 acres impacting Tule Creek
Tierra Del Sol Solar: 65 MW on 420 acres near the U.S./Mexico Border
LanEast Solar: 22 MW on 200+ acres including seasonal wetlands and riparian areas
LanWest Solar: 55 acres including oaks, riparian and seasonal wetlands
Advocates have contended that the project would help meet California's ambitious goal to produce 33% of the state's power from renewable resources. But planners cite a glut of renewable energy projects in California capable of prodpucing more than three times the amount of power needed to meet California’s 33% renewable power mandate.
Opponents of the projects insist that they are not opposed to renewable energy, but want to see solar on rooftops and parking lots instead of scraping bare thousands of acres of backcountry habitat.