Soitec Solar

SOITEC SOLAR HEARING OCT. 14

 

Update: The County site now says this item will not be on the agenday Oct. 14.  Check the County Supervisors' agenda for updates.

October 1, 2015 (San Diego)—San Diego Supervisors will hold a hearing on Soitec Solar’s final remaining project in Boulevard on October 14th.  Supervisors will consider a Revised Final Program Environmental Impact Report for the project that can be viewed here: http://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/pds/ceqa/Soitec-Solar-RFPEIR.html.   The hearing documents will be posted at http://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/cob/bosa.html in advance of the hearing.

JUDGE OVERTURNS COUNTY APPROVALS OF SOITEC BOULEVARD PROJECTS

 

Update, August 21, 2015:  Donna Tisdale notified us that the backcountry "celebration over the death of Soitec's Boulevard projects was a bit premature. Today, County staff informed me that Soitec is going to remove the 160 cargo containers full of potentially toxic batteries from their Rugged Solar project and will resubmit the revised EIR for certification by the Board of Supervisors. (Back in February, Soitec self-terminated their Tierra Del Sol Solar project just 1 month after receiving Board approval due to a lack of buyers.) Staff is trying to docket the revised EIR for the Board agenda by October so they can meet the Court's order to report back by November 2nd on how they plan to comply," adds Tisdale, who concludes, "The battle to save the backcountry continues."

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: A Soitec solar panel in Newbury Springs, California

August 20, 2015 (Boulevard) – The last of four massive solar projects proposed by Soitec Solar in Boulevard may now be officially dead.

On August 7th, Superior Court Judge Joel R. Wohlfeil  overturned County Supervisors’ approvals of Soitec’s Rugged Acres and Tierra del Sol projects,  because the approvals violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)  Soitec and the County failed to file an appeal by the August 14th deadline, says Donna Tisdale, chair of the Boulevard Planning Group and founder of Backcountry Against Dumps, which filed the lawsuit aiming to halt the project. View the court's judgment.

“Soitec’s Boulevard projects, approved for 1,200 acres, are now dead and buried!” Tisdale wrote in an email to project opponents. Any new projects proposed for those sites would need to start all over at step one,” requiring a new environmental impacts review, a lengthy and costly process. “I have asked the County for details on when they will set aside their voided approvals, as mandated by the court,” Tisdale added.

SOITEC WITHDRAWS ONE OF TWO PROJECTS IN BOULEVARD

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 3, 2015 (Boulevard) – After winning approval of Supervisors for two controversial industrial-scale projects in Boulevard, Soitec Solar in a surprise announcement has withdrawn one of them.

A DARK DAY FOR DEMOCRACY: SUPERVISORS OVERRIDE BOULEVARD'S ELECTED PLANNING OFFICIALS, FORCE INDUSTRIAL-SCALE SOLAR ON RURAL TOWN

 

By Miriam Raftery

View video of full hearing: http://sdcounty.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=9&clip_id=1660

Note: Tune in Friday to our radio show on 89.1 FM from 5 to 6 p.m. to hear interviews with Boulevard residents and a hydrologist sharing their views on this outcome.  Jim Whelan, a representative of Soitec project property owners Hamann and Gibson was invited and refused to participate.

 

February 4, 2015 (San Diego) – Boulevard residents fought down tears in stunned disbelief today (photo, left) as San Diego Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to approve Soitec’s Tierra Del Sol and Rugged Solar projects, overriding a unanimous vote by Boulevard’s elected planning group that opposed the projects. Collectively the two massive projects will cover 1,185 acres (the equivalent of 185 city blocks) of rural terrain with thousands of concentrated solar tracking panels, each 48 feet wide by 30 feet tall.

Only Supervisor Dianne Jacob voted against the project, following an extensive speech in opposition. She called county staff’s finding that the project was compatible with rural community character “absolutely incomprehensible to me.”  Jacob pointed out that the General Plan is supposed to assure environmental stewardship, preservation of agricultural lands, open space and community character, among other qualities – all of which will be destroyed if the Soitec projects are built.

SOITEC TO SHIFT FOCUS AWAY FROM SOLAR

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 23, 2015 (San Diego)—Soitec Solar may exit the solar business, Greentech Media reports.  A quarterly report indicates the company plans to “refocus” efforts on its electronics business .

Greentech’s article indicates that the language may be vague, but the publication predicts, “…the message is clear: Soitec is exiting this business as quickly as possible.” 

The news comes as San Diego Supervisors are poised to vote Feb. 7 on whether to approve massive  industrial solar projects proposed by Soitec in Boulevard.

SUPERVISORS TO HEAR SOITEC SOLAR'S CONTROVERSIAL BOULEVARD PROJECTS IN FEB. 4 HEARING

County planners approved despite serious environmental and financial issues; rural group vows to sue if approved

By Miriam Raftery

January 19, 2015 (Boulevard) – Rural  planning group chairs and environmentalists are blasting county planners for approving Soitec Solar’s controversial industrial scale solar projects.  Planners largely ignored evidence that the projects could deplete groundwater supplies, threaten wildlife and create fire hazards—as well as Soitec’s precarious financial position.

Next up, San Diego Supervisors will hold a hearing on the project February 4th.  At least one citizens’ group, Backcountry Against Dumps (BAD) has promised to file a lawsuit against the County if Supervisors approve the projects, which would cover 1500 acres with approximately 8,000 massive solar trackers, each 30 feet high.

HOT HEARINGS IN EAST COUNTY THIS WEEK: LAKESIDE, BOULEVARD, COUNTY SUPERVISORS AND HELIX WATER BOARDS

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 4, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) –Many hot agenda items are coming up before boards, commissions and councils across East County during this first week of the new year.

BLEAK OUTLOOK FOR SOITEC’S SOLAR PROSPECTS

 

Despite company’s woes, county releases EIR on Soitec’s proposed Boulevard projects. A hearing is set for January 16, with the deadline for public comment  January 14.

By Miriam Raftery

December 22, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) -- The future for Soitec Solar is far from bright.  The company’s stock shares plummeted 57 percent on Monday,  reaching an all-time low. The plunge led Reuters to advise investors to avoid Soitec “like poison.”

The free-fall occurred after the company announced that the main project in its solar division has been cancelled and that the company will be scaling down its San Diego facility.  Tenaska Solar Ventures cancelled its deal to use Soitec’s concentrated photovoltaic panels at a facility in Imperial County. In addition, San Diego Gas & Electric spokeswoman Jennifer Ramp says that the utility “does not have any contracts with Soitec.” That statement conflicts with claims previously made by Soitec, Voice of San Diego reports in an article titled “The Darling of San Diego Solar Manufacturing Is on Its Death Bed.”

Despite this precipitous news, ironically the County of San Diego released the final environmental impact report (EIR) on Soitec’s four proposed industrial-scale solar projects in Boulevard.  A hearing on the projects are set for January 16th, which public comments due by January 14th at 4 p.m. , according to Mindy Fogg, planning manager for the County.

SOITEC BARS COMMUNITY PLANNING GROUP CHAIR FROM “COMMUNITY” MEETING

 

By Miriam Raftery

August 8, 2014 (Boulevard)—Donna Tisdale is the elected chair of the Boulevard Community Planning Group and has long been a champion fighting for rights of rural residents against an onslaught of industrial-scale development proposals.  So why did Soitec Solar snub Tisdale in three invitation-only meetings with residents on Soitec’s controversial industrial-scale solar projects in Boulevard, held at a private ranch?

ROUGH ACRES RANCH: PROPOSED CONFERENCE RETREAT, WELLNESS CENTER & CAMPGROUND IN BOULEVARD

 

Maximum occupancy of 2,600 people is twice the population of Boulevard

Hearing May 8 at Boulevard Planning Group; Comments on proposal accepted through May 12

Photo: Protest held at same site during Sunrise Powerlink groundbreaking

By Miriam Raftery

April 11, 2014 (Boulevard) – Properties controlled by the Hamann Companies entities and family are proposed for a variety of large-scale projects on McCain Valley Road in Boulevard, gateway to the McCain Valley, a federal recreation area.  None are popular with neighbors, thus far. Hamann gained approval for industrial wind turbines as part of Tule Wind and has been pushing to convert another 765 acres to industrial solar as part of Soitec’s controversial proposed projects. The site hosted the groundbreaking for Sunrise Powerlink, drawing protesters from across the county.

Now, Hamann is also seeking a Major Use Permit to construct a conference retreat and wellness center and a campground on 713 acres. At capacity, the facility could house up to 2,600 people—or more than twice the current population of the entire town of Boulevard. 

U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE WARNS OF NEGATIVE IMPACTS ON WILDLIFE FROM SOITEC SOLAR PROJECTS

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 1, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Soitec’s four proposed solar projects on 1,490 acres in the Boulevard area of East County could negatively impact migratory birds, eagles, endangered butterflies and wildlife corridors,  Karen Goebel, assistant field supervisor with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife concludes in a comment letter sent to the County regarding the projects’ draft Enviornmental Impact Report (DEIR) on March 11, 2014. The letter also indicates studies have been inadequate and cumulative impacts of projects across a broader area need to be evaluated.

EXPERTS VOICE ALARM OVER SURVIVAL OF LOCAL BIGHORN SHEEP

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 17, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Could big energy projects proposed in East County lead to the decimation of federally endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep? 

From 1972 to the present, the Carrizo Gorge band of these bighorns has plummeted from about 120 sheep to less than 40.  “Off-road vehicles, trespassing cattle, poaching in the 1960s and ‘70s, drought, disease and Mountain Lion predation have worked together to push this population o the edge. We hope we can save this group before it is too late,” Mark Jorgensen, advisor to the Bighorn Institute and former Superintendent of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park wrote in the Desert News.

In his comments submitted on  four solar projects proposed by Soitec in Boulevard, Jorgensen writes that “Construction of yet another group of solar projects will further impede the free movement of wildlife by reducing habitat connectivity and ruining wildlife corridors.”  He further notes that Soitec’s sites are very near lands purchased and set aside specifically to protect species  the endangered bighorn, golden eagles and other species in peril.

SOITEC FAILS TO DISCLOSE TRUTH ABOUT SOLAR PROJECT IMPACTS, HIRES FORMER SD PLANNER WHO WORKED ON SOITEC PROJECTS

 

 

Why doesn’t San Diego County end revolving door situation?

Photo: Soitec's Newberry Springs project, which promised minimal enviornmental impacts, graded all vegetation on the site.

By Miriam Raftery

March 1, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)—Developers frequently put “spin” on project descriptions to emphasize benefits rather than negative impacts.  But certain statements by Soitec representatives regarding its proposed solar projects in Boulevard and a recent project in the desert fall into the “Pinnochio” category. In fact Soitec representatives misrepresented glare issues and the amount of land that is disturbed by their projects.

During a Soitec community meeting at the Manzanita Diner last month, ECM’s editor asked Soitec media and communications advisor Karen Hutchens specifically about a moratorium on solar projects approved by San Bernadino County Supervisors amid concerns about glare in Newberry Springs, where Soitec built a project very similar to its proposed Boulevard sites.  Hutchens responded, “That had nothing to do with our project. The moratorium was passed before our project was even built.”

But Robert Berkman, head of a citizens group in Newberry Springs called CEQA-NOW, told ECM that statement was a bald-faced lie.  “The moratorium came out because of the Soitec project—after it was built,” he said, adding that citizens invited Supervisors to visit the site.  Supervisors said, “’`Good grief, what has happened here? ‘ “ Berkman stated. “The moratorium occurred because we were able to bring them out and say `This is an example of solar done wrong.’” 

Soitec's Hutchens concedes that she erred in her statement on the timing of the moratorium, and agrees it was imposed after Soitec's project was built, but says Soitec's project was not the reason for the moratorium. ECM is seeking clarification from San Bernardino County's Land Services Department.

That's not the only disputed statement by Soitec.

COUNTY EXTENDS COMMENT PERIOD ON SOITEC SOLAR PROJECTS

By Miriam Raftery

February 13, 2014 (Boulevard) -- The County has announced it will extend the deadline to March 3rd for public comments on Soitec Solar's draft programing environmental impact report for four industrial-scale solar projects proposed in rural Boulevard, following an overwhelming public response during the initial comment period.

The bulk of those responses were highly critical of the projects, some casting doubt on water estimates made by project consultant Dudek, which has severely underestimated water usage recently on several other high profile projects. Others voiced concerns over impacts on wildlife, view sheds, and loss of rural character.

Below is the notice sent by the County: