Solar companies SunPower and First Solar were granted a streamlined process by San Luis Obispo County for their respective utility solar projects proposed in the Carrizo Plains.
On Sept. 6, SLO County supervisors approved consent agenda items granting the director of planning and building a special ability to accept open space easements, specifically for the projects. Both companies—which have transferred the projects to subsidiary LLCs—are required to provide open space habitat as mitigation for their developments, which will cover thousands of acres of land in the California Valley subdivision area in eastern SLO County.
The staff report notes the request is to “facilitate streamlining of condition of compliance for this project” and “will allow the construction phase of the project to move forward and ensure funding is available for the project in the timeframe necessary to avoid loss of these funds.”
But resident Eric Greening, a frequent public commenter and local activist, criticized the county for setting a precedent that would allow applicants to get a speedy review of their projects, possibly at the expense of community input and the environment.
“This raises all kinds of questions,” Greening said. “This is a pretty huge item to have just sort of sitting silently on the consent agenda.”
County Environmental Coordinator Ellen Carroll said the county’s general plan allows it to expedite renewable energy projects and assured that other agencies would be involved in approving mitigation land.