Solar facility in Valley Center
A SunEdison solar facility in Valley Center. Photo by Chris Jennewein

A plan to streamline the environmental review process for energy projects in unincorporated areas was unanimously approved Wednesday by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

The goal is to “simplify and enhance current site plan and design reviews, project development requirements, and permit streamlining opportunities to reduce renewable energy project development barriers,” according to the board.

Increasing the number of renewable projects in San Diego County — including solar panels and wind turbines — could increase energy supply, create over 40,000 jobs, and reduce energy consumption through incentives like weather-proofing, according to a county Planning & Development Services presentation.

Board Chairman Nathan Fletcher said a renewable energy plan had been “continued and continued and continued” until Wednesday’s meeting.

For over a decade, the Board of Supervisors has considered ways to promote local renewable energy sources.

In May 2013, the board approved a zoning ordinance amendment intended to streamline and clarify existing wind energy regulations to increase turbine development opportunities.

In the last eight years, 35 turbines have been installed in the county’s unincorporated areas.

In October 2019, the board voted to establish a community choice energy program for unincorporated areas, which includes a goal of 90% renewables by 2030.

In April, the board directed staff to explore options for renewable energy projects.

Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer described the plan for renewables as a process that has gone quite well.

Supervisor Joel Anderson stressed that the county should look at all renewable options, including wave technology, which involves harnessing the power of waves for energy generation.

Options on streamlined renewable energy projects in unincorporated areas were discussed during the county Community Planning and Sponsor Group chairs quarterly meeting Nov. 8.

During a public comment period on Wednesday, several people called in to voice their support for more renewable energy use, including Joe Gabaldon, public affairs manager for San Diego Gas & Electric.

However, Donna Tisdale, chairwoman of the Boulevard Planning Group, voiced her opposition to massive wind and solar projects, which she said harm well water and property values and create both fire and noise hazards.

“Our ruggedly beautiful area shouldn’t be sacrificed for alternative energy,” Tisdale said.

— City News Service contributed to this article

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