The California Legislature recently passed several laws that will help clear a path for further renewable energy projects that will help keep the state at the forefront of renewable energy innovation.
Large-scale solar projects have been allowed to proceed without disturbing species or sensitive lands under Senate Bill 168. The bill provides solar developers incentives to locate projects on what is termed “impaired farmland,” or land that is no longer suitable for agriculture applications because it has either become non-productive or it has been contaminated.
The bill also grants developers of wind energy projects permission the “incidental” taking of endangered species as long as a conservation plan has been approved and is being implemented. Impacts to the California Condor and Golden Eagle, two fully protected species, have presented difficulties to wind developers.
The bill was supported by both environmental and agricultural groups, and its signing makes possible the Westlands Solar Park, which will be a 5-gigawatt solar plant to be built on 30,000 acres of farmland that has been deemed impaired. The project, when completed, will be the largest of its kind in the United States, and would supply enough energy to power almost the entire city of Los Angeles.
Senate Bill 267 allows a solar photovoltaic or wind farm to be granted exemption from a water consumption analysis if it takes no more than 75 acre/feet of water per year. This will aid in the implementation of solar energy systems because it will streamline the time and the cost it takes in order to receive permits for projects that have a low demand for water.
Senate Bill 226 will reduce the permitting time for solar projects that convert from solar thermal to PV or are located in urban infill lands.
Finally, the Renewable Energy Equity act, also known as Senate Bill 489, adds all small-scale renewable energy projects in California’s net metering program. The bill broadens the law beyond fuel cells, wind and solar to include biomass and biogas – including agricultural waste products such as nut shells and wine pumice – that makes these projects easier to connect to the power grid and to help the state meet the goals it has set for renewable energy production.