The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors last week unanimously approved a 45-day moratorium on utility-scale solar energy projects to allow the County time to address potential land use compatibility issues posed by these projects and consider whether it’s necessary to amend the County’s development code and general plan. Although the moratorium is set to expire the last week of July, the Board of Supervisors may extend the ban initially for 10 months, and then again for one year.
The moratorium only bans approval of utility-scale solar energy generation projects for which a permit application has not been deemed complete by the County as of June 12, the day the moratorium was approved. The moratorium does not affect permits for accessory solar energy equipment that generates energy for use primarily on the same site (net-energy metered projects). While the ban is in effect, the County will continue to accept for processing all solar applications, at the applicant’s risk and with the understanding that no permits for construction of utility-scale projects will be issued until the moratorium is lifted.
The moratorium, which was adopted as an urgency ordinance, comes in response to both an increase in new permit applications for solar projects and the complaints of those who worry about the impacts of large solar farms on adjacent communities. County residents living near existing and proposed solar projects have alleged they reduce property values, lead to blight and vandalism, impact aesthetics and views, and create nuisances associated with light, glare, heat and dust.
During the moratorium, the County will consider whether possible development code amendments addressing the solar project permitting process, as well as siting and other zoning requirements, will remedy resident complaints. The County will also use the 45 days to weigh how renewable energy projects will be incorporated into its general plan.