Written by: Natalia Perez
San Diego County’s largest solar farms developer is currently in a fight with neighbors in Jacumba who fear the project will strangle their town. They are now heading to court to sort out their dispute. The lawsuit is against the San Diego County’s largest solar farms is currently in a fight with neighbors in Jacumba who fear it is against the San Diego County Board of Supervisors\The Jacumba Hot Springs Hotel owner and a group of community members claim the solar farm’s approval violated environmental and zoning laws.
The lawsuit claims that the Board of Supervisors’ violates the California Environmental Quality Act. The premise behind this act is to inform the public of potential environmental impacts that a project could impose. However, opponents often use this law to block development, which is likely being implemented for this case.
The lawsuit asserts that the county did not adequately research the long-term impacts solar farms could enforce on the community. Jacumba affirms that the county “sidestepped” permitting rules. Furthermore, the lawsuit also claims that a smaller project footprint could produce enough power to meet the developer’s contract with San Diego Community Power.
Lastly, the lawsuit asserts that the county did not fully account for the impacts on wildlife. Residents oppose the solar project because they say it will lead to a loss of vistas that drive tourism, disrupt animal and plant life, cause a heat island effect from the dark solar panels, and make it difficult to land a glider at the nearby Jacumba airport.
The lawsuit filed Monday claims the Board of Supervisors’ approval violates the California Environmental Quality Act, a law meant to inform the public of the environmental impacts of a project and reduce them to the extent feasible. Opponents of development projects often use the law to try to stall or block them.
In the case of the Jacumba project, the lawsuit claims the county did not adequately study the long-term impacts of the solar farm on the town, saying the county “sidestepped” permitting rules when officials declared the project “interim.” While the developer has said it has a plan to take the solar panels down after 35 years, a requirement of its current permit, it could seek another permit to extend the use of the site, an outcome critics of the project say is highly likely.
The lawsuit also claims that a smaller project footprint could produce enough power to meet the developer’s contract with San Diego Community Power for 90 megawatts of renewable energy and that the county did not research that option enough. In response to a report from an engineering firm hired by Osborne suggesting a smaller project could produce the same power, a lawyer for BayWa r.e. told the Board of Supervisors that the calculation was wrong and the report did not include a project design.
Photo from: Phrom1918.