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12/07/2011 04:02 PM     print story email story  

New California Laws Clear the Way for Renewable Energy Projects

SustainableBusiness.com News

California passed several laws recently which further clear the way for renewable energy projects in the state.

Senate Bill 618 makes it possible for big solar projects to move forward without disturbing sensitive lands or species. 

It provides incentives for solar developers to site projects on impaired farmland - lands that are no longer suitable for agriculture because they're contaminated or non-productive. 

And for wind developers, it allows for "incidental" taking of endangered species if a conservation plan is approved and being implemented. Wind developers have been struggling to address potential project impacts to the Golden Eagle and California Condor, which are fully protected. 

The signing of the bill, which is supported by both the agricultural and environmental communities, makes the enormous Westlands Solar Park project possible - a 5 gigawatt solar plant to be built on 30,000 acres of degraded farmland.

The mammoth project would supply enough energy for almost the entire city of Los Angeles, and would be the largest in the US.

Another bill, SB 267, allows solar PV or wind farms to be exempt from water consumption analysis if it requires no more than 75 acre-feet of water a year. It will streamline the cost and time it takes to get permits for projects that have low water demand.

SB 226 reduces permitting time for solar projects that choose to convert from solar thermal to PV or are located in urban infill lands. 

And the Renewable Energy Equity Act (SB 489) includes all small-scale renewable energy projects in the state's net metering program. It broadens the law beyond solar, wind and fuel cells to include biogas and biomass - such as agricultural waste products like wine pumice and nut shells - making them easier to connect to the grid and help the state meet its renewable energy goals.



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