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Massive California Solar Project Faces Strong Opposition

Local residents, ranchers, and farmers are opposing plans for the largest solar power facility in the San Francisco Bay Area, suing the county that approved the project and potentially opening future projects in California to opposition.

While most Californians approve of the state’s ambitious clean energy goals, some people living close to proposed large projects are in the ‘not in my backyard (NIMBY)’ camp, saying that industrial-scale solar projects take up a lot of land and ruin the views.

“It would be a sea of glass,” Chris O’Brien, a supporter of renewable energy but opponent of the Aramis project in North Livermore Valley, told Bloomberg.

O’Brien chairs the Save North Livermore Valley group, which opposes the Aramis solar project, approved by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors earlier this year.  

North Livermore Valley is one of the few unspoiled scenic corridors and agricultural areas remaining in Alameda County, the group says, adding that “If we do not challenge in the Court the County’s approval of the Aramis Project the precedent will be created that industrial solar power plants qualify as appropriate uses of land zoned for agricultural and rural residential uses throughout Alameda County.”

The Aramis Renewable Energy Project, developed by Intersect Power, was unanimously approved by Alameda County earlier this year.

The local organizations of ranchers and farmers are suing Alameda County about the project, but Intersect Power’s CEO Sheldon Kimber told Bloomberg that the lawsuit wouldn’t impact the project’s timeline. The Aramis project, which will include solar plus battery storage to provide clean electricity to 25,000 homes and businesses in the Bay Area annually, is expected to start operations in 2023.

The opposition to this project could spread to other, especially large-scale, projects and undermine the timeline of California to decarbonize its power grid.

Earlier this year, the California Energy Commission (CEC), California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and California Air Resources Board (CARB) said that California would need to roughly triple its current electricity grid capacity and sustain its expansion of clean electricity generation capacity at a record-breaking rate for the next 25 years if it wants its electricity system to become carbon free by 2045.

Last month, CPUC ordered utilities to procure 11.5 gigawatts from zero-emission electricity sources in what it described “a historic decision” aimed at ensuring reliability and the state’s clean energy goals.

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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