But most spoke in favor of the moratorium.
Supporters of the moratorium argued time was needed to ensure that the proper guidelines are in place that will strike the delicate balance between the demand for renewable energy facilities and the preservation of the environment.
Opponents argued the moratorium kills jobs and hurts the local economy, and that the county could accomplish its goals without the moratorium.
Bill Perez, executive secretary for the San Bernardino and Riverside Counties Building Construction Trades Council, told the board that hundreds of Inland Empire construction workers will remain out of work as a result of the moratorium.
“I don’t think they’re in a position to say, ‘there’s a moratorium on my work,'” Perez said. “A moratorium sends chills across the Inland Empire.”
The board adopted an ordinance on June 12 imposing a 45-day moratorium, with the option to extend the moratorium by up to a year. The 10-month, 15-day extension allows the county the full year to prepare its guidelines for solar development.
Supervisor James Ramos said it is unlikely that the county will need the entire 10 months, 15 days, and that it is likely that the moratorium will be lifted before then.
He said the moratorium will give residents some peace of mind and ensure solar projects don’t wind up in their backyard, while also allowing the county to establish the proper parameters for solar projects to avoid future conflicts.
“The current (development) plan is nearly silent on renewable energy and the development code permits solar projects to back up against residential areas in the unincorporated parts of the county,” Ramos said in a statement Tuesday. “We need the next three to six months to properly plan for the impact these solar projects have on the rural communities of our county.”
County Planning Director Terri Rahhal said it should take her staff anywhere from three to six months to have a draft of the development code amendment ready for the board’s consideration.
Supervisor Josie Gonzales said she would like to see verbiage in the development code that provides flexibility for the county to address rapidly changing technologies in the renewable energy field in future years. And she said she would like to be assured that due diligence has been done to avoid any unintended consequences such projects could bring,
It was discovered too late that the 4,000-acre site for the county’s first large-scale commercial solar project — the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station in the Ivanpah Valley near the Nevada border — was home to far more federally endangered desert tortoises than thought. It prompted the temporary halting of construction in 2011 until BrightSource Energy, the Oakland-based company building the complex, could mitigate the problem.
“Once we lose that natural landscape, we don’t have enough life to recreate it again,” Gonzales said.
The county was awarded a $700,000 grant from the California Energy Commission on June 12, which will go toward the creation of the “renewable energy and conservation element” of the development code.
San Bernardino County was one of five counties that received a total of $3.3 million in grants from the Energy Commission to address renewable energy projects and resources. The other counties to received grants were Imperial, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles and Inyo.
The moratorium does not apply to projects that had already been approved by the Board of Supervisors prior to the moratorium.
County CEO Greg Devereaux said there are 25 renewable energy projects that have already been approved and are under construction, and Planning Director Terri Rahhal said seven applications received by the county prior to the moratorium are still under review.
Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Janice Rutherford said the number of projects in the pipeline should be enough to keep people working for the next several months while the county works out its plan.
“Our ordinance is broken. It needs to be fixed and I think we need to give sufficient thought to it,” Rutherford said. “It looks like we’ll be very busy over the next couple of months to get this done.”