Cuyama Solar Array Project
The Cuyama Solar Array and Comprehensive Plan/Land Use Development Code Amendments DEIR was projected for public release the middle of March 2013. First Solar requests a small modification to the project description, and this will, subsequently, require some additional analysis. The DEIR release will be delayed; once we are more certain of the timing, we will update the website.
Draft EIR will be available for public review. Once we are more certain of the timing of when the DEIR will be released (see What’s New above), we will update the website.
The Cuyama Solar Array Project was initially proposed to Planning & Development by Edison Mission Energy in September 2009, under P&D’s pre-application process. Numerous preliminary meetings have been held with County committees and agencies, including the Agricultural Advisory Committee, Agricultural Preserve Advisory Committee, County Public Works Department, and Fire Department. A Conceptual Review Hearing was held at the County Planning Commission on November 18, 2009. The applicant has also met with community groups and state and federal agencies in an outreach effort. The project was acquired by First Solar, Inc., prior to submittal of the permit application submittal on March 30, 2010.
The project is responsive to California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires California’s investor-owned electric utilities to obtain a prescribed portion of their electricity supply from renewable sources: 20% of retail sales for a period of January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2013; 25% by December 31, 2016; and 33% by December 31, 2020.
According to the project applicant, the electrical transmission lines in the area have sufficient capacity to accept an additional 40 to 45 MW of generated electricity. The applicant believes that the sunlight and atmospheric conditions in the Cuyama Valley are adequate to support a commercial solar project, with current technology and economic conditions.
The five parcels currently identified for this project are owned by Bolthouse Properties, LLC, and are under active cultivation by Bolthouse Farms. The primary crop is carrots, along with rotational crops including onions and potatoes. The land is classified prime farmland, with Class I and II soils. It is irrigated with water from off-site wells and stored in an on-site irrigation pond. Groundwater overdraft resulting from irrigated agriculture is an ongoing problem in the Cuyama groundwater basin. One of the parcels is part of a larger (1,529 acre) Agricultural Preserve contract. The proposed project requests removal of 167 acres from the contract by partial cancellation.
The project involves construction and operation of a 40 MW solar photovoltaic energy generating facility, consisting of approximately 34, 1.26 megawatt (MW) solar arrays, mounted on steel and aluminum support structures in a horizontal tracking configuration. The thin-film PV modules (each approximately 2 feet wide by 4 feet long) would convert solar energy directly to electrical power to supply the electrical grid. The arrays would be arranged in north/south rows, and would be powered by a DC drive motor to track the east/west path of the sun on a single axis throughout the day. Vertical posts driven up to 10 feet in the ground would support the tracker structures. The highest point for a horizontal tracker occurs during the early morning and evening hours, and at the maximum angle, the height above grade would be approximately 11 feet. The facility would be surrounded by a security fence. (see Figure 3 below)
Within each 1.26 MW tracker array, an anemometer tower, up to 33 feet in height, would be centrally mounted to monitor wind speed and communicate with the tracker units. Each Power Conversion Station (PCS) Shelter would be equipped with communication equipment to wirelessly communicate with the tracker units to control operation and detect anomalous conditions. The PCS Shelter would also be equipped with emergency backup power required to rotate the tracker units to stow position in the unlikely event of high winds and a loss of the primary 70kV electrical connection from the Project to the electrical grid. The emergency backup power system would be battery power.
A new 3-mile 70kV generation tie-line would be constructed by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and would deliver the Project’s generated power from the onsite substation to the Taft-Cuyama 70kV #1 Line (Point of Interconnection – POI), located adjacent to the west side of the Cuyama substation. The new generation tie-line would replace PG&E’s existing 12kV wood distribution poles with new light-steel, double circuit 115kV transmission line poles along Kirschenmann Road (a public right- of-way) and Washington Street (a private road). The new poles would be approximately 70-feet to 100-feet tall, with a pole span ranging between approximately 300- to 500-feet. (See Figure 4 below).
Click here for a complete project description.