FAIRFIELD — County supervisors are willing to let Gestamp Solar pay $159,900 for an environmental report for a proposed commercial solar facility – but with a warning.
Gestamp Solar wants to build a solar farm on 154 acres between Fairfield and Vacaville, near Meridian and Hay roads. The solar farm would have 70,000 panels and generate 14 megawatts of electricity for Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
This site is a couple of miles north of Travis Air Force Base. The project’s possible effect on the base is an issue the county wants to explore.
There are other issues, as well. Among them are covering prime farmland with a solar project and whether a solar project on this scale is a good use in the greenbelt area that separates Fairfield and Vacaville.
Given all of this, several supervisors wonder why Gestamp wants to go forward with an environmental impact report. Supervisor Jim Spering said Gestamp could spend the money trying to find another location.
The county’s General Plan makes it clear that prime farmland is to be protected, Spering said. Gestamp faces an uphill battle, he said. At another point, he used the word “folly,” though he also said he would listen to Gestamp’s proposal.
“This is just money not well-spent,” Spering said. “This is just the beginning of a long struggle.”
Other supervisors voiced similar comments and none said anything that would give Gestamp officials comfort. But they agreed that Gestamp should be able to make an application to the county and do an environmental impact report.
“This is an awful waste of $160,000,” Supervisor Skip Thomson said. “But I wouldn’t want to deviate from our normal process.”
Supervisor Linda Seifert alluded to concerns Travis Air Force Base officials have expressed about large-scale solar projects causing glare and other possible problems. It’s critical that the county does all it can to protect Travis, she said.
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to go ahead with the environmental impact report, if that’s what Gestamp officials want to do. But supervisors also said that their comments should be relayed to Gestamp officials, who did not attend the meeting.
Gestamp is based in Spain and Gestamp Solar North America has Fresno offices. Gestamp officials could not be reached Tuesday afternoon by phone.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.