Brian Monaghan, Livermore
I’m writing in response to an Oct. 21, 2020, story entitled, “Local Group Engages Solar Consultant for Alternative Options.”
The article describes a solar siting study commissioned by the group Friends of Livermore, which opposes the proposed 100-megawatt Aramis Renewable Energy Project in the North Livermore Valley, for the purpose of identifying alternative locations for the project. The stated goal of the study is to identify locations so as to avoid controversy related to land use conflicts. The largest property identified in the siting study includes 381 acres owned by our company Wildlands Inc. As senior vice president at Wildlands, I must highlight these 381 acres – suggested as being suitable for solar development – are a fully protected habitat mitigation bank for western burrowing owl, American badger, and San Joaquin kit fox. Our property is comprised of high-quality habitat and is unsuitable for solar energy development. The property is restricted by a permanent conservation easement prohibiting any type of development.
As conservation land managers with experience in the region, the team at Wildlands has extensive expertise working with federal, state and local natural resource agencies in identifying lands that are appropriate for wildlife conservation and those that are not. We manage mitigation banks for important resources like wetlands, grasslands, habitat for California red-legged frogs, California tiger salamanders, and other species, and we have developed conservation easements for dozens of utility-scale solar projects throughout California that require the acquisition of compensatory habitat due to their displacement of habitat for threatened and endangered species.
We have reviewed the Aramis project, including the draft environmental impact report, and have concluded that the site would provide marginal value for habitat conservation. The solar development represents an opportunity to balance the need for renewable energy and avoiding sensitive areas since the project site has been extensively grazed and disked, and that the proposed development footprint appropriately avoids the areas of the site with higher habitat potential such as Cayetano Creek.
We are encouraged to see that the project site strikes a balance between protecting raptor foraging habitat during long-term operations while meeting our states renewable energy goals. In fact, if all solar projects were sited as well as this one, the team here at Wildlands would be much less busy providing off-site habitat solutions. The developer has identified an appropriate site for critically important solar and storage development, and Wildlands supports the Aramis project.