LPC Solar 07-30-20 078

(Photo - Doug Jorgensen)

LIVERMORE — Ahead of an East County Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) meeting set for next week, Save North Livermore Valley — a grassroots open space advocacy group — called on the community to urge county officials to preserve agricultural land.

The BZA meeting will take place Tuesday, Nov. 24, at 1:30 p.m. At that time, the board is expected to vote on certification of a final environmental impact review (FEIR) for the Aramis Solar Energy Generation and Storage project. The BZA will further consider a 50-year conditional-use permit (CUP) to allow the power plant to operate on the site.

The Aramis solar utility-scale project is proposed for 580 acres of farmland — of which 410 acres would contain solar arrays and support facilities — located about 2 miles north of Livermore along Cayetano Creek, just west of North Livermore Avenue, with another section extending north of Manning Road.

Chris O’Brien, a member of the steering committee for Save North Livermore Valley, has been a staunch opponent of the Aramis project for its proposed land use and conflict with Measure D — approved by voters in 2000 to protect open space from sprawl. He stressed the importance of community input during the BZA meeting.

“For months the corporate executives behind the massive Aramis project have denigrated the value of the agricultural land in North Livermore Valley, falsely claiming our soil is of poor quality and our land is rarely used for cattle grazing. Meanwhile, the public is unaware that these same executives plan on selling 75% of the power generated by the Aramis project to San Francisco electricity customers,” stated O’Brien. “The Aramis project is a monstrosity. It will destroy hundreds of acres of productive, environmentally important agricultural land and significantly and forever scar the scenic beauty of North Livermore Valley. Even a senior Alameda County planner concluded that the Aramis project does ‘not pass the laugh test’ for compliance with the Alameda County Zoning Code, Measure D and applicable environmental policies.

“We can still save our valley. We ask the community to speak at the upcoming meeting the East County Board of Zoning Adjustments and call on the board members to reject the project.”

Among the public agencies and environmental organizations that have submitted highly detailed and extensive criticisms of the environmental impact of the Aramis project are the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Friends of Open Space and Vineyards, Friends of Livermore, the Golden Gate Audubon Society and Save Mount Diablo.

Proponents of the project have pointed out the need for renewable energy. If built, the project could store and dispatch during peak demand enough electricity to power up to 25,000 homes with clean renewable energy harnessed from the sun.

The Board of Directors for East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) was scheduled to vote last Wednesday at its Nov. 18 meeting to authorize its CEO to enter into a 10-year power purchase agreement with the Aramis developer. To view a redacted copy of the agreement and a resolution supporting the contract, visit https://bit.ly/Indy_StaffReport.

In a recent interview with The Independent, Marisa Mitchell of Intersect Power — applicant of the Aramis project — stated that the site was carefully selected because it “has severely impaired soils and lack of habitat for protected species.”

“Moreover, the EIR shows that the project will not be visible with the installation of extensive landscaping to screen the facility from public view,” Mitchell continued. “(California Environmental Quality Act) is the toughest environmental standard in the country, and the project is fully compatible with the county’s General Plan, Zoning Ordinance, and Measure D, which is a voter initiative approved in 2000 ... Measure D was intended to protect community open space like parklands, not to force private property into serving as community open space.”

The Nov. 24 meeting is set for 1:30 p.m. and will be conducted via Zoom at the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/92158285462. The public will be given the opportunity to comment on the Aramis project.

Persons without internet access can attend by phone by calling 669-900-9128.

Those who cannot attend the meeting may contact the three members of the Board of Zoning Adjustments – Frank Imhof, Derek Eddy and Scott Beyer – in advance of the meeting by email at the following email addresses: timhof@earthlink.net, derek@purpleorchid.com, scott.beyer@wentevineyards.com

“Save North Livermore Valley fully appreciates the need to expand solar power,” O’Brien continued. “However, it is foolhardy to destroy open space, agricultural land, wildlife habitat and scenic resources to generate renewable energy, particularly when alternative sites that would not result in grave environmental damage exist.”