Save North Livermore Valley

There are two proposals for massive solar facilities in the open space to the north of Livermore in unincorporated Alameda County near Livermore Avenue. Based on current information, and after visiting the site, I do not believe the proposed large solar power plants are the best strategy for generating renewable energy for our county.

Since moving to south county, I have fought to preserve open space as a Sierra Club volunteer. I have continued that legacy as a Fremont City Council member and am proud to have the Sierra Club’s endorsement. One thing I know to be true about open space:

Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

The open space to the north of Livermore is particularly beautiful and hosts a number of agricultural and natural areas. Some of the roadways near the proposed project site are designated as scenic corridors. This vast open space is a source of pride for Livermore Valley. It would be sad to see such a key portion of it taken away for a for-profit energy development.

Measure D was an initiative sponsored by the Sierra Club and approved by the voters of Alameda County in 2000. It set an Urban Growth Boundary to prevent sprawl from encroaching on agricultural lands and open space. I am a strong supporter of Measure D. In my opinion, allowing large solar power plants to be built on these lands goes against the intent of Measure D which was to protect these areas from development.

An initial study prepared for the smaller of these two facilities found many potential significant impacts. For example, the “proposed project could degrade the existing visual character or quality of the site and its surroundings”. Other potential impacts are to threatened animals and special-status plants.

As an environmentalist and someone who has served on the Board of the East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) since its inception, I understand the difficulty in procuring renewable energy in the amounts that we need today. In 2017, EBCE completed a Solar Siting Survey that looked at where infill solar facilities could be located within Alameda County.

The study found that over 650 MW could be generated in the EBCE service territory relying only on infill projects greater than 1 MW. When one includes possible projects that are 100 kW or greater, there is a potential to generate a total of 2 GigaWatts (GW).

In 2018, Alameda County staff prepared a draft set of policies that deal with siting solar facilities in East County. Part of these policy guidelines are to prioritize solar facilities in the current built environment. I believe that these policy guidelines need to be discussed and finalized before proceeding with any new large scale solar facilities.

We should be focusing on infill solar projects that allow us to generate clean, renewable energy without taking away open space. We shouldn’t have to destroy part of the environment in order to save it.