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By Tim Hunt

Battling against industrial solar installation

Uploaded: Jul 28, 2020

One of the challenges with green power is that it often involves direct environmental tradeoffs.

For decades, the early windmills in the Altamont Pass killed Golden Eagles and other raptors preying on rodents in the grassy hills. That pitted the Audubon Society and other wildlife protectors against the green energy folks.

You can find a similar situation with the industrial-sized solar energy plants. Whether they’re acres of solar panels or an array of mirrors focusing sunlight on a tower to generate electricity, they cover many acres and aren’t particularly environmentally friendly to the creatures that try to live there.

And then there’s the peak power plants that often burn natural gas to provide electricity when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining or in high-demand times such as summer afternoons.

A similar struggle is playing out in North Livermore where two industrial solar energy farms have been proposed on agricultural land. If constructed, the plants would cover about 820 acres. The zoning is for large-parcel agriculture.

The county has approved two smaller plants on agricultural land, the latest one in 2011 that was appealed in 2012 according to the Livermore Independent. When that appeal was denied, county staff indicated that it was preparing a major review of solar projects.

Drafts were completed in 2013 and 2018, but were never enacted.

Meanwhile, environmental reviews are ongoing on the two projects and property owners in North Livermore have banned together to form Save North Livermore and hung signs along Manning Road and North Livermore Avenue opposing the projects. Just what those environmental reviews show and the views of the county supervisors ultimately will decide if they move ahead.

Incidentally, some people have argued that huge solar farms would be an ideal use for some farm land in the sprawling Westlands Water District along Interstate 5 in the greater San Joaquin Valley as an alternative to water-intensive trees and vegetables.

And opposition is nothing true. The late Ted Kennedy was among the vehement opponents to locating big windmills in the ocean off the family compound.

Sunday my Scottish friends from our church skipped the online service. Their priority: the final Sunday of the English Premier League.

Unlike American professional sports that use playoffs to decide championships, the regular season determines which English club raises the championship trophy after 38 home-and-home matches between the 20 teams. To ensure no club gets an advantage, the 20 games all start at the same time thus creating quite a challenge for fans wanting to watch more than one game.

The solution in normal times would be to go to a sports bar—not possible in the Bay Area today. So my friends, father and son, solved that challenge by creating their own at-home mini-sports bar. They had games running on two televisions as well as streaming on four laptops.

The day went well for them—their favorite club—Chelsea—won its game to finish fourth and earn a spot in the coveted Champions League next year.