New county rules make installing alternative energy systems easier

By City News Service

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved a temporary zoning ordinance to make it easier to install small-scale wind and solar energy systems.

The new regulations are for an interim basis while a more comprehensive law undergoes review. Under the interim measure, the county will allow up to five small or medium-sized wind turbines per administrative permit.

Supervisor Ron Roberts said changes were needed now because “obsolete rules” made property owners go through a long and expensive permitting process.

“These are small, non-commercial grade operations,” Roberts said. “These are people who want to get off the grid in an inexpensive way, and we should allow them to do this.”

The county has received a number of complaints about noise from wind turbines, so applicants will still need to meet the sound limitations.

The new rules do not cover industrial-sized wind farms.

The changes for solar energy systems simplifies the county code to differentiate between on-site and off-site systems. Off-site systems smaller than 10 acres will only require an administrative permit, while those 10 acres or larger will need a Major Use Permit.

Solar power plants and more esoteric systems, such as solar power towers, will also require a Major Use Permit.

“The county wants to do its share to encourage homeowners to use solar energy - and also businesses,” board President Pam Slater-Price said.

County officials hope that making it easier to install wind and solar energy systems will help the county meet renewable energy goals.