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Cuyama Solar Facility Gets Final OK from County Supervisors

Santa Barbara County’s first solar farm cleared its final hurdle this week when the county Board of Supervisors approved several items related to the project.

With little discussion beyond noting last month’s thorough presentation and discussion along with great support for the project, the supervisors unanimously approved assorted matters for the solar farm near Cuyama.

The Cuyama Solar Facility is proposed for 327 acres at 596 Kirchenmann Road in the northeastern corner of the county.

The project will generate 40 megawatts of electricity, which would be enough for approximately 16,000 homes, according to applicant First Solar.

Some 600,000 photovoltaic modules, 2 feet by 4 feet, would convert sunlight directly into low-voltage direct current.

The modules would be mounted on steel and aluminum support structures in a horizontal tracking device that follows the sun. It will connect via the Cuyama substation, with the electricity going into Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s grid.

In addition to the solar array, the project includes an approximately 3-mile 70-kilovolt generation tie-line; and an approximately 19,600-square-foot switchyard, located near the PG&E Cuyama Substation.

Among the many steps, county officials needed to certified the certify the environmental impact report, plus approve the conditional-use permit and associated permits for the Cuyama Solar Facility.

The proposed project required amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Development Code (CP/LUDC) to allow utility-scale solar photovoltaic facilities on up to 600 acres in the rural area of the Cuyama Valley.

Some parcels needed to be rezoned to accommodate the facility.

In connection with the project, proponents sought to cancel the Williamson Act (Ag Preserves) contract for 167 acres. But the remaining 1,362 acres were re-enrolled into a replacement contract to keep the land in agriculture uses.

The two hearings held a month apart were related to the Williamson Act contract, according to county staff.

The county Planning Commission recommended the Board of Supervisors approve the solar project July 22.

First Solar officials made a $50,000 donation to Cuyama Valley charities, officials said last month.

Once this project is built, approximately 273 additional acres could be developed with utility-scale solar photovoltaic facilities in the future before the county limit is reached.

County staff said the 600-acre limit reflects the available capacity of the existing transmission facilities in the Cuyama Valley.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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