26.88.200 Renewable Energy Systems and Facilities Development Standards
Renewable Energy Systems and Facilities are allowed in accordance with permit requirements as shown in Table1: Allowed Uses and Permit Requirements-for Renewable Energy Systems and Facilities. (PDF 93 kB)
- Accessory-renewable Energy Systems The following site planning and development-standards shall apply to accessory renewable energy systems, defined as those designed to supply a total of not more than 125% of the calculated energy-demand for all legally established on-site uses. Accessory renewable energy systems include attached wind systems and those not exceeding forty (40) feet-in height; solar photo-voltaic systems; low-temperature geothermal heating-systems; geothermal heat pump systems; and bioengineering systems (and intergenerational facilities) where the feedstock is also produced on-site.
Accessory systems do not include-systems designed or used primarily to supply off-site energy needs. Overspecialize solar or energy systems constructed on or within existing-buildings or as shade structures over required parking areas are not subject tithe 125% threshold when producing electricity for a feed-in tariff or Community-choice Aggregation Program.
- Site Planning and Development Standards
- Biotic Resources. Accessory renewable-energy systems shall not be sited within designated sensitive biotic resource areas as designated in the General Plan, Zoning or Area Plan including wetlands, streams, threatened or endangered species habitat areas and/or habitat connectivity corridors.
- Scenic Resources. Accessory renewable-energy systems located within scenic areas as designated in the General Plan,Zoning or Area Plan shall require administrative design review as set forth in 26.82.050 (Design Review). Systems shall be sited behind natural topography or vegetation when feasible.
- Farmland Protection. In the-agricultural zoning districts, an accessory renewable energy system shall bested to minimize any loss of Important Farmlands, and shall meet the-requirements of General Plan Policy AR-4a. A Right to Farm declaration and an agricultural impact easement limiting the liability of farmers onion-agricultural uses shall be recorded. If the system is located on a site under a Land Conservation Act (Williamson Act)contract, the system must serve an agricultural or compatible use listed in the Uniform Rules for the Land Conservation Act-program.
- Fire Protection. An accessory renewable energy system shall meet Chapter 13 oft he Sonoma County Code (the Fire Safety Ordinance). For roof-mounted solar systems, this includes 3 feet clear at roof edges, valley and hips, unless-waived in writing by the Fire Marshal.
- Grading-and Access. Accessory renewable energy systems shall be sited to maintain-natural grades and shall use existing roads for access. Grading and/or construction of new roads shall be allowed only where necessary to provide the system in proximity to the energy use or transmission and distribution system,and that an alternate location on the subject site is less suitable for environmental or visual reasons.
- Noise. Renewable energy systems shall not exceed the General Plan Noise Standards Table NE-2, measures at the nearest property line.
- Cessation-of Use. The operator shall remove components of the facility when it-becomes functionally obsolete or is no longer in use, and shall begin-restoration and removal of all equipment, structures, footings/foundations,signs, fencing, and access roads within ninety (90) days from the date the-facility ceases operation, and complete restoration within six (6) months.
- Commercial-renewable Energy Facilities. The following siting criteria and development-standards apply to all commercial (non-accessory) renewable energy facilities which provide energy for off-site use, unless otherwise exempt, in addition to the-applicable special use standards for the specific type of facility:
- Siting Criteria.
- Aesthetics. Renewable energy facilities shall be sited to minimize view impacts from public roads and adjacent residential areas, and shall require administrative design review as set forth in 26.82.050 (Design Review). Proposed facilities-located within Scenic or Historic Resource combining zones shall also require-design review of materials, colors, landscape, fencing and lighting plans. Any-lighting shall be fully shielded, downward casting and not wash out onto structures, other properties or the night sky. The operator shall maintain the-facility, including all required landscaping, in compliance with the approved design plans.
- Air Safety. Renewable energy facilities shall not be located within the-approach zone (outer or inner safety zones) or the inner turning zones for any public use airport. Renewable energy facilities shall be sited and operated to avoid hazards to air navigation; sites located within a public use airport-traffic zone will be required to provide an analysis documenting compliance with this standard. The owner/operator of a facility approved within a public-airport’s traffic zone shall be required to record an aviation easement and-may be required to mark or light the facility for air traffic safety. The operator shall notify the FAA and California Division of Aeronautics of any structures in an airport traffic zone that are more than 200 feet above the-ground elevation or that exceed airport imaginary surfaces as defined in Federal Aviation Regulations Part 77. If located on airport lands, the facility-must meet the building setback approved on the Airport Layout Plan.
- Biotic Resources. Renewable energy facilities shall be sited to avoid or minimize impacts to sensitive biotic habitats including woodlands, wetlands, streams,and habitat connectivity corridors as identified in the General Plan, Area Plan, Specific Plan or biotic Resource combining zone. Projects located within or adjacent to these areas will require a biotic study at the time of use permit application to demonstrate that the facility avoids sensitive species to the maximum extent feasible and provides adequate mitigation of potential impacts.
- Cultural-and Historic Resources. Renewable energy facilities shall be sited to avoid or mitigate impacts to significant cultural and historic resources. Projects located within a Historic District shall be subject to review by the Landmarks Commission, unless otherwise exempt. Projects involving grading more than18-inches in depth may require a cultural resources survey at the time of use permit application.
- Farmland-protection. Where a commercial renewable energy facility is sited within an-agricultural Zone, the primary use of the parcel shall remain in agriculture pursuant to General Plan Policy AR-4a. A Right to Farm Declaration and Agricultural Use Easement shall be recorded to minimize conflicts with agricultural operations. A renewable energy facility shall not take mapped Important Farmlands out of agricultural production by removing permanent crops.
If the facility is located on site under a Land Conservation Act (Williamson Act) contract, the facility must-be listed as an agricultural or compatible use in the Agricultural Preserve Rules and allowed by the type of contract. The total site area for all-compatible uses including renewable energy facilities shall not be greater than15 percent of the parcel or 5 acres, whichever is less, unless determined byte Board of Supervisors that a larger site area is consistent with the-principles of compatibility.
- Proximity to Utility Transmission Lines and-utility Notification. For renewable energy facilities interconnected to transmission lines greater than 6kV, the location of new transmission lines,poles, and utility sub-stations shall be identified on the site plans. If high-voltage (100kV) or private transmission lines are proposed, they shall reconsidered as part of the use permit process for the renewable energy facility. No building permit for a renewable energy facility shall be issued until 1)evidence has been provided to the department that the proposed interconnection is acceptable to the utility; 2)the Planning Commission has reviewed and made a recommendation regarding the-proposed transmission line route; and, 3) the California Public Utilities-commission has approved the location of any new utility-owned transmission lines.
- Grading-and Access. Renewable energy facilities shall be sited to maintain natural grades and use existing roads for access to the extent practical. Construction of new roads shall be-avoided as much as possible. Following use of temporary access roads,construction staging areas, or field office sites used during construction, all-natural grades shall be restored and re-vegetated. The operator shall maintain an all-weather access road for maintenance and emergency vehicles.
- Land Use. Renewable energy accessory systems and commercial facilities shall be located within existing built overdeveloped areas, or within existing legally established structures or over-parking areas to the extent practicable and within the limits of the Solar Rights Act.
- Development Standards
- Air Quality. During site preparation,grading and construction, the operator must implement best management practices-to minimize dust and wind erosion including, regularly water roads and-construction staging areas as necessary. Paved roads shall be swept as needed to remove any soil that has been carried onto them from the project site.
- Erosion-and Sediment Control. The operator must have a storm-water management permit-and an erosion and sediment control plan approved prior to beginning grading or construction. The plan must include best management practices for erosion control during and after construction and-permanent drainage and erosion control measures to prevent damage to local roads or adjacent areas and to minimize sediment run-off into waterways.
- Fire Protection. Renewable energy facilities shall meet Chapter 13 of the Sonoma County Code (the Fire Safety Ordinance). The operator must implement a Fire Prevention Plan for construction and ongoing operations approved by the County Fire Marshall and local fire protection district. The plan shall include, button be limited to: emergency vehicle access and turn- around at the facility site(s), addressing, vegetation management and fire break maintenance around all structures.
- Noise. Renewable energy facilities shall be operated in compliance with the-general Plan Noise Standards Table NE-2.
- County Service Impacts/Sales and Use Taxes. Prior to issuance of any grading or building permit(s), the owner/operator shall-enter into an agreement with the County, in a form approved by the County-counsel, governing payment of sales and use taxes. The owner/operator shall-undertake specified actions in contracting for construction of the facility so as to allocate sales and use taxes paid-in connection with the construction of the plant to the County. The owner/operator shall include language in its construction contracts identifying the job site as within the County and requiring its construction contractors to allocate sales and use taxes to the County, to the extent provided by law units Board of Equalization filings and permits.
- Security and Fencing. The site area faro renewable energy facility must be fenced to prevent unauthorized access and-provide adequate sign-age. Wildlife friendly fencing shall be used in rural areas. If needed, security lighting shall be motion censored. Access gates and equipment cabinets must be locked at all times.
- Signs. Temporary signs describing the project, and providing contact information forth contractor and operator shall be placed during construction and must be removed prior to final inspection and operation. Signs for public or employee safety are required. No more than two signs relating the address and name oft he operator/facility may be placed on-site, subject to administrative design review. Outdoor displays, billboards or advertising signs of any kind either on- or off-site are prohibited unless approved as a part of the use permit.
- Decommissioning. A decommissioning plan shall be required as part of any use permit for a renewable energy facility and must-include the following:
- Removal of all above ground and underground-equipment, structures not identified for re-use, fencing and foundations to a depth of three feet below grade. Underground equipment, structures and foundations located at least three feet-below grade that do not constitute a hazard or interfere with the use of the land do not need to be removed.
- Removal of graveled areas and access roads and placement of topsoil.
- Restoration of the surface grade and placement of topsoil after removal of all-structures and equipment including grading, re vegetation and erosion control plans to return the site to an appropriate endues.
- Re vegetation of disturbed areas with native seed-mixes and plant species suitable to the area. Documentation of a three (3) year-maintenance agreement for all re-vegetated areas must be submitted prior to the-restoration being considered complete.
- The time-frame for completion of removal and-restoration activities.
- An engineer’s cost estimate for all aspects oft he restoration plan.
- An agreement signed by the owner and operator that they take full responsibility for decommissioning and reclaiming the stein accordance with the Decommissioning Plan and Use Permit approval upon cessation of use.
- A plan to comply with all state and federal requirements for reuse, recycling or disposal of potentially hazardous waste.
The facility operator is-required to notify the department immediately upon termination or cessation fuse or abandonment of the operation. The operator shall remove components oft he facility when it becomes functionally obsolete or is no longer in use. The operator shall begin restoration and removal of all equipment, structures,footings/foundations, signs, fencing, and access roads within ninety (90) days-from the date the facility ceases operation, and complete restoration within-one (1) year.
- Financial Assurance. Financial assurance may be required for any commercial renewable-energy facility, and shall be required for renewable energy facilities of 1 MW or larger or which exceed 5 acres inland area. At the time of issuance of the permit for the construction of the-facility, the operator shall provide financial assurance in a form and amount acceptable to the Department to secure the expense of decommissioning,dismantling and removing all equipment, structures, fencing, and reclaiming the site and associated access or distribution lines/pipes in compliance with the-approved restoration plan.
- Abandonment. A renewable energy facility that ceases to produce electricity and/or useful heat and/or renewable fuel on a continuous basis for twelve (12) months-shall be determined abandoned in compliance with the following procedures. Facilities determined by the County to be unsafe and facilities erected in violation of this section shall also be considered abandoned and shall be subject to code enforcement action.
- The determination of abandonment shall be made-by the code enforcement officer or his/her designer. The code enforcement officer or any other employee of the Department shall have the right to request documentation and/or affidavits from-the facility owner/operator regarding the use of the facility, and shall make determination as to the date of abandonment or the date on which other violation(s) occurred. The code enforcement officer’s decision is pursuant to Section 1-7.3 (b) of the Sonoma County Code.
- Upon a determination of abandonment or other violation(s), the County shall send a notice to the owner and operator,indicating that the responsible party shall remove the facility and all-associated structures, and begin restoration of the site to its approximate-original condition within ninety (90) days of notice by the County, unless the County determines that the facilities must be removed in a shorter period to protect public safety or an alternative to resolving the violation is agreed-upon. All restoration work shall be completed within one (1) year.
- In the event that the responsible parties have-failed to remove and/or restore the facility site or otherwise resolve the-violation(s) within the specified time period, and the appeals have been exhausted, the County may use the financial security to remove the facility and restore the site. The County may thereafter initiate judicial proceedings or-take any other steps authorized by law against the responsible parties tore-cover costs associated with the removal of structures determined to be public hazard.