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Building Renewable Power Facilities in California

Golden Opportunity, Special Challenges

Golden Opportunity

 

California Is Dedicated to Building Massive Quantities of Renewable Energy over the Next 25 Years

  • SB 100 (2018) requires California to achieve a 50% carbon-free electricity grid by 2026 and a 60% carbon-free grid by 2030, and aims for a zero-carbon electricity grid by 2045.
  • Governor Newsom and President Biden have both expressed interest in accelerating this timeline.
  • For California to achieve this goal, roughly 50,000 MW of renewable energy capacity must be built in the state over the next 25 years. The opportunity is enormous.

Special Challenges

 

The Golden State Poses Unique Challenges to Developers Building Renewable Energy Facilities

CEQA (see-qua)

  • The CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT (CEQA) requires a detailed and public environmental analysis of every project in California with a significant impact on the environment — i.e., every renewable energy project.
  • CEQA gives project opponents — competitors, unions, NIMBYs — an easy way to slow or derail your project.
  • An experienced, strategic approach can enable your project to move through the CEQA process with no surprises and a minimum of delay.

Local Government Approvals

  • Virtually every project will require a CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT and numerous other local approvals. Each local jurisdiction has its own unique set of requirements.
  • Often the best way to ensure success is to negotiate a DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT that creates and preserves your development rights over time.

Subdivision Map Act

  • The development of large parcels often triggers requirements under the SUBDIVISION MAP ACT. Renewable power projects generally require the submission and recordation of a TENTATIVE MAP and FINAL MAP.
  • In order to preserve your rights over time, you may need to file a special map called a VESTING TENTATIVE MAP. A vesting tentative map locks your approval in place and prevents local government from changing the rules midstream.

Unions

  • Unions are powerful in California. Many projects require negotiations with unions, communication with elected officials, and potentially the development of a PROJECT LABOR AGREEMENT to set the ground rules for union involvement.
  • Any project that receives a public subsidy of any kind might find itself subject to the CALIFORNIA PREVAILING WAGE LAW. This law essentially requires a developer to pay union wages on their project — regardless of whether they are using union workers.
  • Prevailing wage requirements can add millions to the cost of a renewable energy project. Enforcement can occur before, during, or up to four years after completion of the project.

Species and Habitat Issues

  • Any project that involves the development of wetlands or streams requires a SECTION 401 CERTIFICATION from the Regional Water Board and a SECTION 404 PERMIT from the Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Any project that involves development over streambeds requires a STREAMBED ALTERATION AGREEMENT from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Any project affecting an endangered or threatened species or habitat requires an INCIDENTAL TAKE PERMIT or demonstrated compliance with a HABITAT CONSERVATION PLAN (HCP) or NATURAL COMMUNITIES CONSERVATION PLAN (NCCP).

Coastal Zone

  • The California Coastal Zone varies in width from a few hundred feet to several miles inland from the coast. Any project within the Coastal Zone requires a COASTAL DEVELOPMENT PERMIT (CDP) from either the local government or the California Coastal Commission.
  • Likewise, projects near San Francisco Bay may require a development permit from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC).

California Independent System Operator (CAISO)

  • CAISO manages and operates the California electric grid and the wholesale energy market.
  • In order to connect to the electricity grid, solar projects must participate in an INTERCONNECTION STUDY and obtain an INTERCONNECTION AGREEMENT.

California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)

  • The CPUC is the entity that authorizes, approves, and regulates POWER PURCHASE AGREEMENTS (PPA) between generators and regulated utilities. It determines the type and amount of power that can be purchased by the utilities.
  • To obtain a Power Purchase Agreement for your facility, you must apply for and receive approval from the CPUC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supporting Professionals

Capabilities & Experience

The California Land Use Practice Group at Mintz has the capabilities and experience to anticipate and address any land use issues that arise for your renewable energy project in California.