San Bernardino County is creating a Renewable Energy and Conservation Element for the General Plan. The project, known as the San Bernardino County Partnership for Renewable Energy and Conservation (SPARC), will provide the County and decision-makers with a framework that supports appropriate renewable energy development while protecting existing community and natural resources. In addition to development of the Element, SPARC also consists of an extensive public engagement program (both in-person and online) and preparation of technical documents that will support the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element’s development. SPARC seeks to achieve a new era of strategic renewable energy and conservation productivity, where the County’s policies, goals, objectives, procedures, actions, and regulatory system align in achieving the County’s vision.
With SPARC, the County will:
- Build a highly collaborative public outreach system to investigate strategies, tools, and public support for appropriate renewable energy and conservation.
- Prepare a General Plan Renewable Energy and Conservation Element that fosters a new era of strategic renewable energy development consistent with the County’s vision and the State’s Renewables Portfolio Standard.
- Encourage diversification of renewable energy types and technologies.
- Refine and integrate the regulatory system and tools to support the County’s vision and element purposes for responsible renewable energy development and conservation.
- Include regional and national stakeholders in this process to optimize the sharing and testing of relevant ideas.
SPARC is an opportunity to improve the region’s self-reliance by utilizing alternative and renewable energy sources, guiding water management, encouraging green manufacturing, rewarding sustainable building, and conserving natural resources—all leading to a healthy population with a high quality of life.
San Bernardino County has been a leader in renewable energy development and is home to the first large-scale solar project in the state. SPARC is the key planning task that will substantially enhance the County’s capacity to attract and regulate appropriate renewable energy development.
SPARC will specifically support the County’s goal to achieve a sustainable system of resource development and management in which development complements natural resources and the environment.
SPARC will assist the County in intelligently managing resources for habitat preservation, recreation opportunities, resource extraction, alternative energy, future growth, water quality, and air quality, all within a regulatory framework that does not impede the creation of a sustainable economy.
SPARC will be a foundation for the pending General Plan update, prioritizing transparency and predictability to guide and attract appropriate business investment and development.
Public participation in SPARC development is highly encouraged. A variety of opportunities for input will be provided in an open and ethical manner. Stakeholder ideas will be sought out, shared, tested, and refined, while all sectors are engaged collaboratively to reach shared goals.
Project Phasing – SPARC Phases 1 and 2
In 2013, the California Energy Commission (CEC) awarded the County a grant, SPARC Phase 1) to create a Renewable Energy General Plan Element (REGPE). To facilitate completion of the REGPE, a second grant (SPARC Phase 2) was received to prepare a Renewable Energy Value-added Evaluation and Augmentation Leadership program, also known as REVEAL. The goal of SPARC Phase 2 is to evaluate the costs and benefits to the County of the renewable energy direction guided by SPARC Phase 1. The grants cover all consultants, and a majority of staff, costs and will culminate in the adoption of a Renewable Energy and Conservation Element for the County’s General Plan.
Once adopted, the new Element will provide a renewable energy framework for unincorporated San Bernardino County.
Relationship to Current County Codes
In December 2013, San Bernardino County adopted an ordinance to regulate renewable energy generation facilities (Chapter 84.29 of the Development Code). This ordinance addressed near-term needs, terminating the County’s temporary moratorium on commercial solar energy generation facilities adopted on June 12, 2013. Both the emergency ordinance and the new regulations adopted in December 2013 established additional required findings for approval of commercial solar energy generation facilities to protect natural resources, safeguard existing and future rural residential areas, and protect and promote a vibrant tourist economy. Working from this context, the SPARC process will create a new, long-term framework for renewable energy. The effort is anticipated to provide a more comprehensive framework to regulate all types of renewable energy, possibly resulting in revisions to current County codes. All SPARC proposals will aim to provide greater predictability for renewable energy development while safeguarding existing resources and community character.
Through a collaborative process, the County will identify a desired, long-term renewable energy vision. Outreach and engagement will help the County evaluate opportunities and recent experience. SPARC will also serve as a foundation for the pending General Plan update, prioritizing transparency and predictability to equip business investment and development.
Relationship to DRECP Process
The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is a collaborative effort of the Renewable Energy Action Team (REAT), comprised of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages approximately 10 million acres of public lands in the DRECP area, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Energy Commission, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to protect plant and wildlife communities while supporting appropriate renewable energy projects. The DRECP involves a partnership of state and federal agencies, along with local agencies, industry, and environmental stakeholders. Currently under development, the goal of the DRECP is to protect and conserve desert ecosystems while allowing for the development of appropriate solar, wind and geothermal energy projects. State and federal permitting agencies will use the DRECP as a resource for state and federal permitting activity.
Recognizing the state and federal focus of the DRECP, the California Energy Commission (CEC) is seeking to expand local planning and permitting capacity consistent with DRECP objectives. SPARC is one of several projects funded by the CEC to strengthen the ability of local jurisdictions to enable and permit appropriate renewable energy that is compatible with natural resources. San Bernardino County is seeking to provide continuity between the DRECP and the SPARC project.
Additional information is available on the Resource Library.