RAPID/Solar/California/Pre-Existing Land Use

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California Solar Pre-Existing Land Use Assessment(13-CA)

California has two particularized land use considerations developers must consider for renewable energy projects. First, projects that are located in or near a coastal zone as defined in the California Coastal Act, may require one or more coastal related permits. Second, projects on land under a Williamson Act or Farmland Security Zone contract may qualify for a solar-use easement.

Under the California Coastal Act, projects in California Coastal Zones may require one or more coastal related permits. The California Coastal Commission (CCC) is the governing agency for coastal zones. Management of coastal land is shared between the CCC and local city or county governments (collectively, “local authority”). The developer must submit an application for a Coastal Development Permit to either the local authority or the CCC. The relevant agency reviews the application and issues or denies the permit. No development within the coastal zone may proceed until the CCC or local government issues a Coastal Development Permit. See Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 30330.

Any federal agency activity or federal development project, taking place within or outside of a coastal zone, that will affect the land or water uses of a California coastal zone, must meet the requirements of the federal consistency provisions of the Coastal Zone Management Act. Thus, a project that may affect a California coastal zone must be consistent with the California Coastal Management Program (CCMP). A consistency determination is required for federal activities and development projects. The federal agency conducting the federal activity or development project will prepare the consistency determination for the CCC to review. For a project requiring a federal license or permit, the developer seeking the license or permit must apply to the CCC for a consistency certification. The federal agency responsible for issuing the license or permit may not issue the license or permit to the developer until the developer has received the consistency certification. 15 CFR § 930.

Privately owned land that is restricted in use because of a Williamson Act contract or a Farmland Security Zone contract may be eligible to rescind the contract and enter into a solar-use easement if certain conditions are met. The solar-use easement would require the land to be used for a solar photovoltaic (PV) facility for the term of 10 to 20 years. The California Government Code sets out the requirements that a parcel of land and the landowner must meet in order to be eligible to enter into a solar-use easement. The California Department of Conservation (DOC) has the authority to approve, in consultation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the rescission of the previous conservation contract and authorize the solar-use easement.

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Determine Which State and Federal Permits Apply

Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.