A photo of Blythe City Hall
A photo of Blythe City Hall. (Photo by Alicia Ramirez)

The Blythe City Council last week approved a temporary moratorium on new commercial solar energy facilities within the city to give staff time to provide council guidance on regulating the scale, design and location of the facilities.

“Because commercial solar energy facilities are not currently identified or regulated in the zoning code, the Development Services Department is concerned that commercial solar energy facilities may have adverse effects on city residents,” Mallory Crecelius, interim city manager, said. 

Crecelius said the urgency ordinance was brought to council after the city received an application for the construction and operation of a photovoltaic solar array within the city’s Colorado River Corridor Plan area. The plan, adopted in 2007, includes planned land uses for more than 12 miles of riverfront property and encompasses approximately 6,000 acres on the city’s easternmost edge.

“If the city council does not adopt a moratorium ordinance, staff is concerned that commercial solar energy products that are not compatible with surrounding uses may be established that could adversely impact the quality of life for residents of the city and interfere with the carefully thought out and developed Colorado River Corridor specific plan,” Crecelius said.

According to Crecelius, the city last amended its definition of a utility operations facility in 1982 to include facilities such as telephone switchboard centers, electrical plants, sewer treatment plants and water pumping stations.

“As such, it does not clearly and was not likely to include commercial solar energy facilities,” she said. “Due to the emerging technology of solar energy generation, and the state’s push to make the grid electric, staff would like to take this opportunity to amend the Blythe municipal code to clearly define and regulate solar energy facilities.”

The urgency ordinance adopted by council defines a commercial solar energy facility as a solar energy facility designed to collect, store and distribute solar energy used to meet off-site energy demand.

“This ordinance would purely pertain to solar fields that will produce electricity that will be fed into the grid and used throughout an energy purchaser’s service territory,” Crecelius said.

The moratorium does not prohibit developers from submitting new applications or the processing of permits, however it does prohibit the issuance of permits.

The moratorium will be in effect for 45 days and will have to come back to council if it were to be extended.

“I would hope to do this as soon as possible, because I don’t want to stall any development,” Crecelius said. “I just want to make sure that we think about this as these solar facilities start being built throughout our community as to where’s the best place for them to be located, if there’s any specific things we would like to require of them.” 

In other council action: The Blythe City Council has entered into a research partnership with John Eason, an associate professor of sociology and international and public affairs at Brown University, to study the impact the proposed closure of Chuckawalla Valley State Prison would have on the community. The findings are expected to be presented to the council in December.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.