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Editorial: Green waste proposal calls for fresh thinking

By   /   Friday, June 1st, 2012  /   Comments Off on Editorial: Green waste proposal calls for fresh thinking

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When it comes to reinventing the Central Coast’s economy around renewable energy technologies, new rules need to be written — and some adjustments  will be inevitable.

That’s part of the reason it’s important for the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to carefully look over a proposal to change the text of the county’s coastal zone ordinance to allow for a limited number of green waste  energy facilities on land that’s zoned for agriculture.

The text amendment would allow for up to 200 acres of land to be used for green waste facilities, beginning with a joint venture between Limoneira Co. and Agromin in Santa Paula. The proposed venture would create a “Biogenic Facility” that would use green waste to generate energy, providing both mulch for Limoneira’s fields and energy to power commercial facilities and homes from the same plant.

The Ventura County Economic Development Association has approved the measure, and the Business Times has observed the two companies in action for years. They are locally based firms trying hard to be at the cutting edge of new energy technology. In our view, providing up to 200 acres of agricultural land for biogenic facilities presents very little risk to public health and safety because the energy facilities will continue to be subject to all of the applicable land use and environmental rules and regulations.

What will happen, in our view, is that the environmental impact of agriculture will be reduced as green waste is used to offset expensive and environmentally risky fertilizers and water. Energy efficiency will be vastly improved because whatever power is generated from the green waste will be transported only a short distance to its end user.

The Tri-Counties are witnessing an explosion in the growth of alternative energy resources.  In San Luis Obispo County, two utility-scale solar farms are being built to serve California’s growing appetite for electricity. These farms will tap into already-existing powerlines serving the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.

In Santa Barbara County, Transphorm, a UC Santa Barbara spinoff, is working on technology to sharply reduce energy use by large computer installations. Clipper Windpower, while struggling to stay afloat, has one of the leading designs for large-scale wind turbines. Indeed, the Central Coast is gaining a reputation as an important hub for innovation in new energy technology.

With its solar fields, onion waste-to-methane recycling endeavor, organic tomato operations and other innovations, Ventura County is poised to claim the high ground in high-intensity, low-impact, highly energy efficient agriculture. The Board of Supervisors should consider the risks but also recognize the extremely high level of benefits that will be produced by allowing bioenergy facilities to proceed on a small footprint of agricultural land.

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