On Friday, February 13, Scott Flint, Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Program Manager for the California Energy Commission (CEC), and Mike Howard, Lead Conservation Biologist and Deputy Project Manager at Dudek, came to the SDG&E Energy Innovation Center to discuss the Draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) in a packed joint luncheon between the local San Diego American Planning Association (APA) and Association of Environmental Professionals (AEP) chapters.

The DRECP Plan Area encompasses approximately 22.5 million acres across seven counties in the Mojave and Colorado/Sonoran desert regions of California, including portions of San Diego County. The plan would allow up to 20,000 megawatts of utility scale renewable energy development (solar, wind, and geothermal) to help achieve the renewable energy goals of Assembly Bill 32. Renewable energy development would be directed into development focus areas (areas that typically have greater levels of existing disturbance, higher renewable energy potential, and lower biological value). This organization of development would allow for streamlined endangered species take permits under the Federal Endangered Species Act and the California Endangered Species Act. The plan would also include a comprehensive conservation strategy for sensitive species and their habitat while conserving important cultural, recreational, and visual resources.

Plan elements include a U.S. Bureau of Land Management Land Use Plan Amendment, Natural Community Conservation Plan, Habitat Conservation Plan/General Conservation Plan, and an Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement that was prepared as a partnership between the California Energy Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The speakers discussed the intricate planning process, which included extensive public participation, and the drivers that allowed this massive undertaking to reach the public review phase. Key planning topics that were discussed during the event ranged from balancing renewable energy development and biological resource conservation to federal and state permitting requirements.

For more information on the plan, please visit: www.drecp.org.

Slides from the event are available for download here from the SDAPA’s Planning Library.

Austin Melcher is an Environmental Specialist/Planner at Dudek and the Secretary of the Board of Association of Environmental Professionals (AEP).