November 21, 2020
Board of Zoning Adjustments to Review Massive Aramis Solar Power Plant on Tuesday, November 24th
Alameda County officials have accelerated to Thanksgiving week the review of the environmental impact report for the Aramis industrial solar power plant and lithium-ion battery station complex proposed for North Livermore Valley.

A special meeting of the East County Board of Zoning Adjustments will occur on Tuesday, November 24, 2020, at 1:30 p.m.

The meeting will be conducted via Zoom at the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/92158285462 

Persons without internet access can attend by phone by calling (669) 900-9128.

The Board has the power to approve or reject the project. The public will be given the opportunity to comment before the Board votes.

Save North Livermore Valley fully appreciates the need to expand solar power. However, it is foolhardy to destroy open space, agricultural land, wildlife habitat and scenic resources to generate renewable energy, particularly when alternative sites exist that would not cause grave environmental damage.
Take Action: Contact County Officials
In advance of the hearing we request you email County officials and express your opinion that North Livermore Valley is an agricultural area and should remain one. The scenic beauty, natural habitat and open space of North Livermore Valley belong to all of us and must be preserved for future generations.

Please click the green "Email County Officials" link to send your message.
Here is suggested text you can cut and paste into your email message:

Dear Board members:

The scenic beauty, natural habitat and open space of North Livermore Valley belong to all of us and must be preserved for future generations. I respectfully request that you reject the Aramis project for the following reasons:

1) No public need requires the construction of the Aramis power plant in North Livermore Valley. The Aramis plant does not increase Alameda County's energy resilience as it will be connected to PG&E's power grid and 75% of the power will be conveyed to San Francisco.

Alameda County can generate greater renewable energy and preserve scarce agricultural land by promoting the installation of solar panels on rooftops of home and businesses, over parking lots and next to freeways.

At a minimum, Alameda County should first complete a solar mapping project and study to determine what areas pose the least conflict with wildlife habitat, open space and agricultural land before authorizing any industrial solar power plants in unincorporated Alameda County.
 
2) The Aramis solar power plant is not properly related to other land uses in North Livermore Valley. Under voter-approved Measure D, the agricultural lands of Alameda County, including North Livermore, are to be preserved, enhanced and protected from “excessive, badly located and harmful development.” Commercial electricity power generation does not exist today in North Livermore Valley and solar power plants are not an agricultural use of the land. 
 
3) If permitted, the Aramis solar plant will be materially detrimental to the public welfare and injurious to property in the neighborhood. The Environmental Impact Report concludes the Aramis project will have a significant and unavoidable negative impact on the scenic beauty of North Livermore Valley. Moreover, the Aramis solar project will obliterate habitat for special status species. The land is also a wildlife corridor important to the biodiversity of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
 
4) The Aramis solar plant is contrary to the character and standards established for North Livermore Valley. The valley is designated as an agricultural district. Farming, cattle grazing and the raising of other farm animals is impossible on land covered with solar photovoltaic panels. 
 
In conclusion, North Livermore Valley is an agricultural area and should remain one. Please reject the application of the Aramis solar power plant and lithium-ion battery station. 

Please add a subject line, such as Reject Aramis Solar Power Plant, and your name and city of residence to the end of the message.
10 Reasons Why the Aramis Solar Power Plant Should Be Rejected
1) The Aramis project will convert a significant portion of North Livermore Valley from an agricultural use into an industrial zone.

  • North Livermore Valley is one of the few unspoiled scenic corridors and agricultural areas remaining in Alameda County. The valley has been zoned for agricultural and rural residential uses since the 1950s. For nearly the same period Alameda County has recognized North Livermore Avenue in its General Plan as a scenic corridor and sought to preserve the area’s outstanding scenic quality.

  • No solar power plant of the magnitude of the Aramis project exists in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over 320,000, eight-foot tall solar panels will spread across 400 acres of agricultural land on a total project area of over 700 acres. The project area is larger than Livermore Municipal Airport or the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory campus. 
2) The Final Environmental Impact Report finds that the Aramis project will have “a substantial adverse effect on a scenic vista.”

  • Even with the landscaping proposed by Aramis, the report concluded that the adverse aesthetic impact will remain “significant and unavoidable.” (Aramis Final EIR, at p. ES-7.)

  • A Senior Alameda County Planner after reviewing the project wrote, “There is no way to hide this enormous project or protect the scenic quality of the area. It is a big, in-your-face project, and denial of that quality is disingenuous. In fact, the mitigation itself introduces new significant impacts that cannot be mitigated.”
3) The Aramis project will destroy productive agricultural land.

  • For months the corporate executives behind the massive Aramis project have denigrated the value of the agricultural land in North Livermore Valley, falsely claiming our soil is of poor quality and our land is rarely used for cattle grazing. 

  • In fact, the entire area where the Aramis project is proposed is identified as Prime Farmland If Irrigated by the Natural Resource Conservation Service. We hope one day to have access to irrigated water. In the meantime, as has occurred for the past 150 years, we grow oat hay which is used to feed cattle and horses. Our land is also extensively used for free-range, natural grass fed cattle grazing. 
4) The Aramis project will obliterate open space and environmentally important land. 

  • The construction of the Aramis solar power plant requires the grading, excavation, trenching and boring of the soil, followed by covering the land with 320,000 solar panels, inverters and a 5 acre battery storage system plus miles of internal access roads and fencing surrounding the project.

  • ABAG and MTC recognize the valley as a Priority Conservation Area. The land is used by foxes, eagles, owls and other predator birds to hunt field mice, rats, squirrels and rabbits. The Aramis project destroys this habitat and creates a barrier for the migration of wildlife among the nearby Doolan Canyon, Eagle Ridge, Cayetano Creek and Livermore Valley preserves that are safeguarded from development under conservation easements, undermining the biodiversity of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.


  • Save Mount Diablo found the Aramis project "will result in permanent loss and conversion of upland habitat." (SMD Letter, at p. 2) Likewise, the East Bay Regional Park District concluded the environmental impact report "did not adequately assess project impacts to biological resources, and therefore the identified mitigation measures are insufficient." (EBRPD Letter, at p. 2)
5) Aramis refuses to provide any compensatory mitigation. 
  • Due to the likely presence of California endangered species within and surrounding the project area, including the California tiger salamander and California red-legged frog, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has "advised" Aramis to apply a California Endangered Species Act Permit. (CDFW Letter, at p. 12-13)

  • Aramis has offered no compensatory mitigation for the project's destruction of habitat for sensitive species.

  • We believe the Aramis project should be rejected for multiple substantive reasons. The failure by Aramis and County planners, however, to recognize the need for compensatory mitigation serves as an independent basis to reject the project.
6) The Aramis project violates Measure D.

  • North Livermore Valley is one of the few remaining agricultural areas in Alameda County because countless persons and organizations spanning decades fought to preserve the valley. Their work culminated in Measure D, an initiative approved by County voters in 2000. Measure D can not be altered without a vote of the people.

  • The purpose of Measure D is to “preserve and enhance agriculture and agricultural lands, and to protect the natural qualities, the wildlife habitats, the watersheds and the beautiful open space of Alameda County from excessive, badly located and harmful development.” To permit North Livermore Valley to be blanketed by hundreds of thousands of solar panels strikes a dagger in the heart of Measure D. 

  • Specifically, Measure D prohibits the construction of new infrastructure on agricultural land beyond the needs of the East County. The Aramis project will be connected to PG&E's power grid and deliver 75% of its power to San Francisco.
7) The Aramis project violates the Zoning Code.

  • North Livermore Valley is designated an agricultural district. Neither the County General Plan nor zoning code authorize utility-scale solar facilities in rural areas.

  • To the contrary, under the zoning code, agricultural districts are reserved for “agricultural and other nonurban uses [and] to conserve and protect existing agricultural uses . . ." Commercial electricity generation is not an agricultural use of the land.

  • County officials, however, assert that that the Aramis project does not violate the zoning code because over a decade ago the county approved a small (2 MW) test solar facility for farmland in an isolated area of far eastern Alameda County. The facility was never constructed.

  • The County's legal reasoning is grossly flawed. It would mean that the approval of a single small project constituted an amendment to the zoning code permitting utility-scale solar power plants anywhere on agricultural land in Alameda County without notice to property owners and a public hearing.
8) The Aramis project introduces a new wildfire risk to North Livermore Valley. 

  • The Aramis projects calls for the installation of thousands of flammable lithium-ion batteries stored in trailer-truck size stations on five acres at the site plus multiple overhead electrical transmission lines mounted on towers, some 10 stories tall.

  • While rare, fires at lithium-ion battery stations have occurred worldwide including one last year in Arizona due to a defective battery that sent nine first responders to the hospital. Aside from the visual blight, the environmental report for the Aramis project notes that “damage to the overhead distribution lines from fallen trees or high wind and storm conditions could cause live wires to fall onto nearby dry grass and potentially start a fire."
9) Alameda County did not conduct the environmental review in a neutral and transparent matter. 

  • Aramis was allowed to review and seek changes to County documents prior to their release to public. The lead planner on the project admitted in an email exchange with his colleagues that he “dropped” a critical sentence in a key document “that gave Marisa [Mitchell of Aramis] so much grief.”

  • This deletion resulted in the inclusion of sensitive land within the Aramis project that the Planning Department had previously maintained was restricted from solar power development.
10) The Aramis project is unnecessary for Alameda County to produce greater renewable energy. 

  • Unlike Contra Costa and Santa Clara Counties, Alameda County has never conducted a study on the locations, if any, in rural areas where utility-scale solar power plants would pose the least impact to agriculture, open space, sensitive species and visual resources. 


  • Furthermore, far greater solar energy than will be produced by the Aramis project could be generated by widely installing solar panels on rooftops of commercial and industrial buildings and over parking lots across Alameda County.   
A Massive Industrial Solar Power Plant
The computer generated cover page (left photo) to the Environmental Impact Report for the Aramis project seeks to create the image that the site will be an agricultural zone consisting of sheep grazing among widely spread out solar panels.

This is all marketing: it will be an industrial power plant.
The Aramis project is unprecedented. No utility-scale solar power plant of its magnitude - over 320,000 solar panels spread across 400 acres of agricultural land on a total project area of nearly 700 areas - exists in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Aramis has never produced an image of the entire facility showing all its elements. This image, taken from an Aramis promotional video, begins to provide a more accurate visualization of the site. Additional solar arrays will be constructed to the north and south.

Look closely at the image. The solar arrays are densely packed together. No fields exist for sheep to graze among the solar panels. That would, of course, run counter to Aramis' profit incentive to maximize the amount of electricity generated.

Furthermore, the visualization omits significant details that we have added in red text: miles of security fences and internal access roads, overhead electrical transmission lines and towers, and flammable lithium-ion battery stations.

The overhead electrical transmission lines and towers will be positioned in multiple locations. The average height of the towers will be 5 stories, with some reaching 10 stories. Aside from the permanent visual blight created by the overhead transmission lines, high winds are common in the area and could bring down transmission lines, sparking fires. 
The Beauty of Our Valley
Just a short drive or bike ride from the City of Livermore and north of Highway 580, the North Livermore Valley has been zoned for agricultural and rural residential uses since the 1950s.

For nearly the same period Alameda County has recognized North Livermore Avenue in its General Plan as a scenic corridor and sought to preserve the area’s outstanding scenic quality. 


About Save North Livermore Valley

We started as a group of farm and ranch families and other members of the North Livermore Valley Rural Community. We have been joined by over 175 concerned residents in the City of Livermore and Tri-Valley area united for the purpose of preserving the open space, agricultural land and wildlife habitat of North Livermore Valley for future generations.