County's largest solar array planned near Cloverdale
Published: Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 2:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 27, 2012 at 10:32 a.m.
Cloverdale, one of Sonoma County's perennial hot spots, soon may be home to a huge solar array to harvest some of that plentiful sunshine.
A solar development company last week applied to install a three-megawatt photovoltaic system in the hills west of town, in what could be the largest solar array to date in Sonoma County.
The project is proposed on 20 acres off Kelly Road on an old wood-waste dump, considered undesirable for farming or vineyards.
"This wouldn't even make good pastureland," said Craig Furber, whose family owns the property. "This is a wonderful use for it."
The $12 million project is being proposed by Cenergy Power, a Merced- and Carlsbad-based company that specializes in solar installations for agricultural uses, including pistachio, almond and fig processing facilities.
The company, a division of BAP Power Corp., is planning to lease the land from the Furber family to generate the electricity and sell it to PG&E, by tying into its nearby distribution lines.
The amount of sunshine in Cloverdale "is not as good as Phoenix, Arizona. But it's still pretty good production, especially in summer," said Chad Chahbazi, Cenergy director of business development.
The company said the project has the potential to be a blueprint for temporary, distributed power photovoltaic systems on less productive lands in Sonoma County and other parts of Northern California.
The Cloverdale project would be dwarfed by huge solar arrays encompassing hundreds of acres in Southern California and parts of the Central Valley.
But in Sonoma County, it might be the largest so far.
"I don't think we've had an application for anything this size," said Supervising Sonoma County Planner Dave Hardy.
He noted that the zoning on the land -- resource and rural development -- allows for solar facilities and it is not expected to be controversial.
It shouldn't be visible from Highway 101, doesn't generate traffic, use water or make noise, he said.
There is no design review required, Hardy said, and unless there is an objection, it will not require a public hearing by the Board of Zoning Adjustment.
Chahbazi said the solar facility would likely be productive for about 25 years.
During construction, it would generate 30 jobs.
Cenergy officials said the project helps meet California's goal of having 33 percent of power come from renewable resources by 2020.
It would generate enough electricity to power an estimated 467 homes annually, according to Chahbazi, and offset approximately 3,851 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Chahbazi said it could be in place by the end of this year, or early 2013.
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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