Petaluma council concerned over zoning changes for solar projects

Petaluma city leaders seek tighter regulations on where commercial renewable-energy projects should be allowed on the county's ranches and farmland.

Sonoma County planners are considering zoning changes that, as proposed, would open 180,000 acres of pasture — mostly in the south county surrounding Petaluma — to large-scale solar and other renewable-energy generating installations.

A proposed 23-acre solar installation on 130 acres of grazing land near Frates and Adobe roads on the southeastern outskirts of Petaluma is prohibited under existing zoning. It would be allowed under the new rules.

The 4-megawatt project, enough to power about 750 homes, calls for 6,340 panels on 22.6 acres across from a PG&E substation and below high-voltage transmission lines. It is proposed by Coldwell Solar, a Placer County-based firm.

The new zoning proposal, under discussion by the county for two years, is scheduled to return to the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 6. The issue is separate from the Sonoma Clean Power agency concept.

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