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Sonoma Clean Power green lights Petaluma solar projects


Two large-scale solar power projects are planned for areas around Petaluma, the latest product of Sonoma Clean Power’s efforts to promote renewable electricity generation within Sonoma County’s borders.

The renewable energy-focused power agency gave the green light this month to buy power from two developers seeking to build a combined two megawatts of solar power capacity in southern Sonoma County, said Kate Kelly, a spokeswoman for Sonoma Clean Power. It is the second and third such projects for the agency, following a one-megawatt project in Cloverdale launched in 2014.

Unlike the net-energy metering program that allows property owners to offset their own electricity bills by feeding power into the grid through solar panels or other means, Sonoma Clean Power will pay the two Petaluma-area developers directly through a separate approach known as a feed-in tariff. Called ProFIT, the program is tailored toward larger-scale projects designed explicitly to funnel power into the grid.

“It’s a little more expensive to buy the energy this way. But it’s in keeping with one of our larger goals of promoting the development of renewable energy locally,” Kelly said.

While Sonoma Clean Power has entered into a power-purchase agreement with the two developers, Petaluma Solar Millennium Fund LLC and Vaca Solar Millennium Fund LLC, the exact location of those installations has yet to be finalized, said Amy Rider, program analyst with the agency. She declined to give specifics for locations under consideration, but said developers are eying vacant property on D Street and in an area off Highway 116.

The two Petaluma solar projects are the first in Sonoma County intended to supply power specifically for the agency’s “EverGreen” program, said agency CEO Geof Syphers, in a written announcement of the projects. That program offers customers a 100-percent renewable power mix, and until this point was entirely comprised of geothermal energy purchased from the Geysers geothermal field in the mountains between Sonoma and Lake counties.

“Adding local solar to the mix has been one of our goals,” Syphers said.

Electricity generated between the two projects will be enough to power 600 homes, according to the agency. The two arrays are anticipated to be completed in the fall of 2016.

Launched for its first round of customers in 2014, Sonoma Clean Power delivers electricity over the power grid largely maintained by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. through a model known as community-choice aggregation. The agency strives to offer a cleaner power supply than PG&E, and rolled out to Petaluma ratepayers last June.

While cost savings are not a central goal of Sonoma Clean Power, customers have saved a combined $50 million on their power bills compared to service from PG&E since the agency’s inception, according to information from Sonoma Clean Power.

About half of the $600,000 set aside to buy power through the agency’s ProFIT program remains available for new projects, Kelly said.

“It’s great to have additional Sonoma County solar being developed in our community,” said Petaluma City Councilman Dave King, in the announcement of the power agreements. “SCP’s ProFIT program enables landowners to contribute to the renewable energy supply in the county, and earn money while doing so.”

(Contact Eric Gneckow at eric.gneckow@arguscourier.com. On Twitter @Eric_Reports.)