A solar company continues to seek an exception to Solano County’s moratorium on wind and solar developments in the unincorporated areas of the county.
In October, the Solano County Board of Supervisors extended an interim ordinance prohibiting establishment of any commercial wind turbine generator, commercial solar energy facility or wireless communication facility within the unincorporated territory of the county.
The board made that decision in order to allow more time to further assess possible impacts to Travis Air Force Base’s radar operations and its new C-17 Assault Landing Zone. The extension ends Oct. 18.
Since that time, Solagra requested an exception to allow a 2.2-acre, small scale solar energy pilot demonstration project that aims to evaluate the ability to grow crops under solar arrays. That University of California, Davis, pilot project would be located on Ryer Island area.
At its regular meeting onTuesday, the board will consider the proposal from SolAgra.
“The Solagra proposal is intriguing in that it would evaluate ways that agriculture and commercial scale solar might co-exist and multiple objectives be achieved,” staff said in a report to the board and added that the size would “not seriously impact other agricultural activities on Ryer Island.
Additionally, if an exception is granted the project would still need a use permit, which would be approved if appropriate findings are made and consideration is given to factors, such as those suggested by the Agricultural Advisory Committee.
The pilot project, according to staff, involves the use of approximately 9.5 acres consisting of four crops planted in 1,000 foot long east-west rows that are 80-feet wide. Approximately 290 feet of the rows will be planted beneath the solar arrays with the remainder uncovered to serve as the control area. The solar arrays will be 80-feet wide and arranged in a north-south orientation with different levels of light restriction bands with a maximum output of one megawatt.
Additionally, an equipment turning area will consist of 1.76 acres and approximately .88 acres will be devoted to research buildings and parking.
“Once the crops are harvested, they will be measured and the crop values calculated the same as the other crops on the ranch,” staff reported.
The Agricultural Advisory Committee also weighed in on the proposal and created some stipulations including:
• Project success be defined as being compatible with agriculture in maintaining of net Farm Gate Value.
• Experimental design and statistical analysis be scientifically rigorous.
• A component of the research analyzes changes in soil flora, fauna and chemistry under the panels as well as environmental impacts to the area around the site.
• The experimental design be vetted by an independent agricultural expert from a reputable research institution.
It also is recommended that a subcommittee of the Agriculture Advisory Committee work with the applicant to establish project milestones that will be used to periodically review the project and report to the full committee.
Staff added that to date, Travis Air Force Base “has indicated that the exceptions being contemplated would be narrow enough in scope so as to not conflict with their operations.”
In October, the board did grant one exception to NextEra.
NextEra had requested an exception to the height limits to replace an existing turbine that had been damaged.
The Solano County Board of Supervisors meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the County Government Center, 675 Texas St., Fairfield.
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