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Planning Commission approves small solar farm north of Ukiah

Solar panels
Renewable Property presentation to Mendocino County Planning Commission.
A Renewable Properties solar farm in Napa County's American Canyon.

At a brief hearing on Wednesday morning, the county planning commission approved an application for a major use permit for a 4 megawatt, 20-acre solar farm on Redemeyer Road, about two miles northeast of Ukiah, near the intersection with Deerwood Drive. The site is a fallow portion of a 97-acre property, the rest of which is planted with vines. Senior planner Russ Ford described the project, which was submitted by Renewable Properties, a San Francisco-based firm specializing in small-scale solar farms.

“It would consist of more than 10,000 individual solar modules mounted on tracking swivels and would have the capacity to generate as much as four megawatts of renewable energy,” he told the commission. “Daily energy usage estimates vary, but using the average of 20 kilowatt hours a day, four megawatts could power approximately 200 homes.” He added that the site includes “PG&E infrastructure that would allow connection to the larger power grid.”

Geof Syphers, the CEO of Sonoma Clean Power, the community choice clean energy aggregator for Sonoma and Mendocino counties, wrote a letter to the Planning Commission, expressing his company’s willingness to buy the power from the Redemeyer Road project. Assuming it’s approved and interconnected into the PG&E system, he wrote, “SCP will support the project through our Evergreen program,” which uses all local and renewable energy.

Planning and Building Services recommended a mitigated negative declaration, meaning that, with some mitigations, the project is not considered to be harmful to the environment. Ford said it is consistent with CEQA and doesn’t conflict with plans that are in place for the surrounding area.

Brian Madigan is a project developer with Renewable Properties. He said the company is currently building nine projects in four states. Six projects are underway in California. He made an argument for solar power, saying, “California has an aggressive goal to reach 100% renewables by 2045. And in order to get to that, the California Energy Commission estimates that we need to bring on approximately six gigawatts of renewable energy every year for the next 16 years.”

Madigan added that the project is not expected to have an impact on agricultural production, telling the commission that, “We won't be converting any agricultural land to a non-agricultural use. We don't conflict with any Williamson Act contracts…There's no prime soils, so we’re not disrupting that agricultural baseline.” He added that the batteries, which will be situated in the northwest corner of the site, are an important aspect of the project, as they will allow the power to be used during peak demand periods, when the sun is not shining.

The three commissioners present voted unanimously to approve the application.

In other matters before the commission, Planning and Building Services Director Julia Krog said the front counter area of the department is undergoing what she described as “a small remodel,” in an effort to improve the process of applying for a building permit.

Krog also reported that the department is hiring a new planner to replace Steven Switzer, and two new code enforcement officers. They are all scheduled to start this month.

Local News
Sarah Reith came to Mendocino County in 2008 and worked as a reporter and freelancer, joining KZYX as a community news reporter in 2017. She became the KZYX News Director in March, 2023.