Sonoma Clean Power to subsidize proposed Cloverdale solar project

Sonoma Clean Power signed its first agreement to purchase electricity through a program that encourages renewable energy development.|

Sonoma Clean Power, the startup public power supplier, has signed its first agreement to purchase electricity through a program that encourages renewable energy development in Sonoma County by paying subsidized rates to new local power projects.

The proposed project, an almost 1 megawatt ground-?mounted solar array southwest of Cloverdale, will provide power for 300 homes, said Amy Rider, Sonoma Clean Power’s program manager. The 20-year contract with Sonoma Clean Power will enable the project to obtain financing needed to build the solar array.

The deal comes two months after the agency launched its ProFIT program, which is designed to subsidize the construction of local energy projects by paying above-market rates for power.

“The development of local, renewable energy programs was one of the primary objectives identified when forming Sonoma Clean Power,” Rider said. “I’m thrilled to have an executed power purchase agreement so soon after launching our ProFIT program.”

The contract was signed with Soventix-Cloverdale LLC, a subsidiary of multinational renewable energy company Soventix, headquartered in Germany. Project development has been taken over by Enerparc, a solar company also based in Germany.

Peter Davis, an Oakland-based project developer with Enerparc, said the project, on 5 vacant acres of leased land, will cost $2 million. The project is going through the county’s permitting process and is expected to come online next fall.

“The project benefits the residents of Sonoma County,” Davis said. “It helps build out Sonoma Clean Power’s vision for procuring renewable energy for the residents of Sonoma County.”

Sonoma Clean Power will pay $95 per megawatt-hour for power projects in the program, and projects can earn bonuses up to $30 per megawatt-hour for meeting certain criteria such as being developed by a Sonoma County company and on a previously developed site.

By comparison, Sonoma Clean Power’s first power contract with Constellation Energy for the bulk of the agency’s power needs was for $43 per megawatt-hour. The agency has not disclosed pricing details in subsequent power purchases, citing a need for a competitive bargaining position.

Contracts in the program are 20 years for solar and wind projects and 10 years for other qualifying projects such as those generating power using biomass and biodiesel. The program is limited to $600,000 per year, and Rider said new projects will not affect electric bills.

She said two other projects are in the application process. Eligible projects must be built within Sonoma Clean Power’s operating area, which includes Santa Rosa, Cloverdale, Windsor, Cotati, Sebastopol, Sonoma and the unincorporated county. Petaluma and Rohnert Park are expected to vote on joining the agency later this year. Healdsburg has its own municipal utility and is not part of Sonoma Clean Power.

Bob Cox, a Cloverdale councilman and Sonoma Clean Power board member, said he hopes to encourage more renewable energy projects in his city.

“It’s exciting to have the first project under Sonoma Clean Power’s ProFIT program taking place in Cloverdale,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to the benefits of building more local renewable power in our community.”

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