With renewable energy development now a central issue in Sonoma County, disputed rules that would govern the size and location of green energy projects are returning to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday for approval.
Sebastopol burnished its liberal credentials Tuesday by becoming the second city in California to require solar power systems on new homes and commercial buildings.
Sebastopol appears on track to become the second city in California to require solar power systems on all new housing developments, as well as new commercial buildings.
The Sebastopol City Council, with the controversial CVS Pharmacy project still casting a shadow over downtown, is adding a chain store ban and solar energy requirements as possible ways to preserve the community’s identity and shape new development.
‘As the city grows and develops and learns, there is a lack of clarity in what the city wants future growth to look like, and it is important the council become pro-active,’ said Vice Mayor Robert Jacob. ‘It is very clear our town wants to maintain its unique, small-town identity.’
Windsor’s goals of reducing greenhouse gases and embracing clean energy took a backseat Tuesday when a proposed solar power array was rejected by the Planning Commission.
Windsor’s desire to embrace green, energy-saving practices could be tested in a controversy involving a private school’s application to install a solar array next to its campus.
A “solar farm” is proposed for Healdsburg, in which residents and businesses could buy into a cooperative solar installation. This would enable all residents, including renters, to buy into what would be greener and presumably cheaper electricity. It would augment the power that customers would continue to get from their utility.
Since the beginning of the year, the Santa Rosa Fire Department has required a separate review of building plans for residential solar arrays and inspection of them once installed. On Monday, it announced it would turn over that role to the city’s building department. Critics said the additional bureaucracy was time consuming, expensive and unnecessary.
Plentiful sunshine, environmentally conscious residents and innovative public financing options have contributed to Santa Rosa outshining others when it comes to installation of photovoltaic systems. But that success is being threatened, some in the solar industry say, by burdensome fire regulations that reduce the size of many residential solar systems, increase their cost and in some cases may be unnecessary.
Investments in solar energy dominate work being done on school campuses across Sonoma County this summer — bringing to fruition the first stages of work financed by more than $141 million in bonds passed by voters last year.