Modesto Irrigation District OKs Solar Farmby Ken Carlson
The Modesto Bee, July 26, 2011
Modesto Irrigation District directors voted unanimously this morning to approve a 160-acre solar energy farm for north McHenry Avenue.
The board members approved an environmental impact report and an agreement to purchase the energy from SunPower Corp. of San Jose at a cost above the going rate for solar electricity. SunPower still needs a land use permit from Stanislaus County before starting construction in the fall.
Several speakers supported the proposal at McHenry Avenue and Patterson Road during an hourlong public hearing, while others said it will interfere with farming and should be built in another location.
Some people living near the site wanted assurances that trees and hedges would be maintained to hide the solar panels from view. The solar farm could start generating electricity in the second quarter of 2012.
The MID agreed 14 months ago to buy the output from the 25-megawatt project for 17 cents per kilowatt-hour. Since then the normal cost for solar electricity has dropped.
MID officials said the project will help the district meet a state mandate to get at least 33 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020. The district board also approved a 25 percent reduction in the rebates for smaller solar arrays at homes and businesses. The incentives will drop from $2 per watt to $1.50 per watt effective Aug. 1.
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