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The Napa Commission is delaying action on a solar project that could power thousands of local homes

A proposal to build floating solar panels on 56 acres of Napa Sanitation District ponds, enough to power thousands of homes, won’t move forward anytime soon.

Planning commissioners voted last week to delay action on the proposal, which was met with opposition from several groups, following the recommendation of county staff.

The proposal from Laketricity, a Petaluma-based solar energy company, is to lease a portion of the sanitary district’s pond area south of Butler Bridge and install floating solar panels there.

The project also includes adding 2 miles of transmission lines, building a substation on the northern edge of the solar panel area and expanding an existing Pacific Gas and Electric Co. substation.

The project would generate about 25 megawatts of power, enough to power about 5,000 homes, said Jeffery Redding, who represented Laketricity.

The use of solar panels would offset about 15,500 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year, he added, about 360,000 tons offset over the 25-year life of the project.

“The energy generated, if fed directly, would meet 10% of the energy needs of Napa County residents,” Redding said.

But several groups were unenthusiastic about the project, including two represented by attorney Kevin Carmichael. He has filed several letters on behalf of the California Unions for Reliable Energy and Citizens for Responsible Energy.

Carmichael said at the meeting that the project’s impacts on wildfire risk and biological resources are potentially significant and therefore require additional analysis and mitigation.

A planning commission recommendation on the project would be premature because the county has not had enough time to review public comments submitted, he said.

Moving forward, county staff will evaluate these public comments.

The committee did not deliberate on the proposal on May 15, although they did authorize presentations on the project.

Several public comments supported the project because of the impact it would have on encouraging renewable energy in the province.

Andrew Damron, general manager of the sanitary district, said they have been working with Laketricity on the project since 2018 and he looks forward to approval so residents can experience the benefits of the project.

These include generating rental income for the district and reducing evaporation on the ponds, increasing the quantity and quality of recycled water, he said.

In an emailed comment, Chris Benz of Napa Climate Now! said the group supported the project as it would provide locally produced renewable energy.

The project, she wrote, would help the county achieve its priority of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within the unincorporated area as quickly as possible, with a goal of 2030.

“We urge the commission to approve the floating solar project and help our region increase clean energy sources,” Benz wrote.

You can reach staff writer Edward Booth at 707-521-5281 or [email protected].