East Bay MUD Unveils Plan To Build Solar Energy Facility in Orinda

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(Sally Hogarty, Photographer)
Part of EBMUD’s 43-acre parcel along Bear Creek Road, which already includes several PG&E towers and power poles.

    As climate change becomes a fact of life and PG&E turns off power to homes and businesses during high-fire danger, more people look toward alternative power sources.
    To that end, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) gave an informational presentation to the Orinda City Council on March 5 on plans to build a Solar Energy Facility on its property in North Orinda. The area, known as the Duffel Site, is a 43-acre parcel that sits directly across Bear Creek Road from PG&E’s Sobrante Substation.
    The electricity generated by the proposed five-megawatt photovoltaic solar project would be provided to PG&E as part of the Renewable Energy Self-Generation Bill Credit Transfer program established by the State Legislature in 2009 (Section 2830 of the Public Utilities Code). The program allows government agencies like EBMUD to export renewable energy to the grid and, in turn, receive generation credits benefitting EBMUD’s electricity accounts.
    “This project would reduce our carbon footprint in Orinda to zero,” said Ramona Gonzalez, project manager for EBMUD who presented an overview to the City Council. “It will also further EBMUD’s goals of increasing the cost-effective use of renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. EBMUD’s specific goal is to be carbon-free for indirect emissions by 2040.”
    EBMUD has been introducing solar energy to its service territory since 2003, often working in partnership with SolarCity. Orinda’s site would be one of its first large-scale solar projects. Approximately 20 acres on the Duffel site will be used.
    Gonzalez noted that EBMUD proposes to use tracking panels that follow the sun and can be placed closer together than stationary panels, minimizing the project footprint. 
    Councilmembers Nick Kosta and Dennis Fay expressed concern regarding additional service poles needed to connect with the PG&E substation, citing fire concerns as well as mitigating the view of the facility from El Toyonel.
    According to Gonzalez, the service poles cannot be put underground but EBMUD will minimize the number of poles leading to the PG&E substation entrance and will work with Orinda to maximize the community benefit and attractiveness of the facility.
     In 2009, the General Plan designation of the Duffel Site changed from Parks and Recreation to Utility-W. The subject parcel is also located in the PS (Public, Semipublic and Utility) zoning district, which allows utility facilities with a use 
permit. 
    In addition to the use permit, EBMUD would need a design review permit and either an EIR or Mitigated Negative Declaration. 
     To view the EBMUD presentation, go to www.cityoforinda.org and click on City Council. 

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