AMERICAN CANYON -- Plans are under way to build the largest solar interconnect project in the North Bay at a closed regional sanitary landfill adjacent to the city of American Canyon. This landfill once served the cities of Napa, Vallejo and American Canyon, as well the county of Napa.

[caption id="attachment_56141" align="alignleft" width="405" caption="Artist's rendering of planned American Canyon "solar farm""][/caption]

“Preliminary permission to connect to the PG&E grid was reached during the first quarter of 2012 and is contingent upon approval of a 20 to 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with this utility,” said Larry Asera, CEO of the Green Tech Power Group, LLC.

“If the PPA is approved within the next 60-90 days, construction of the $20 million to $25 million solar power micro utility facility could begin this summer.”

Based on Mare Island in Vallejo, Green Tech, in collaboration with landowner Napa-Vallejo Waste Management Authority, will develop, own and operate a solar farm known as the Napa Solar Park.

 The authority will lease 62 percent of the closed landfill to Green Tech under terms of a 20-year solar project and ground lease agreement signed in June 2011. Green Tech was issued a use permit by Napa County in July of 2010.

Some 25,000 rectangular three by five foot solar panels will be installed on metal supports five-to-six feet above ground on 50 acres of the 80-acre landfill site during Phase I.

“We were able to save a substantial portion of the original project budget by using larger solar panels, instead of the 50,000 two-by-three foot panels in the early proposal,” Mr. Asera said. “Solar panels and related electronics account for 60 to 70 percent of the estimate.” 

When authorized and approved, Green Tech also has an option to build Phase II that would result in expanding the solar array field to include the remaining 30 acres, after the required permits and licenses are obtained.

The 6.7-megawatt Solar Photovoltaic Farm is being designed to generate over 7.5 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year, enough to supply the power needs of 5,000 homes.

The project will reduce greenhouse gas emission by an estimated 60,000 lbs. of nitrous oxide (NOx), 52,000 lbs. of acid rain (SO2) and 80 million lbs. of carbon emissions (CO2). This is equivalent to removing 7,500 cars from the highways and planting 12,000 acres of trees.

“This brownfield to greenfield project is the largest low voltage distributed generation system allowed by California independent system operators in keeping with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rules,” Mr. Asera said.

The Napa Solar Farm would seek funding as a Renewable Energy Economic Stimulus Project through a combination of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants, loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy, debt financing and private equity capital.

The project also qualifies for grants available under provisions of the California Solar Initiative Performance Based Inventive Program to subsidize the annual cost of solar energy production during the first five years.

Electricity generated by this facility will be used to supplement existing power at the Napa-Vallejo Waste Management Authority site and to offset peak loads. 

The power produced would also be used to meet energy growth demands of Authority agency members, such as the American Canyon wastewater treatment plant and/or the Napa wastewater treatment plant. 

Excess electricity will be sold to PG&E as part of California’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard requiring private utility companies to purchase 33 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Construction of the new Napa Solar Farm is expected to take three-to-four months and involve some 100 workers.

“We believe in creating green collar jobs for the renewable energy industry. That’s why we formed a partnership -- called the Green Tech Academy -- with IBEW Local 180 to train a group of pre-apprentices that could work on this and other solar projects,” Mr. Asera said.

The Green Tech connection agreement with PG&E involves an existing 12.5 kilovolt line from a methane recovery plant at the landfill to the PG&E grid. Fortistar Methane Group uses gas from within the site to produce electricity sold to PG&E.

A methane collection system was installed in 1987. The landfill was closed to the public in 1994 but continues to produce methane from 87 wells. Gas royalties to the Napa-Vallejo Waste Management Authority from the use of methane to produce electricity have ranged from $55,000 to $85,000 per year.