Proposed Solar Farm

A berm along Highway 221 on Napa State Hospital property, which went up 18 years ago to block the view of security fencing, will also block the view of a proposed solar farm.

Napa State Hospital could be getting a solar farm along the Highway 221 gateway to the city of Napa, though a berm should block hundreds of gleaming panels from the sight of motorists.

The earthen berm was built 18 years ago so motorists wouldn’t see a 16-foot security fence that made the hospital look like a prison compound. A state report concludes that this same berm will render the proposed solar farm’s aesthetic impacts “less than significant.”

When tracking the sun, the solar panels will extend to a maximum of eight feet in height. The berm is six feet tall at the project site, but extends 11 feet above Highway 221, the report said.

“The majority of the array would be shielded from view by the 11-foot berm,” said the report released by the state Department of General Services.

And the few spots from the highway that might afford a glimpse of the array already overlook a security fence and hospital facilities. The report concluded that the array won’t make this view look any worse.

California wants to build the solar farm as part of the state government’s effort to cut down on greenhouse gases. The hundreds of panels covering four acres would generate about one megawatt of electricity. The California Energy Commission said this is enough electricity to meet the instantaneous demands of 750 homes.

Napa State Hospital already has a cogeneration system providing the majority of its electricity and steam, state Department of General Services spokesperson Jennifer Iida said in an email. The solar array would offset a large portion of the remaining electricity being purchased from PG&E.

A 2012 executive order by Gov. Jerry Brown requires state-owned facilities to reduce grid-based energy by at least 20 percent by this year. Iida said the solar farm will allow Napa State Hospital to exceed this reduction target.

A San Francisco-based firm called EcoPlexus would install, operate and own the solar array. Iida said the Department of State Hospitals will buy the renewable energy for a fixed fee over 25 years.

Construction is to begin this summer and be completed by year’s end.

Since this is state-owned land, neither the city of Napa nor Napa County can veto the project. California Environmental Quality Act approvals would be granted by the state Department of General Services, state Department of Finance and California Department of Hospitals.

This is the second time this year that the state Department of General Services has proposed a solar array in Napa County. It also wants to build an array near state-owned Rector Reservoir along Silverado Trail to power the reservoir’s water treatment plant.

County Supervisor Diane Dillon when talking about the proposed Rector Reservoir solar farm last month noted such wineries as Far Niente near Oakville have solar arrays, in that case an array floating on a pond.

“The wine industry uses solar panels,” Dillon said. “They are all over the valley and they can’t be seen. They discreetly place them.”

The state Department of General Services issued the environmental documents for the Napa State Hospital solar project. It is accepting comments through May 17.

Go to www.ecorpconsulting.com/docs/NOI-NapaSHSolar-IS-MND.pdf to view the Napa State Hospital environmental documents.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.