Having been involved in discussions regarding the permitting process for the installation of two large (13.5 and 17.93 acres) in Napa Valley, I have become increasingly frustrated and appalled at the openly acknowledged irrationality of the decision-making.
I have been searching to find a reasonable explanation for the “yea” votes of Commissioners Mazotti and Whitmer, who stated that though they agreed with the overwhelming majority of citizens who spoke at the planning meetings on Oct. 17 and Nov. 28 underscoring the need for Napa County to develop a regulatory infrastructure before approving large solar factories, they plan to support the American Canyon project (17.93 acres) anyway.
Perhaps by pursuing the answer to cui bono, who benefits, an explanation can be uncovered.
First, we know that the project is being advanced by Aaron Halimi, president of Renewable Properties, and that the electricity generated will be sold to Marin Clean Energy. Since there was no competitive bidding for the project because there are no county regulations or permits with the appropriate considerations, Mr. Halimi and his company will reap the profits.
Second, Commissioners Mazotti and Whitmer argue that Napa County will benefit because we will have a renewable energy project that provides electricity for 1,000 homes that can be purchased by the homeowners if they choose to be a part of the Marin Clean Energy co-op.
No one who spoke at either meeting disputed the importance of environmentally friendly alternative sources of electricity for our county. As Commissioners Cottrell and Gallagher pointed out, we can have the same results after developing and adopting adequate county guidelines. What is the reason behind this speedy decision?
The owners of the property in American Canyon will benefit from the sale. The parcel, however, is zoned Agricultural Watershed and is currently being used as pasture land for several grazing animals.
Mr. Halimi described the parcel as “perfect” for his project— close to the electrical grid and rural with low population density. Mr. Halimi described the Palm Drive site, which has been abandoned because of neighborhood opposition, as “perfect” because of the same attributes, also.
Again, without a set of regulations to evaluate the “perfection” of a site, we cannot know. We do know that our Agriculture Watershed and how it is defined will be impacted and that a precedent will be set. We do know what happened when the definition of winery was changed to include “event centers” and food service.
As citizens of one of the most beautiful places on the planet, we need to ask, who benefits? Is this merely for the financial gain of a handful of individuals? The elected and appointed officials of Napa County must develop a logical plan for renewable energy that benefits all of us, now and in the future.