Midtown and East Sacamento residents raise questions on solar project

On a rainy, windy night the City’s Park Planning and Development department held a public community meeting about Conergy’s proposed Sutter’s Landing Solar Farm.

If Conergy is able to negotiate city requirements and neighborhood concerns, they will break ground in spring 2012. Sacramento has a rare opportunity with this project to earn national recognition. If we can build a world class solar farm and maintain wildlife habitats, we will be the go-to city for infill green projects that preserve and sustain neighborhoods and open spaces. The question is: can we seize the day?

Councilmember Steve Cohn reviewed the city’s concept to build the project on the former 28th street landfill. In 1997 the 172 acre site closed. Methane gas and groundwater issues placed the area on a state mandated monitoring until 2027, which restricts building options. The city proposes that until the area is fit for human use a solar farm be constructed.

Cohn made it clear that an earlier proposal to move the City Zoo to the site is not feasible. Two reasons prohibit the move. “The wait is too long for the zoo and the cost of development for zoo structures on the landfill is prohibitive,” he said. The city plans an extensive park for the area once the 30 year monitoring period is over. At that time the solar farm would be removed.

Neighborhood representatives from Marshall School and New Era Park Neighborhood Association and Friends of the River Banks (FORB), brought up key concerns. They questioned if building the farm would destroy habitat, since the site is adjacent to the American River. Riparian wildlife is abundant in the area and the new solar farm will be placed on an open grassy area favored by birds of prey. The area is home to owls, hawks and four legged creatures such as coyote, raccoon, opossum and skunk, beaver and many other animals. Laurie Litman of FORB reminded city employees and Conergy that the area is the home of a Swainson’s hawk mating pair that nest in the cottonwood forest along the river.

Residents asked if the farm could be built in a way to preserve the habitat. Conergy did not have a direct response to the request and explained that they were just in the application process and design review had not fully begun.

The process of community comment and review continues. The next meeting on the project will be March 3, 2011, 6 pm at City Hall in the 2nd floor hearing room. The city will place project information, such as costs, predicted energy production and development details on its new Sutter’s Landing website.


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