Sonoma County is going solar. Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) is the non-profit network that obtains and builds renewable power sources. However, electric bills and checks are still made out to PG&E, which co-operates with SCP as a distributor.
This is a Community Choice Aggregation which allows access to clean and renewable sources that will cut costs on bills, provide new jobs in the field, and lessen the quantity of greenhouse gas that is emitted while at the same time keeping the power local.
By next year, energy is expected to be 33 percent renewable and will increase to 50 percent in 2018. Sonoma County, including the cities of Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Cotati and Windsor independently use SCP in their communities. By making payments to the city rather than the electric provider, money stays in the city and builds revenue over time creating funds for projects to improve the communities.
“It’s not much of a solution,” said John LaFleur, a solar engineer who does installation in and around the bay. “Everyone’s all concerned about saving energy or being eco-friendly. But they buy all these solar panels that go dead after a while and then you got all these solar panels to throw away. You’re going by daylight to charge a battery. Some days there’s more, some there’s less. But it sure pays some good money installing them.”
There is indeed money to be made in this field of trade. LaFleur was formerly from Mississippi and moved to Northern California “strictly for business.”
Sonoma State is also incorporating the clean power into their utilities. This will mean everything on the campus will be running on solar energy and considering the amount of utilities that have to operate on a daily basis for all the buildings. It could either be a costly failure or a smart “clean” investment.
The county runs the branch for them because the city of Rohnert Park has not signed up for the program. The city council held a meeting on June 11 to address the issue. It was proposed by City Manager Gonzalez and no action was taken in response, and the motion died due to no one seconding. Rohnert Park had to meet a deadline on a decision and never got to a decision due to lack of enough information.
The main concern with the small cities like Rohnert Park is how the agency is ruled and who has a say. Arrangements for a future council meeting to establish a say in the matter have been discussed. As of now the staff of the city council has put constraints on their budget and have not hinted to stepping on board at the moment.
The people, however, are left with a choice.
“If they want to stay with PG&E they can opt out,” said councilman David Cook, a staff member of the Sonoma City Council. There are definitely a lot of questions to be raised about this matter, such as whether or not it is as renewable as it seems, the risks involved, and if it will operate efficiently enough to qualify as a new and improved solution for obtaining power and energy.