PITTSBURG -- A developer wants to build a 20-megawatt solar power facility in Pittsburg that would provide enough electricity to meet the annual energy needs of about 6,000 single-family homes throughout the service area of Pacific Gas & Electricity.
The electricity would be sold to PG&E to help the utility meet a state mandate requiring 33 percent of its energy portfolio come from renewable resources by 2020. The mandate applies to all electric utilities throughout California.
Columbia Solar Energy, a subsidiary of New York-based LS Power, is proposing to build the facility, which is expected to be considered at a Feb. 26 planning commission public hearing.
The project does not have to obtain an environmental impact report because it will not have a significant environmental impact. Instead, city staff is recommending that planning commissioners adopt a finding of a mitigated negative declaration before the matter goes to the City Council for final approval. The declaration means the project is not expected to have a significant impact on the environment, provided the developer follows mitigation guidelines that among other things limits construction to daytime hours on weekdays.
Plans call for the facility to be built on a leased 115-acre grassland parcel owned by USS-Posco Industries. The parcel was once used as landfill for waste produced by the steel mill before it went through an intensive cleanup process several year ago under the direction of the state Department of Toxic Substances. While there are restrictions on how the parcel can now be used, a solar facility is among the allowable uses.
"It's been fallow for a number of years," said Kevin Johnson, vice president of LS Power, which has a West Coast office in Pleasanton. "It is well-situated in an industrial zone. It's a very good use of the land given its restrictions."
The final price tag to build the project has not been established, but Johnson estimated it would be in "tens of millions of dollars."
If the required approvals are obtained, construction could start in the fall and the project would start generating power by mid-2014, Johnson said. The project is expected to provide jobs for about 130 workers during the peak construction phase. Solar panels will be mounted on posts instead of a roof structure, he said.
While Pittsburg has solar projects on residential roofs and on commercial properties, the Columbia Solar project would be the first stand-alone, utility-scale project to be built in Pittsburg, according Kristin Vahl Pollot, an associate planner with the city's planning department.
The 20-megawatt capacity of the proposed facility puts it on the smaller side of such solar projects, said Denny Boyles, a PG&E spokesman.
"We're going to be signing a number of contracts (to meet the 33 percent goal by 2020). Every piece of that pie is very valuable to us," he said.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.
What: Public hearing on a 20-megawatt solar facility before Pittsburg planning commission
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 26
Where: Third floor council chamber, Pittsburg Civic Center, 65 Civic Ave.