News

Sunwalker pulls the plug on Livermore solar project

Opponents of the project 'very happy' at company's withdrawal

Sunwalker Energy has withdrawn its application with Alameda County for a conditional use permit to develop a solar energy project in northern Livermore.

The project was under appeal and set to return to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on June 3, following the supervisors' request for more information on the developer's agricultural management plan. In light of the company's withdrawal, there will be no further review of the project.

Looming legal and policy issues, the difficulty of maintaining investor interest in the project along with the time and additional resources that would be needed to fulfill the supervisors' request without a clear outcome for the project, were among the reasons for Sunwalker's decision, according to county planning staff.

Sunwalker was the smaller of two solar energy projects planned for North Livermore. The 410-acre Aramis project, proposed by Intersect Power, was approved by the Board of Supervisors following appeal hearings earlier this year but has been challenged in court by some of the same citizen groups who opposed the Sunwalker project.

County planning staff said one of the key differentiating factors between the two projects is that the Sunwalker site is under Williamson Act contract, which has additional restrictions on development, including for solar electric power generation.

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Supervisor David Haubert, who represents District 1 which includes the area of both project sites, said he was unsatisfied with the agricultural management plan proposed by Sunwalker, arguing it failed to include legitimate agricultural uses in its plan such as grazing and food production, like the Aramis project does. "They also did not have a viable ongoing maintenance plan with a local conservancy such as Tri-Valley Conservancy," he said.

The Board of Supervisors heard four appeals challenging Sunwalker's 59-acre, six-megawatt solar energy facility at its April 22 meeting before deciding to delay its deliberations. Appellants Save North Livermore Valley, Friends of Open Space and Vineyards, Friends of Livermore and residents John and Jackie Bowles raised concerns that the project would destroy the natural environment and violate the county's Measure D, which aims to preserve agricultural land and open space in eastern Alameda County.

Save North Livermore Valley, Friends of Open Space and Vineyards and Friends of Livermore expressed the same concerns about the Aramis facility and all three groups, along with the Ohlone Audubon Society, filed suit against the county last month in an effort to halt the project.

Chris O'Brien, chair of the Save North Livermore Valley steering committee, told the Weekly in an email that his group is "very happy" about Sunwalker withdrawing its application and believes that their efforts in opposing the project played a role in the decision.

"Now, we are hopeful the Aramis developer might think hard about continuing with their plans. We are hopeful our lawsuit will prove the county approved the project illegally in terms of state zoning laws and the will of the voters with the passage of Measure D," he said.

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Sunwalker pulls the plug on Livermore solar project

Opponents of the project 'very happy' at company's withdrawal

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, May 20, 2021, 8:09 pm

Sunwalker Energy has withdrawn its application with Alameda County for a conditional use permit to develop a solar energy project in northern Livermore.

The project was under appeal and set to return to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on June 3, following the supervisors' request for more information on the developer's agricultural management plan. In light of the company's withdrawal, there will be no further review of the project.

Looming legal and policy issues, the difficulty of maintaining investor interest in the project along with the time and additional resources that would be needed to fulfill the supervisors' request without a clear outcome for the project, were among the reasons for Sunwalker's decision, according to county planning staff.

Sunwalker was the smaller of two solar energy projects planned for North Livermore. The 410-acre Aramis project, proposed by Intersect Power, was approved by the Board of Supervisors following appeal hearings earlier this year but has been challenged in court by some of the same citizen groups who opposed the Sunwalker project.

County planning staff said one of the key differentiating factors between the two projects is that the Sunwalker site is under Williamson Act contract, which has additional restrictions on development, including for solar electric power generation.

Supervisor David Haubert, who represents District 1 which includes the area of both project sites, said he was unsatisfied with the agricultural management plan proposed by Sunwalker, arguing it failed to include legitimate agricultural uses in its plan such as grazing and food production, like the Aramis project does. "They also did not have a viable ongoing maintenance plan with a local conservancy such as Tri-Valley Conservancy," he said.

The Board of Supervisors heard four appeals challenging Sunwalker's 59-acre, six-megawatt solar energy facility at its April 22 meeting before deciding to delay its deliberations. Appellants Save North Livermore Valley, Friends of Open Space and Vineyards, Friends of Livermore and residents John and Jackie Bowles raised concerns that the project would destroy the natural environment and violate the county's Measure D, which aims to preserve agricultural land and open space in eastern Alameda County.

Save North Livermore Valley, Friends of Open Space and Vineyards and Friends of Livermore expressed the same concerns about the Aramis facility and all three groups, along with the Ohlone Audubon Society, filed suit against the county last month in an effort to halt the project.

Chris O'Brien, chair of the Save North Livermore Valley steering committee, told the Weekly in an email that his group is "very happy" about Sunwalker withdrawing its application and believes that their efforts in opposing the project played a role in the decision.

"Now, we are hopeful the Aramis developer might think hard about continuing with their plans. We are hopeful our lawsuit will prove the county approved the project illegally in terms of state zoning laws and the will of the voters with the passage of Measure D," he said.

Comments

Michael Austin
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on May 21, 2021 at 11:59 am
Michael Austin , Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on May 21, 2021 at 11:59 am

Who Pays for Your Solar Energy Generation?

Home owners that install solar panels tend to be in the upper income level.
Approximately 50% of the energy produced with solar panels on the roof is credited back to the homeowner that installed solar panels at regular retail price.

That retail price credit is passed on to other rate payers, people in lower income levels, in effect increasing the price they pay for their energy consumption.

Many of those people are renters, or home owners without solar panels on their roof, or homes that face the wrong direction. They all pay increased price for their energy consumption to supplement those who have installed solar panels on their roofs.


Pleasanton Parent
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on May 21, 2021 at 2:27 pm
Pleasanton Parent, Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on May 21, 2021 at 2:27 pm

Not understanding your point.

Ca mandates X % renewable energy generation, utility companies can build that, or they can just buy it from homeowners that are installing panels anyway? In the end, its less expensive because utilities are buying back the excess at lower rates, can utilize the existing grid infrastructure, and homeowners are responsible for the maintenance of the equipment.

Payback on solar is still around 7+yrs for the homeowner.


Becky Dennis
Registered user
Foxborough Estates
on May 24, 2021 at 10:55 am
Becky Dennis, Foxborough Estates
Registered user
on May 24, 2021 at 10:55 am

Pleasanton Parent is, I believe, correct regarding the homeowner, power company, climate win-win. We invested in a high end solar system. Much to our delight, it paid for itself in less than 7 years.
However, a word of caution to homeowners. Solar technology is new. Our panels (supposedly good for 25 years) began to fail in less than 10 years, and the entire system had to be replaced. Though still under warranty, processing our claim with the manufacturer (the original dealer had long since gone out of business) took almost 2 years. Expect manufacturers’ warranty work to take a back seat to their new solar installations. Many unreturned calls and emails, scheduling difficulties, inexperienced crews, and installation mistakes all showed we were a low priority compared to new sales. Finally our solar generating capacity was returned. But between September 2019 and January 2021 we had to pay the full PG&E electric rate.
Lessons learned: When you install solar, save all the associated documents. Closely monitor your system’s performance. As with all developing technology offered in the free market, hopes and hype may be high, but product failure is not unusual. Protect yourself.


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