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'Another Solar Field in Ramona' Planned by SDG&E on Creelman Lane

Map of planned solar field.
Map of planned solar field.

Also read: Planning Group Votes to Fund 67/Dye Intersection and Delay Other Projects

Plans for another solar field in Ramona were met with skepticism by the planning group and public at the Ramona Community Planning Group meeting last week. 

Residents near the proposed project site voiced concerns about potential affects to views, glare from the panels, and trucks traveling the dirt road that accesses the site, and residents around the Sol Orchard solar field being constructed on Warnock Drive talked about frustrations they've encountered with that similar project.

The solar project is planned for a 16-acre facility along Creelman Lane. The San Diego Gas & Electric representative said the company plans to submit a major use permit to the county in January and that they hope to have the facility operating by late 2015.

RCPG Chair Jim Piva set the tone for the discussion with SDG&E representatives by introducing the presentation as "another solar field in ramona… which will serve 1,000 households, not necessarily in Ramona." 

The SDG&E representative said the project is capped at five megawatts of power, and would take up 40 percent of the land that SDG&E owns at that site. The area is zoned for such a project, according to Piva. 

The board and public speakers were for the most part resigned to the fact that the new solar field would be constructed, based on the County's approval of Sol Orchard earlier this year in the face of opposition from the RCPG.

"We don't want another Warnock, but it looks like were going to get it," said planner Jim Cooper. "We must help out the neighbors with some mitigation."

The group suggested that paving Creelman Lane would be an appropriate bit of mitigation for the project.

The project fact flier handed out by SDG&E said the project creates local green jobs, a point that planner Donna Myers, who lives near the Sol Orchard project, contested. 

"There has been incredible noise, dust, and longer working hours than they said. Nothing that they promised us has happened," said Myers. "Local people have lost the opportunity to have jobs because the fencing was done by company in LA, and it was done improperly, cattle kept getting on the road because they didn't put up the right fencing."

Planner Carl Hickman asked point blank "what benefit is there for Ramona with this project?"

After a pause, the SDG&E representative said "I don't know. There's obviously is a societal benefit… we are told by state we have to do this, and we try to balance with the needs of community we serve."

SDG&E has been tasked by state government to obtain 33 percent of the energy they sell from renewable sources by 2020.

Many members of the group were vocal about their frustrations in dealing with the Sol Orchard solar field, feeling that their advice wasn't acted on by the County and the same will happen with this project.

"If the county doesn't give manure about what we say, why are we wasting this time on this project at all besides trying to get a road paved? Obviously these projects are useless for our board to deal with," said planner Matt Deskovick.

The public can contact Regional Public Affairs Manager Ian K. Stewart at IStewart@semprautilities.com about the project.

Woody Kirkman December 12, 2013 at 03:00 AM
If you don't like these "mandated" solar projects, just wait to see what they are going to force on us in our downtown areas: High density European style mixed use zoning, (businesses on the first floor, with dwelling units on the second and third floors;) Three story apartment buildings; Narrowing Main Street to two lanes and constructing right turn only barricades to induce traffic calming and reduce traffic capacity; and no improvement to highway 67 to make it four lanes. All under the guise of "Smart Growth!"
Drew S. December 12, 2013 at 09:39 AM
Why build a solar field to harvest power to sell to 1,000 other households? Why not install on 1,000 roofs and collect the excess electricity earned plus give the homeowner an incentive for using their roof? It might cost more but you'll have met your mandate while serving the community you're already taking advantage of.
greg Chick December 12, 2013 at 11:02 AM
Andrew, Very good point, the point of use power generation is far more effective than macro grid due to many factors. Large corporations get different and more incentives than homeowners because they are represented by bigger money. I say incentives and I include mandates. I have been an alternate energy contractor for decades and study this issue daily as well as am certified to be an instructor. I cringe when folks knee jerk, yet most people have not the time to be fully educated by much more than talking heads in the media. Solar can be a rip off as can gold or bank loans, the devil is in the details and wisdom is scarce. The workers who do get to work and get pay checks are happy with the project as are the others who profit, Alternate energy is not the enemy, ignorance and miss application of power is. SDG&E is a profit and power driven force, the share holders are happy. If they claim they are "victims of policy" they are just playing the public as they do. They spend millions on image.
Joe Minervini December 12, 2013 at 11:38 AM
The Patch article states, "The area is zoned for such a project." The truth is solar farms are allowed in just about any zone.... Normally when an industrial use is planned, the property must be zoned for an industrial use. In the case of solar farms, the County has no "solar farm" ordinance. The County Planning Dept. is dragging their feet on drafting such an ordinance because SDG&E wants to build all their solar farms wherever they damn please....which is usually very close to existing power sub-stations. The Sol Orchard project should never have happened.....4 County Supervisors prostituted themselves and threw Ramona under the bus.
Diane Chapman December 12, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Matt Deskovick was a true leader in the meeting and voiced what most of of think. Why are they asking our opinion when the projects were decided years ago when the sub stations were built. Jim Piva asked the SDG&E representative a good rhetorical question-"Where do you live and do you have solar panels in your back yard? " Do people in Rancho Santa Fe have solar panels in their neighborhoods? The rep conceded that in higher density areas, they put them on roofs. They why can't they respect Ramona and to the same here if they really cared? Answer. They do not care. And if we do not get zoning to regulate where they build these ugly industrial structures, you will see Ramona ruined. So long Valley of the Sun and budding wine country, hello dumping grounds for solar mandates.
Mike December 12, 2013 at 05:27 PM
The nursery on Creelman is SDGE owned property. The land on Warnock was private property. SDGE had nothing to do with the solar yard on Warnock, the company that built it went out and secured the land from the private owner. SDGE only signed an agreement to buy X amount of solar power for X amount of dollars, regardless of where the yard was located. Since this lot on Creelman is SDGE's anyway it seems they can do what they want. Go thank your enviro Nazi friends for the great green power we are seeing pop up everywhere.
greg Chick December 12, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Green Nazi? what is sending billions of dollars to the folks in middle east who want to kill US, pun intended. All power generated here keeps money here. How about we require the solar panels be made here unlike all the crap we buy in K-Mart and Wall-Mart etc.
greg Chick December 12, 2013 at 06:03 PM
Personally I think gas stations are ugly too. What is attractive about power lines? My option is solar on rooftops and less power lines and less exported billions of dollars to other countries. Ramona as well as all communities need to share in the burden of what we ourselves consume. NIMBY is what the others are saying that get the power from warnock solar plant!
Dave Patterson December 12, 2013 at 08:08 PM
I like the solar farms because without them that energy is wasted. I do have a problem with the solar farms not having the capability to operate stand alone, or independent of the grid. If the grid goes down we should be able to open a couple of breakers and separate Ramona form the grid, and use the power from the solar farms to pump water or run emergency services. Everyone points to a big quake coming, and we should be prepared to pump ground water if the aqueduct breaks or the grid fails. How hard is this? Not hard at all! So instead of protesting against the solar farms, I will protest that they won't help us in an emergency!
greg Chick December 12, 2013 at 11:32 PM
Spot on Dave! Let's form a posse! That is the answer to the question "what good will it do Ramona".
Joe Minervini December 13, 2013 at 10:17 AM
To: greg & Dave, Gentlemen, you seem to be wandering off the path. The people who protested against the Warnock and the Creelman solar projects are mostly people in close proximity to the solar farms who will have to see the ugly rows of solar panels when they look out their windows. It was also pointed out at the last Planning Meeting that home values drop when hundreds of solar panels move in as your neighbors. These protesters are all in favor of solar generated power; they offered SDGE other sites that would be away from residential development. As for who will use the power from these solar farms or will the local solar farms generate power for Ramona in an emergency ? Its simply a matter of throwing switches on and off. No, I don't want to debate the issue on this venue....lets meet with those homeowners who are affected...maybe then you'll understand better. After all, no one wants to see their home drop in value simply because SDGE does not want to spend money and build these ugly solar farms miles away where nobody can see them. Please don't call the protestors NIMBY's (those are fighting words), they just want to protect what they have worked hard for all their lives.....their homes. I'm in the phone book.
greg Chick December 13, 2013 at 10:41 AM
Joe, or local neighbors who protest the Solar farm in their back yards. Sorry to stray into big picture concepts, I have no intention to sell my home, so my home value is just a feeling not a price, and I am blinded by the sunlight I so love. As for fighting words, sorry for the use of that word, I have no desire to be aggressive, nor impose my passions on others. This blog is where I guessed people "debated" local issues, so I reply here. I do suggest roof top solar as an option and if more people had that the SDG&E mandate to build would be satisfied.
Joe Minervini December 13, 2013 at 05:39 PM
Greg, Thanks for the response. As far as I know, any private roof top or back yard solar does not count towards the State mandate of renewable energy. Also, SDGE advised that the State is considering increasing its mandate in the future, maybe to 50 %.
greg Chick December 14, 2013 at 01:57 AM
Joe, I have been told the roof top does count towards the SDG&E load. This is why they were funding (as mandated by PUC) the CCSE rooftop solar program. I was trained and certified from money from SDG$E a few yrs. back. The SDG$E load is what is needed to be augmented by alternate sources, not just solar. Air to water heat pumps qualify too. (they have a 2.35 EF! PV has about .2). The rooftop units are grid tied and net metering is part of the obligation to "go green".
Glenn Younger December 16, 2013 at 08:48 AM
Glenn Younger December 16, 2013 at 05:47 am Seems like coming up with sites that work for these solar farms, and that are acceptable to the community, might be part of a better solution. I don't believe that these parcels are zoned for industrial uses. The case could be made that SDG&E, or others, could not put up a building that covers 40% of this property. That may be a way to fight this project.
Mike December 17, 2013 at 03:05 PM
SDGE did not pick the location on Warnock, the solar farm builder did. Why would SDGE install rooftop solar when everyone and their brother will end up suing them saying that now their roof leaks. Who is going to pay to remove the solar panels when the roof needs replaced, SDGE? Why would SDGE give all those rooftop panels to the home owners if they could find land and own it themselves? There are too many factors that no one thinks of regarding rooftop solar, too much liability on SDGE's part. They do have a business to run. Unfortunately the solar farms need to be built close to a substation, hence the locations around the substation on Creelman lane. I would not want a solar farm next to my house, I also would not want some of the trashy yards that I see around Ramona everyday either. I imagine either of those around my home would make the value go down. And as far as solar being available for emergencies, maybe. It's not as simple as throwing switches on and off, you have to figure that solar is not reliable with clouds and such. Not being able to tell how much power the solar is putting out is the issue. Appliances, electronics, machinery all needs to have a steady source of power or they will burn up. When the solar panels output goes down SDGE would need some way to shed customers off the system automatically so the customers equipment doesn't burn up. Or of course someone will be suing them.
S. Fulrath December 17, 2013 at 03:10 PM
Going green before the technology is ready is stupid. Those of you that vote for libs are getting what you deserve...a dumbed down, equally poor and equally unhealthy America that no longer innovates, just redistributes.
greg Chick December 17, 2013 at 08:44 PM
Solar panels on roofs is only leaky if done wrong. Contractors installed all the roofs on the school buildings with out any solar and half them leak! so leave leaky roofs out of the equation. SDG&E does not install any solar on any roof, it is the PUC mandated rebates that assist the consumer in paying contractors to install solar on roofs. I have solar ground mounted, and my roof leaked last yr. my house was built in 89' and needed repair, nothing to do with solar. Solar energy is what put a man on the moon, the technology is developed. What needs to be done is, look at real factors in this issue, not add issues from opinions based on an anti solar position. All things can have a place, better design and install will be best. OK, so some locations are not wanted to be chosen by some people, but no need to create un due objections. Point of use generation helps level out the power distribution, not create a bigger gap.
greg Chick December 17, 2013 at 08:49 PM
S. Fulrath, George W. Bush has solar on his home, going solar is not a "stupid" thing, done well, it is smart. Many Republicans have solar on their homes and invest in solar as well. There are CEO's that are Republican too! No need to polarize this solar issue into politics, this is an energy issue.
Mike December 17, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Feel free to buy solar on your own, leave SDGE doing it for you instead of building solar farms out of this. As soon as SDGE gets involved with putting solar on peoples houses as everyone talks about then they will all develop leaks overnight and they will be looking for money from SDGE.
greg Chick December 17, 2013 at 09:24 PM
Mike please see my comment posted at 8:44 pm. Agreed, SDG&E has the ability to make a mess, but they are just a tool in the big box. If I had my wishes, SDG&E would be totally different, I do not trust them as a "Public service" I consider them unethical and dangerous, Cedar fire case in point. But it was the CCSE that certified and issued the certificate of proper installation at my residence, not SDG$E! I have incidentally never been allowed my tax credit from my solar install in 09', the IRS has been delaying and stalling. My Solar thermal system I installed myself as a licensed contractor was not even applied for tax credits. My point? I do this by choice with my money, no one else's.

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