Valley Clean Energy celebrates groundbreaking of 3-MW solar + storage project in Winters, California

The crowd at the public unveiling of the Putah Creek Solar Farm included Valley Clean Energy board members and management, SMUD staff, project co-owner and Winters farmer Dan Martinez, and VCE supporters and friends.

With the public unveiling last week of a 3-MW solar + storage project west of Winters, Valley Clean Energy (VCE) took another step toward its goal of providing more local renewable energy generation for its customers.

The 20-year agreement with Putah Creek Solar Farms for 3 MW of solar and 3 MW of battery storage was approved by VCE’s board of directors last December. Valley Clean Energy is the local electricity provider for the cities of Winters, Woodland, and Davis, as well as the unincorporated portions of Yolo County.

At the public event on Aug. 10, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, a member of the assembly, a longtime resident of Winters and the city’s first female mayor, Dan Martinez, a Winters-area farmer and co-owner of the project as a “visionary,” adding that California is increasing its annual solar and wind installations to meet the target of a carbon neutral grid by 2045.

“Due to the threat of more frequent wildfires in California, we must do everything possible to increase local reliability in electricity supplies and systems,” added Aguiar-Curry, pointing to the Winters project as an important piece of the puzzle. .

Winters city councilor Jesse Loren, vice-chair of the VCE board, reminded the meeting of local politicians, policy makers and industry professionals that VCE has set itself an ambitious goal of providing 80% renewable energy by 2030, of which up to 25% comes from local sources.

“Winters is an agricultural community; it’s a farming community,” she said. ‘And you know what we grow these days? We are in the process of growing energy, and I couldn’t be more proud of that.

“What we need are local jobs: in this way we reduce vehicle kilometers travelled, in this way we help with our own climate goals. And this is a great match,” said Loren, pointing to the project site. “It’s local jobs, local energy, feeding our network locally.”

Owner Dan Martinez said the 8,262 photovoltaic panels and battery storage system will cover about 19 acres of a 31-acre property that was once a walnut orchard. Commercial operation of the project is expected in November.

The Putah Creek Country Co. also built a 15-acre solar panel just south of this property in 2014; energy from that plant is sold to PG&E.

“Yolo County has a long history of protecting farmland,” said Martinez, who joins the effort with longtime business partner Santiago Moreno. “But they also understand that there is a balance. In this case, we are removing trees that were one resource and now we are producing another resource.”

In addition to the Putah Creek Solar Farm, the VCE board also approved the Gibson Renewables project last December, which is expected to generate 20 MW of solar power and provide 6.5 MW of battery energy storage. Commercial operation of that project, which will be built along Highway 16 between Madison and Esparto, is scheduled for late 2022.

Together, the two projects are expected to meet nearly 10% of the energy needs of VCE’s entire service area.

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