SodaCanyonRoad | Renewable Energy Ordinance

Renewable Energy Ordinance
Bill Hocker | Nov 25, 2019 on: Solar Farming

Update 12/17/19
NVR 12/17/19: Napa County to ban solar energy farms in ag areas pending a more detailed review

Update 11/25/19
NVR 11/25/19: Napa County taking a close look at utility-scale solar farms

Update 11/13/19
The County has updated its draft Renewable Energy Systems Ordinance and will be presenting it to the Planning Commission on Nov 20, 2019. The meeting agenda and documents are here.

Note that the second solar farm project in the county is coming up before the Planning Commission on 12/18/19.

Following the American Canyon solar farm approval and the public concern over its potential precedent for the industrial development of ag lands, under the draft ordinance agricultural and residential zones will be excluded from future commercial renewable energy development. County Planner John McDowell has sent this email asking for comment.

Dear Napa County Stakeholder,

Attached for your review and comment is a draft ordinance updating Napa County’s development regulations for renewable energy systems. Notable components are:

- Codifies County’s current practices of allowing ‘accessory renewable energy systems’ such as small solar systems as a matter of right, but limits the system to meeting on-site power needs of private residences, business, and agricultural uses. Applies ministerial development standards consistent with other allowed accessory uses.

- Establishes regulations for ‘commercial renewable energy facilities’ for power generation facilities that provide feed-in tariff power to the public utility grid.
These uses are excluded from agricultural and residential zoning districts, and allowed with a Planning Commission Use Permit in industrial, commercial, and public facility districts.
Establishes comprehensive development standards for such uses

- Codifies County’s current practices of allowing emergency power generators for use during power outages. Generators limited in size to meet on-site power needs only.

- Repeals antiquated ‘small wind energy’ code requirements that expired in 2017.

Please direct comments or questions to John McDowell at or (707) 299-1354. A public hearing before the Planning Commission is tentatively set for November 20, 2019 [now scheduled for Dec 4, 2019] . Upon conclusion of the Planning Commission’s recommendation, the draft ordinance will be scheduled for a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors.


John McDowell
Napa County Planning, Building and Environmental Services Department
(707) 299-1354

NVR 4/24/10: Napa County formulates rules for utility-scale solar farms

NV2050 Newsletter writeup on the meeting (with a great photo)

At the Apr 23, 2019 BOS meeting (item 9A here) the Supes took up the issue of regulating the development of commercial solar farms in the County - unfortunately after the County has already approved its first solar farm on agricultural land in American Canyon. The staff letter is here.

The Supervisors did not rule out, in this initial discussion, the use of ag lands for solar development. Sup. Wagenknecht even went as far to say that there is only a limited amount of urban and industrial land in Napa County and that he would not want to limit solar farming to those areas which might reduce the amount of development that could occur there. It was ominous that Napa's greenest Supervisor would rather have solar competing with agriculture rather than industry for land. In a foreshadowing of the pitfalls of allowing solar development on ag lands, a solar power proponent spoke in public comments about using lands too steep for winery or vineyard development for solar power.

The idea of using industrial rooftops and parking lots for large scale solar installations was brought up by Sup. Ramos. It is the most sensible solution, particularly since the county seems committed, unfortunately, to millions of square feet of industrial development that involve both huge flat roofs and huge parking lots. State code now requires all non-residential buildings to be "solar ready", but why not go all the way. The solar energy developers should be working with the major warehouse developers to develop a synergy that is profitable for both. The county could produce such a desirable partnership by simply requiring that industrial facilities provide renewable power equivalent to their power usage as part of the conditions of approval.

A 400,500 sf warehouse, Nova Wine Warehouse, will be up before the Planning Commission on May 1, 2019. Hopefully there will be some carryover from the BOS discussion on solar farms to the commission review.

The solar farm discussion followed a previous agenda item (item 9M here) devoted to climate change. Sup. Wagenknecht proposed a proclamation on the need for a regional approach to climate change and the establishment of a county authority to address the issues. According to Dir Morrison, the county's Climate Action Plan is coming back for another public round in a few weeks.

NVR 4/23/19: Napa County looks at coordinated climate protection effort with cities