Country Acres Solar Project moves forward, breaks ground in August – Placer County

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Published Feb. 28, 2024

The Placer County Board of Supervisors took action Tuesday to approve a 1,170-acre solar panel facility that will provide power to Sacramento Municipal Utility District customers in west Placer County.

The Country Acres Solar Project, sponsored by SMUD, will consist of raised photovoltaic solar panels over farmland that will also be used for agricultural purposes – sheep grazing for vegetation management and flower fields for pollinators.

The project is located on agricultural land east of South Brewer Road, north of Baseline Road, west of Westbrook Boulevard and south of Pleasant Grove Creek.

With a 35-year conditional use permit, SMUD will purchase 230 acres of the project site to build a substation, switching station and battery storage facilities while leasing 940 acres of land for the installation of solar panels and associated infrastructure.

Ten acres of the project will be used as an agricultural demonstration site in partnership with University of California, Davis to demonstrate “agrivoltaic” elements and benefits, which include the ability to grow nut and citrus trees, berries and vines and row crops under solar panels. After 35 years, the photovoltaic solar panels will be decommissioned.

As a condition of approval, SMUD has agreed to participate in the Placer County Conservation Plan through a mitigation agreement that includes an approximately $24.3 million land conversion mitigation payment and a $350,000 wetland habitat mitigation payment fee. The payments will be used by the Placer Conservation Authority to acquire other pieces of land for agriculture, open space, and species and habitat conservation. SMUD also agreed to provide additional funding for fire, sheriff and public protection services as part of the project through a memorandum of understanding with the county.

Board members unanimously supported the project with a 5-0 vote while thanking SMUD for being forthright and transparent throughout the three years of project development, and for creating a “win-win” project for Placer County.

“That is really a future-forward project with the solar fields and agricultural uses like grazing and pollination,” said Board Chair and District 4 Supervisor Suzanne Jones. “I think the agrivoltaic program is really interesting to demonstrate how we can produce clean energy without giving up agricultural uses of the land the solar panels are installed on.”

SMUD provides electric services to approximately 3,100 customers in Placer County, with an expected 5,000 additional customers coming online with the buildout of Placer Vineyard and Riolo Vineyards.

The property includes a portion of the Regional University Specific Plan area, which is planned for housing and a private university.

Construction is expected to begin in August, with operation expected to begin in late 2026.

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