YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

Walking their dog about a week ago, at Woodland’s Dog (walking) Park next to its Community and Senior Center, a local resident noticed someone spraying X on many trees in and nearby the Park.

Informed that all of these marked trees were soon being removed, they contacted other Woodlanders who soon contacted City staff, which was unaware that 8 trees inside the Dog Park were being scheduled for removal.

Although, trees within its adjacent parking lot and outside of the Dog Park, were long planned for removal, to make way for one of six sites for the city’s new solar energy program.

A public uproar subsequently arose last week, clamoring over significant loss of mature trees (40 – 50 trees) adjacent to and within our community Dog Park, resulting from planned installation of a rather (extremely) smallish section of the city’s huge new solar project with (giant) Hanwha Corp. of Korea.

Apparently, relevant (upstart) tree-advocates intend to suitably attract city council attention during its meeting this coming Tuesday evening (May 19), with hope of the council determining to soon and responsibly amend its agreements with Hanwha Corp., at a June council meeting — before such radical tree removal might begin at our community Dog Park.

Indeed, a scenario seems to exist (below), whereby these advocates may hope to prevail (using enough political presence and pressure).

Hanwha, TerraVerde, Conaway

Hanwha Corp., an enormous Korean conglomerate, has worked out a pretty neat deal with sunny Woodland.  It installs and operates solar-energy facilities, providing the City a certain amount of (renewably sourced) electricity at a discount. The city annually saves $140,000 for 28 years ($7.6 million in total); while, of course, Hanwha Corp. (which produces and installs high-quality photo-voltaic cells) will then sell to others the vast predominance of such solar-generated power.

City staff in January reached an amended agreement with TerraVerde Renewable Partners LLC (a Delaware-based company) to contain municipal liabilities regarding its due “Development Fee” related to this deal (seemingly, brokered by it), in the amount of $950,000.

So, the city pays almost a million dollars, fairly up front, for its $7.6 million savings; thus the city saves only $6.65 million in the end, for the 28 year term of its deal with Hanwha Corp., after paying what amounts to about a 13% commission to TerraVerde.

Conaway Preservation Group, which owns most land easterly of the city, has extended a helpful (sweetheart-type) arrangement, allowing needed transmission-related access for $100, annually.

Six Solar-Energy Sites

In all, six sites are involved in the city’s solar energy project: (a) city parking lot at northwestern corner of Court and College Streets, (b) city sewage plant, (c) city screw pump, (d) city police station, (e) municipal services building, (f) Community and Senior Center.  Tree removal is involved in (a), (d) and (f), since solar-energy arrays and shade trees are not compatible.

One basic idea, here, is to deploy solar-energy arrays over city parking lots, so such shaded parking might amplify environmental benefits. The basic question, though, is whether the city has actually minimized relevant tree removal, especially at its Community and Senior Center (and Dog Park), in order to best conduct (so to speak) this idea.  Also, is it is more valuable to provide totally shaded parking in these city lots, or to let trees do their best and find other city-owned land to locate solar-energy facilities?

Staff Response

“The Community and Senior Center is the second highest energy user of City facilities, and an approximately 500-kW array is planned for the center,” explains Roberta Childers, lead staff person for the City on this project (admirably responsive, organized and capable).

“We did consider extending some portions of the system into the parking lot farther to the east at one time,” describes Childers, “but this idea was rejected because panels there could be too exposed to potential damage from sports park activities (stray balls). Since then, significant effort has gone into establishing the electrical system and interconnection details with PG&E. Note that the interconnection will be along the south side of the property. Lengths and locations of conduit runs are important technical considerations in siting the arrays to optimize system efficiency, reduce power losses between the panels and the interconnection point, and reduce trenching and directional boring runs. The closer the arrays are to the interconnection, the better.”

Here outlined, are the pivotal matters regarding siting of these solar arrays, involving still unanswered questions.

Perhaps Now Relevant, Yet Then Inaccurate Depiction Of Solar Array

In December of 2014, the Daily Democrat ran a story about this subject being on the city council agenda, featuring an artistic rendering of a solar-energy array, place directly alongside the sidewalk of the Community and Senior Center. This photo is likely the most publicly distributed image of these affairs.

“This picture is an artist’s rendering meant to illustrate the basic design of the arrays (how they will curve, the style of the support columns, etc.). It does not represent the actual system location, size, or extent,” indicates Childers.

Well, why not?

Shifting one solar array from alongside the Dog Park, to alongside the community center sidewalk, as very publicly depicted in this graphic example, extending it easterly along this sidewalk (not yet close to sports park hazards) — fully resolves all related Dog Park concerns.

City staff have not yet addressed this specific and pivotal question.

Even More Basic Question

In addition, regarding a more basic question, is it is more valuable to provide totally shaded parking in these city lots, or to let trees do their best and find other, perhaps even better, city-owned land on which to locate solar-energy facilities?

Childers relates: “Note that the interconnection will be along the south side of the property. Lengths and locations of conduit runs are important technical considerations in siting the arrays to optimize system efficiency, reduce power losses between the panels and the interconnection point, and reduce trenching and directional boring runs. The closer the arrays are to the interconnection, the better.”

This PG&E “interconnection” is located at the extreme southwesterly portion of the Community and Senior Center property. Were designs considered, which may have located solar arrays on vacant land — directly adjacent — to this “interconnection?”

After all, “the closer the arrays are to the interconnection, the better.”

Both solar arrays and trees may then have equitable spaces.

Problematic Tree Species In Parking Lot

“The majority of the trees to be removed [from the Community and Senior Center parking lot] are ornamental pear,” reports Childers, “a problematic species for maintenance and not a very beneficial tree in terms of canopy and shade. In fact, the City arborist notes that many of them are showing signs of fire blight, and some are dying. Given the species and age of most of the trees in these parking lots and the City’s commitment to replace the trees at least 1:1 with species that are suitable to our conditions, the Woodland Tree Foundation contacts have been supportive of the project.”

The question arises: Why did the City of Trees plant problematic tree species in such an important spot?

It appears that the city has even more and various problems with its Community and Senior Center, than previously realized.

Continues Childers: “Concurrent with solar project development, City staff members have been working with interested community members to develop plans for the replacements. The major part of this planning is for a grove of some 50 trees that will wrap around the west and south sides of the dog park. I’ve also attached a concept for the tree grove, which was developed by landscape designer Jerry Stacionis. We would like to see this developed into a memorial grove with paths and benches and places for contemplation.”

This (“Heritage Grove”) proposal is planned for the land where, if it could be designed to fit, solar arrays would be hundreds of feet closer to PG&E “interconnection;” while eventually, replaced, more suitable trees would continue to grace this parking lot.

Were these alternatives / options duly considered by the city and Hanwha Corp.?”

Dog Park Tree Rescue

We may never know, of course, the true scope and extent of such environmental, energy and political considerations of the city and Hanwha Corp.

However, one salient aspect of critical adjustment currently remains viable, whether solar arrays can be prevented from encroaching on the city’s Dog Park, by shifting one such array alongside the sidewalk of the Community and Senior Center.

Otherwise, offers Childers: “Staff quickly began discussing options for addressing concerns, such as installing [artificial] shade structures to offset the loss of shade should the trees need to be removed. Given the current size of the eight trees in question, it also may be possible to leave them in place for a while as other trees in the dog park grow to provide more shade. We’ll be evaluating these and other possibilities.”

Dog Park tree-advocates will help to best decide this interesting matter, if they attend the Tuesday, May 19 city council meeting, prepared to speak during the public comment section at 6:05 PM.

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