By Tracy Correa Lopez
BAKERSFIELD — It might look like just an empty dirt lot today, but soon it will be dotted with glistening solar panels that will help provide more clean energy to PG&E customers.
PG&E is working with developers ImMODO Energy and AES Distributed Energyto clean up the littered 34-acre property on East Planz Road in Bakersfield and turn it into a new solar site. It’s just one of three solar sites planned in Kern County. The others are a 5-acre site near the Bakersfield airport and a 7-acre property near the Kern County community of Delano.
The solar sites will provide clean energy for customers enrolled in PG&E’s Solar Choice program, launched last year. Solar Choice is designed specifically for customers who are unable to install rooftop solar, such as those in apartments or a shady plot, and allows them to purchase — for a modest fee — their electricity from local, solar-generated energy.
“We are really excited to be one of the first two companies to be part of this,” said Daniel Serber, development director for Fresno-based ImMODO.
Serber said he is glad to help bring solar to customers who didn’t have the option before PG&E’s Solar Choice program.
“The project will be fantastic and give customers the choice to go green,” he said.
To develop the sites, ImMODO will be cleaning up the properties and adding sidewalks and street lighting that will improve the safety of the neighborhoods.
The solar projects will also provide new and temporary jobs. ImMODO will hire approximately 50 temporary workers to build the Bakersfield sites and several of the positions will remain permanent to manage the sites. Jeff Jackson, of Bakersfield, has already been hired to manage the local sites.
PG&E is also partnering with AES and ImMODO to build an additional site in Manteca, located in San Joaquin County. An additional four projects will be built in other locations in Central California, for which PG&E is partnering with other renewable developers.
Many of the properties that will be developed are neighborhood eyesores. Serber said the Planz Road site had become a site for illegal trash dumping; items left at the site include a dead cow, a boat and furniture. He said neighbors have done their best to try to maintain the other smaller properties.
Serber said his team hopes to begin construction on the Kern County sites in April and could have all three sites completed and operational by the end of August.
PG&E will be purchasing just over five megawatts from the site on Planz Road for Solar Choice customers, and one megawatt each from the sites near the airport and Delano.
The new sites are bringing more renewable energy to California, which is good for the environment and clean air. The solar energy generated by the two Bakersfield sites alone is enough to power more than 6,000 homes.
And in the case of PG&E’s Solar Choice, going green has become more affordable.
In 2017, the cost to participate in PG&E’s Solar Choice program dropped nearly 30 percent for residential customers. For the average household in Bakersfield using 700 kilowatt-hours of energy, the cost to take part in the program at 100 percent solar is now approximately $18.27 per month — down from $25.06 last year. Customers can enroll at the 50 percent solar level for half that amount.
Email Tracy Correa Lopez at Tracy.Correa@pge.com.