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Fink Road solar farm goes before commission

A proposal to develop an 800-acre solar farm on county-owned property northwest of the Fink Road Landfill will go to the Stanislaus County Planning Commission tonight (Thursday).

Rachel Wyse, a planner with the Stanislaus County Planning and Community Development Department, said the applicant, JKB Energy of Turlock, is proposing a phased project within the overall project site of 1,687 acres. The balance of the property will remain in farming, Wyse said.

The area is currently being farmed in dry crops and orchards.

Wyse said the applicant, which holds negotiating rights with Stanislaus County to develop a solar energy facility on the site, plans to develop in five to six phases. Each would include about 1,400 solar array trackers, she noted.

According to staff reports, each tracker would have more than 1,251 square feet of photovoltaic panel surface, which would be coated with material to reduce reflection.

Wyse said the aesthetic impact of the project would be limited, but said passing motorists on I-5 will catch a glimpse of the project. Staff reports indicate that the location of the project and the use of almond trees as a vegetative screen will limit the aesthetic impacts.

The county planner said a number of steps will also address issues relating to biological resources.

She said pre-construction surveys will be conducted to insure that the foraging habitat of the western burrowing owl and Swainson’s hawk are not impacted.

Because the area is recognized by the Fish and Wildlife Service as a corridor of the San Joaquin kit fox, Wyse said, fences will be constructed in a manner which will allow passage through the property.

The county planning commission will consider approval of a use permit on the project when it convenes at 6 p.m. tonight (Thursday) in the chambers at 1010 10th St., Modesto.