MID votes unanimously to secure solar power

The Modesto Irrigation District board voted 5-0 today to buy electricity from a 160-acre solar project proposed for north McHenry Avenue.

The vote came over objections from several audience members, who said the price would be too high compared with conventional power. MID has declined to disclose the exact price, citing the need to keep a negotiating edge in future projects of this sort.

The project would be built by SunPower Corp. of San Jose, which still needs approval from Stanislaus County. It is scheduled for completion in mid-2012, about 15 months later than planned because of the need to study its environmental impacts.

The 25-megawatt project would meet just 2 percent of MID’s demand, but it would help the district fulfill a state mandate to get at least 33 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020. It stands at 12 percent, almost all of it wind, but could reach the target by 2012 with planned solar, wind and woody biomass projects.

The solar project, MID’s first major foray into this source, is planned for an open field on the northeast corner of McHenry and Patterson Road.

Although the price was withheld, the MID staff estimated that the power would cost the district about $10 million a year, on top of $4 million in upfront costs.

For updates on this story, see or Wednesday’s Modesto Bee.