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Renewable Energy for a Cleaner Future

Sonoma Clean Power Joins Sonoma County Farm Bureau at the Premium Level

Article by Rachel LaFranchi
Photo by
Sonoma Clean Power

Published January 1, 2016

Nathan Kinsey, Sonoma Clean Power’s Account Executive outside their office in Downtown Santa Rosa.

Sonoma Clean Power is the official electricity provider for Sonoma County encompassing all areas except Healdsburg, which has their own municipal utility. Sonoma Clean Power provides environmentally friendly power at competitive rates.

Sonoma Clean Power is a relatively new public agency in Sonoma County; beginning to offer their services to Sonoma County residents in May 2014. The formation of the agency was made possible by AB 117 which passed in 2002 allowing communities to purchase power on behalf of their residents and businesses.

The Sonoma County Water Agency began exploring the opportunity to form a community power program in 2011. A steering committee of community members was formed and after two years of research, a plan was drafted in 2012. In 2013, it was updated to outline the core program of buying power from cleaner sources.

Sonoma Clean Power is a not for profit public agency which now provides electricity to nearly 90% of the county and has approximately 450,000 customers.

“Our operations are very complicated, but our service offering is very straightforward at its core,” said Nathan Kinsey, Sonoma Clean Power’s Account Executive. “We’re a not for profit public agency focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing rate stability for our customers, but we function much like a large company does in terms of revenue scale. In the end, we really just want to be able to service customers and respond to their unique needs with clean energy at a competitive rate.”

Customers still have a choice between purchasing energy from PG&E or Sonoma Clean Power, although Sonoma Clean Power is the default supplier. In Sonoma County, Sonoma Clean Power procures the power on behalf of their customers, while PG&E delivers the electricity, bills customers and provides maintenance and reliability services for the grid.  

Sonoma Clean Power’s default electricity service, CleanStart, includes 36% renewable sources, including wind, biomass, and geothermal power. Forty-four percent of their electricity is from large scale carbon-free hydropower while the remaining 20% is primarily generated by natural gas.

For customers who are looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions even more, Sonoma Clean Power offers their EverGreen service; 100% local renewable resources offered at a premium (approximately a 12% increase).

Sonoma Clean Power is interested in becoming more engaged with the Sonoma County agriculture industry, and actively seeks partnership opportunities with ag business owners and managers to develop innovative energy programs.

One area of specific interest is dairy efficiency. While they are investigating opportunities with larger dairy operations, they hope to partner on a program that can be scaled to all Sonoma County dairies. Although their project efforts are still in the early planning and development phase, they’ve targeted the dairy industry due to their active involvement in their community.

Sonoma Clean Power is also working to partner with owners of irrigation and water treatment ponds. They are pioneering a program using floating solar panels where they can purchase the renewable electricity generated by the floating solar from private landowners. Kinsey said this is an appealing option to both parties as it is a way to generate clean power where aesthetics are not problematic and without taking up valuable ag land.

As another option, Sonoma Clean Power is investigating energy storage projects that would allow landowners to store energy and control when it is used. All three projects are still in the early stages, but Sonoma Clean Power is focused on creating and implementing innovative ideas to save customers money.

For Kinsey, who is originally from Lake County, knowing whom to connect with in the community to work with on new programs is a challenge. Joining Farm Bureau has allowed him to connect with the ag industry through select Premium Member events as well as to participate in the Farm Bureau’s large fundraisers such as Love of the Land and the annual Crab Feed.

“As a relatively recent member, we see our relationship with the Farm Bureau as significant,” said Kinsey. “We are focused on being accessible and responsive to Sonoma County’s largest industries and largest consumers of electricity – which include wineries, ranches, dairies, etc. By being connected with these important groups and economic drivers of our county, we can assist them with understanding their electricity choices, billing issues, energy consumption and also help support their sustainability goals. The agriculture industry serves our community and the Farm Bureau supports the agriculture industry. It’s a privilege to build partnerships and relationships with the Farm Bureau and its members and we’re proud to provide our services to the entire Sonoma County community.”

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