The County of Sonoma has adopted changes to the Zoning Code that enable the construction and use of renewable energy facilities throughout the county, while protecting sensitive resources and ensuring neighborhood compatibility. These changes became effective on 10-10-2013 and apply to parcels throughout the county, except in the coastal zone.
Renewable energy is considered a more sustainable energy supply because it is derived from sources that are naturally replenished including biomass, geothermal, solar and wind. The changes implement the resource conservation policies of the County’s General Plan to provide for widespread use of renewable energy through distributed generation and increase opportunities for renewable energy power producers. This effort was funded in part by an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant from the Department of Energy.
Renewable Energy projects are classified into two categories, Accessory Systems & Commercial Facilities:
- Accessory Systems provide energy primarily for on-site use (up to 125% of the on-site demand), and are allowed as a permitted use (“by-right”) subject to certain criteria. Rooftop Systems are also allowed by-right throughout the County, and are not subject to the 125% of on-site energy demand threshold.
- Commercial Facilities generate power primarily for off-site use, and are allowed with a Use Permit in certain zones. In the agricultural and resource zones, solar power generation facilities will require a rezone to add the “RE” (Renewable Energy) Combining Zone. All of these facilities are also subject to special use standards for the type of facility.