On Wednesday, May 16, Rep. Jerry McNerney announced that Tracy’s solar energy bill, which he had championed since 2008, was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The bill passed into law fixes a 14-year-old bureaucratic problem that prevented the city from moving forward with a solar farm.
“I have been fighting for the city of Tracy on this issue from the beginning, and I am proud that we were able to come together to pass this bill,” said a prepared statement from McNerney, who authored the bill.
The legislation was co-sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham, a Republican who is seeking the right to represent the majority of Tracy in Congress in the Nov. 6 election. McNerney, a Democrat who has represented Tracy since 2006, is running to represent Mountain House and Tracy north of Interstate 205.
The 200-acre site had been conveyed to the city by Congress with the condition that most of the land be used for recreational or educational purposes. McNerney’s bill waives any remaining restrictions on the land’s use once it is bought by the city.
Tracy City Manager Leon Churchill said the next step is to appraise the property. He said that when the city has a value figure, officials can move to buy the land and possibly lease it to GWF Energy, owner of the nearby power plant.
“It’s very good news,” Churchill said. “This was a big hurdle that had to be crossed. Took a lot of work — it’s been an incredible journey.”
He estimated that over the years the city had spent $4 million to try to make the project possible.
“We made an investment over the last decade, and we’ll be able to see some return on that investment,” he said, through the leasing of the land.
To make the solar energy project work, GWF must fashion an agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to buy the solar field’s power and plug it into the energy grid.
Tracy officials estimate that construction of the project would employ 200 people in San Joaquin County.
“I’m thrilled that the city of Tracy will be able to embark on the solar project along Schulte Road,” Mayor Brent Ives said in a statement. “On behalf of the city of Tracy, I thank Congressman McNerney for his advocacy. He has been fighting for the solar project from day one. He worked in a bipartisan manner with his colleague, Rep. Jeff Denham, to make this project a reality. The Tracy solar energy project will benefit our local economy.”