Ground Tilled For UC Merced’s New Smart Farm Development

Land has been tilled at UC Merced’s smart farm, the first physical step in  developing the state-of-the-art project.

“Even though it’s just a blank field, we have overcome some pretty big  obstacles to be where we are today,” said Danny Royer, Experimental Smart  Farm coordinator for the university. He spoke Nov. 16, at the farm,  describing the work done so far and what’s next.

Plans call for the farm to grow oats, grain, tomatoes and squash. But the  primary crop for the 45-acre property roughly a half-mile south of campus  will be data.

Conditions will be monitored, and a dashboard will be created that student  researchers can access.

“We can look at different pest control strategies, different watering  strategies, knowing that the smart farm is keeping track of all this  background information,” said Professor Tom Harmon,  who co-leads the smart farm with Professor Joshua Viers.

“We want the farm to operate on two levels,” Harmon said. “One, it should  be tracking itself as a system in terms of water-energy work. And then at  the process level you can come in and do very detailed research for that.”

The information that comes out of the farm will then be used to determine  new experiments.

“Data will be going back to campus, and students will be able to run  simulations and transfer that back,” Viers said.

But first, the initial crops must be planted.

Planting will start soon, Royer said, after the invasive weeds, star thistle,  and juncus grass that have taken over the area are mitigated.

“Really, if we wanted to mitigate it the way I’ve been taught to mitigate  it, we would disk this and leave it fallow for three years,” he said. “We  don’t have three years so we’re going to have to deal with this in other  ways, such as discing multiple times.”

In the meantime, soil samples have been taken and data is being collected  to establish baselines for research.

The initial crop plan calls for a winter forage, “kind of an oat-wheat  mix,” Royer said. “Winter forage is great — the crop residue is heavy in  organic matter.” This helps the soil regenerate.

“The more organic matter we can start incorporating at the beginning, the  better.”

The university is working on establishing a memorandum of understanding  with Merced College, allowing students there to cut and bale the hay, which  would then be sold to the owner of the cattle that will graze the area.

The cows are another important part of the plan, Royer said. Livestock  activity also helps the soil regenerate.

Plans also call for four acres of intensive row crops, such as tomatoes,  squash, melons and corn. These products can ultimately be used for  community supported agriculture, or CSA boxes that will be sold.

Longer term, the farm is set to host farmers markets and other  public-facing activities, as well as provide experiences for students  outside of those who will directly use the data.

“One of my favorite features is an observation tower,” Viers said. The  tower was requested by the humanities department. Students will be able to  view the farm from above for sketching and other activities.

But building out all the plans will cost money.

“We have funds to do the initial infrastructure and buy or lease some  equipment,” Royer said.

Full buildout would cost tens of millions, Harmon and Viers estimated.

“We’ll be seeking help from the community, sort of a virtual barn raising, to gather the necessary funding,” Harmon said.

They are also exploring funding sources such a research grants to pay for  it. UC Merced’s recent designation  as an agricultural experiment station (AES) will open other avenues of  funding. University of California President Michael Drake recently  announced that the Merced and Santa Cruz campuses have received the  prestigious designation, the first time it’s been earned in more than 50  years.

The smart farm is UC Merced’s AES facility.

“With the AES designation, Santa Cruz and Merced have the potential  additional funding from the University’s budget for (agricultural)  research, and they will be able to make a stronger case for competitive  grants in the larger research area,” Drake said.

GV Health breaks ground on new senior care facility

A new type of nursing home is on its way to being completed in Merced.

Golden Valley Health Centers broke ground Friday on a new senior care facility at its campus on Childs Avenue. Merced PACE, which reimagines the way seniors are cared for, is expected to be completed sometime late next year with a tentative opening date of July 2024.

“There’s nothing like it here in Merced County,” said GVHC president Tony Weber.

PACE, which stands for Program All-inclusive Care for the Elderly – after the Medicare plan of the same name – is designed as a sort of one-stop-shop for seniors and their medical care needs. The PACE facility comes with a full team of primary care physicians, dental and vision providers and physical therapy specialists. It also features a day center that provides meals and social activities, acting as a sort of home away from home rather than a cold, sterile hospital environment.

“Maybe it’s because I’m getting old and I’m feeling the need for some PACE services, but I just think it’s a tremendous program for our seniors,” said Weber. “For seniors that are on the verge of having to go to a nursing home or go to the hospital, this program works very, very hard. We manage their care closely to try to keep them independent and at home, healthy and out of the institutions.”

It’s an alternative to traditional nursing homes, where seniors often have to leave their homes and communities behind. With PACE, seniors can live at home and still have their needs met.

“If you’re in healthcare, you’ve heard the term managed care. When managed care first came along, it was kind of a dirty word because people felt like it was a way to exclude services from patients and just keep more of the revenue,” said Weber. “But the PACE program is what I call the epitome of managed care in a good way. It’s the type of managed care that the whole healthcare system should be involved with.”

Golden Valley opened their first PACE facility in Modesto last year. It already serves around 200 seniors in that area, and the high demand is what prompted the expansion to GVHC’s first and largest campus here in Merced.

“It’s been unbelievably successful and we’ve seen how it changes people’s lives and not only for the seniors, but for their families,” Weber said. “I really wanted to bring a PACE program right here on the south campus where it all started for Golden Valley.”

GVHC celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year. The non-profit is funded by federal programs, grants and donations, and began in 1972 as a health clinic for migrant farm workers in the Central Valley. The campus on Childs Avenue is the non-profits oldest and largest facility in the Valley.

Wonderful Company Inks Million Square Foot Lease with Fortune 500 Food Manufacturer at Wonderful Industrial Park

SHAFTER, CA; Sept 13, 2022Wonderful Real Estate Development, one of the most active industrial real estate developers on the West Coast, has leased its most recent 1 million-square-foot speculative building to a prominent Fortune 500 American food manufacturer. The building is located at 3800 Fanucchi Way and features 1,063,000 square feet, 40 feet of clear height, 215-dock high doors, and parking expandable to 1,000 stalls to accommodate trailers and employee spaces. The facility is located on a 70-acre site with a building-to-site coverage of 35 percent. The food manufacturer intends to use the facility as a distribution center to sort and ship goods across the western region, including California, Nevada, and Washington. More than 150 jobs will be created with operations expected to begin in Q1 2023.

“With over 10 million square feet of occupied space in Wonderful Industrial Park by some of the best-known brands in America, our park has become the premier logistics and distribution business park in the Western U.S. that reaches a population size and market that is comparable to New York and New Jersey’s. In terms of demand, we see no let up from tenants that require very large and efficient industrial real estate. In fact, we’re already underway with another 1 million-square-foot speculative building and have two tenant proposals in hand, as well as a speculative 400,000-square-foot building that will likely be leased before the building shell is completed,” said Joe Vargas, SIOR, and President of Wonderful Real Estate Development.

In the recent lease to the American food company, the landlord was represented by Phil Lombardo. Cruise Adams, and Andrew Starnes at Cushman and Wakefield and the tenant was represented by Lynn Reich, Suzanne Serino, and Steve Bellitti at Colliers.

Over the last 4 years, Wonderful Industrial Park has delivered three 1 million-square-foot warehouses and over 4 million square feet in industrial space including both build-to-suit and speculative projects. In 2021, Amazon leased a 1 million-square-foot building on 72-acres located at 4500 Express within Wonderful Industrial Park. Other large occupiers in the park include Ross Stores with +3 million square feet on 130 acres, Target’s 2 million square feet on 80 acres and, Walmart at 630,000 square feet and 80 feet of clear height on 60 acres. Walmart’s prototype state of the art grocery-focused distribution center incorporates the most sophisticated automated sorting equipment and systems in the industry. Other WIP occupants include Essendant (Staples, Inc), American Tire Distributors, Formica, and Hillman as well as other 3PLs who have found WIP’s location and amenities extremely profitable.

In addition to its industrial developments, WIP recently introduced the Wonderful Career Center, a 98,000-square-foot office project that includes office space for several Wonderful Company brands as well as a vocational tech training center, that features three classrooms, four labs with dock doors, and an expansive conference room that is available for use by both The Wonderful Company teams and WIP tenants. The vocational school’s current offering is the Wonderful Technical Operator Program, with a curriculum that prepares students for high-paying roles through mechanical and electrical training.

About Wonderful Industrial Park

WIP is a fully entitled 1,625-acre, world-class distribution center located approximately 100 miles north of Los Angeles. The park is a rail-served industrial development, entitled for 26 million square feet, with nearly 10 million square feet completed and under operation to date. WIP provides tenants with access to a workforce population of over 700,000 residents within a 30-minute drive from the park.

WIP’s central location in California gives companies access to a robust transportation infrastructure. The property is minutes from Hwy-99, I-5 and Hwy-58 and offers convenient port access to the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Oakland. The industrial park’s location allows access to 14 percent of the U.S. population within 300 miles and same-day delivery to 30 million Californians. It has a FedEx Ground hub onsite and is near a UPS ground hub in Bakersfield, CA with Meadows Field Airport located only seven miles away.

The park features an onsite rail yard with more than 17,000 feet of track able to accommodate unit trains with direct access to Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s mainline. WIP is equipped with an in-place high speed fiber optics network with 10 gigabytes in place with a capacity of 40 gigabytes.

About Wonderful Real Estate

Wonderful Real Estate is a professional real estate development and property management company owned by The Wonderful Company that develops, manages and invests in a diversified portfolio of real estate, with a particular focus on office and industrial properties. Leveraging over 30 years of experience in commercial real estate, Wonderful and its affiliates currently have over 10 million square feet of real estate holdings, consisting of owner-occupied industrial and commercial real estate for its operating businesses and approximately 7 million square feet of actively managed office and industrial properties occupied by third parties located mainly in Southern and Central California.

Wonderful Real Estate and its affiliates have invested almost $2 billion since 2008 for commercial real estate development, facility improvements, processing equipment and real estate acquisitions. Wonderful and its affiliates are also currently developing three business parks totaling over 1,865 acres for office and industrial use in California’s Central Valley, a number of parcels of which have already been sold or leased to Fortune 500 companies and other high quality anchor tenants.

Great Wolf Lodge Resort, Waterpark to Break Ground Near Visalia Next Year

A new Great Wolf Lodge luxury resort planned for the south valley is expected to generate nearly $2 billion in economic output, Tulare County officials say. The nationwide family attraction is scheduled to break ground in late 2023 and open in the fall of 2025 at the southeast corner of Highway 99 and Caldwell Avenue. It would be the third GWL in California, following Garden Grove (near Disneyland) and Manteca, which opened in 2021. The proposed 35-acre, 525-room hotel would include an indoor water park — a GWL signature. County planners tell GV Wire “the project is on track. Great Wolf is working on financing for the project. GWL is working with the city of Visalia on a sewer agreement which is expected to be approved by the end of the year.”

$33 Million Economic Impact

Tulare County officials say the resort hotel will generate 995 new jobs and 600,000 annual visitors. One-time economic output from construction is estimated at $1.7 billion, with labor earnings adding another $149 million. The county estimates revenue for the first 15 years at $33 million. That figure includes total economic output and labor earnings. An economic analysis — paid for by the county — also expects retail to expand in the area around the resort in the years ahead. “Retail spending is attracted to locations where other retail spending occurs because of the gravitational pull generated by existing successful retailers,” an analysis from Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. said. That could be as high as $28 million for Visalia and the surrounding area.

The county agreed to some incentives to seal the deal with Great Wolf Lodge last July, including sharing room tax revenue and deferral of development impact fees. For the first five years, GWL will keep all room tax revenue. The split is 75/25 for years 6-10, then 50/50 for years 11-15. The county also agreed not to give financial incentives to another large water park for 10 years. “Without these incentives, Great Wolf Resorts would not be able to move forward with financing the construction of the proposed development project,” a county staff report said.

Tulare County Wins Over Other Locations

The county said Great Wolf Lodge was also looking at locations near Bakersfield and the High Desert area of Kern County. “Tulare County reached out to see if they would also consider going up the road. Great Wolf took the meeting as a courtesy and ended up finding the infrastructure associated with the Sequoia Gateway Development was further along than any sites in Kern County and that Tulare County staff was ready to begin working on its own incentive plan,” the county said. “We processed the plan much quicker and were able to secure them coming to Tulare County instead of Kern County,” said Mike Washam, associate director of the county’s Resource Management Agency.

Tulare prepares for new mixed-use development project

TULARE – Tulare’s economic development continues to grow with new projects all the time, over 200 acres of land is in the works to be used for mixed-use development.

At the Oct. 4th Tulare City Council meeting, Traci Myers, Tulare’s community and economic developer, gave an economic development update. Along with some of the major projects in Tulare like the update to Zumwalt Park, downtown redevelopment and the homeless shelter, Tulare is taking advantage of its first transit oriented development overlay (TOD). In order to qualify as a TOD, the development must be focused on access to public transit.

Arun Toor with Toor Capital is planning the development that will house apartments, townhouses, single family homes, a school and additional amenities on over 200 acres in between Mission Oak High School and College of the Sequoias (COS) Tulare campus.

“The city of Tulare was one of the first cities to say, ‘okay, we’re gonna do this transit oriented development concept,’ which is an overlay over our general plan update,” Myers said. “With that, we’re going to encourage walkability. It’s transit oriented, it’s near Mission Oak, it’s near COS, it’s near a high density residential area, it’s going to have a commercial component and it’s going to have a transit component.”

Toor is the first developer to bring in the option for a TOD to the city of Tulare. The multi use development area will be known as Chandler Grove. To follow the TOD, the development must allow for a mix of land uses focused on access to public transit, according to the staff report. The Chandler Grove project will be on a total of 231 acres of land.

Once complete, there will be 1,197 total residential units accounting for 163 of the 231 acres. There will be a school, a park, a neighborhood commercial center and community center. The parks will act as natural areas and provide stormwater detention with playgrounds, plazas and open fields for sports and activities.

This development will ultimately be connected to COS, and Tulare city manager Marc Mondell said that is a key factor in this type of development. Connecting a college with a residential and commercial area can only provide growth for multiple parties involved. The goal of this type of subdivision is to provide everything a resident would need in an area within walking distance. As it stands now according to the staff report, there will be 552 apartment units, 281 townhome style homes and 364 single family homes.

“It’s focused on public access and walkability, so it’s kind of its own little entity of a development,” Myers said. “That’s why the acreage is so much.”

Toor had to put together an economic impact report (EIR) for the city because of the size of the project and its potential to have significant environmental impacts. Toor’s EIR is now out for public review according to Myers. If all goes well Toor will be one step closer to annexation. According to Myers, ground won’t be broken for another two years on this project due to its magnitude.


Myers said the city is excited for the additional distribution centers that are making their way to the city. CA Ventures has purchased 80 acres of land on East Paige Avenue with the opportunity to expand on a neighboring 80 acres. The plan is to build two industrial buildings, each will be approximately 550,000 square feet each. With this project leading by example, the city is hopeful it will prompt additional businesses to move to Tulare and bring thousands of jobs to the city.

The new interchange, International Agri-Center Way, south of Paige Avenue, is projected to open an entire area of Tulare that has not been easily accessible before. The interchange is expected to be completed in 2025. By opening this interchange it expands the possibilities for developers to take advantage of all the undeveloped land in the areas surrounding the International Agri-Center.

The city continues to grow and that is visible in the year to date permit activity. Myers’ economic update report showed from this year to last year, single family residential building permits went from 93 to 246. It does not look as though those numbers will begin declining any time soon, as more and more subdivisions are being built throughout the city.

At the Sept. 30 city council meeting, council approved the purchase of two acres of property in the city limits of Tulare for the purpose of a temporary homeless encampment. Now that the city owns the property, city staff is preparing to come back to council with an operational plan for review. The city’s hope is to reduce the impacts of homelessness in the downtown residential areas as well as other public and private areas according to Myers’s presentation to council. The temporary encampment is expected to commence in January 2023.

The temporary encampment is a short term solution. The city is also working on the plans for a permanent homeless shelter. It will be a 200 bed facility that is expandable up to 400 beds. The shelter will provide three internal levels of residency–entry, participation and recovery. The city is still working out the details and most importantly is waiting to hear back from the county on a lease agreement for the property. Once the lease is signed, construction of the facility should take about 12-18 months.

The city continues to grow and that is visible in the year to date permit activity. Meyers’ economic update report showed from this year to last year, single family residential building permits went from 93 to 246. It does not look as though those numbers will begin declining any time soon, as more and more subdivisions are being built throughout the city.

At the Sept. 30 city council meeting, council approved the purchase of two acres of property in the city limits of Tulare for the purpose of a temporary homeless encampment. Now that the city owns the property, city staff is preparing to come back to council with an operational plan for review. The city’s hope is to reduce the impacts of homelessness in the downtown residential areas as well as other public and private areas according to Myers’s presentation to council. The temporary encampment is expected to commence in January 2023.

As for the rest of the city, staff has been working hard to get some pre existing projects rolling. The renovation of Zumwalt Park with the addition of the amphitheater, splash pad and playground has 30% design review complete and expects 75% design review to be completed by mid October. Construction should take place from March to October of 2023, with the completion in October.

The downtown master plan is moving along as well. The city met with their consultant, MIG Inc., in August and had a walkthrough of the downtown area. They are working on data collection and will be meeting with the community, stakeholders and elected officials before the end of the year. Once the masterplan is complete it will act as a road map for the next several years for the downtown area.

As for the downtown rehabilitation grant program, the city’s grant committee has made a conditional award to Adrian Herrera for his renovation of the old Toledo Jeweler’s building. He plans to have a tap room on the first floor, filled by Tap 78, and a golf lounge, four apartments on the second floor as well as a rooftop lounge. Herrera was the first to complete the application for the grant. The city still has the opportunity to review and grant additional awards for those who are looking to renovate buildings in the downtown area.

The courthouse remodel for the Tulare Chamber of Commerce’s business accelerator is currently at 60% design review, meaning they have completed 60% of the designs. By December of this year, the final design review should be complete and construction should begin in March 2023. The finished product is expected to be done in October or November of 2023.

As the city continues to grow, so does commercial development. In January 2023, Myers said Tulare will see a Panera Bread on Prosperity Avenue next to Raising Cane’s; a Crumbl cookie shop will be going in the old T-Mobile building near Target; and in the spring of 2023, a Panda Express with a drive thru will be going in on Bardsley Avenue.

Both Cannabis retail shops are projected to open before the end of the year. Valley Pure will be opening in October 2022 and Token Farms will be opening in December 2022.

Federal officials visit Fresno to launch ag initiative

FRESNO, Calif. – A local coalition aimed at creating new agricultural innovations in the Central Valley was recently awarded $88.1 million in federal funds.

The Fresno-Merced Future of Food Initiative, also known as F3, was the only recipient in the country out of more than 500 applicants to get two federal grants aiming to provide sustainable food production in the Central Valley. “It’s a land of contrasts, largest food production in the country, maybe the world but yet extreme poverty and challenges with food deserts,” says Congressman Jim Costa.

The day started with a tour of the Yo’ville Community Garden and Farm, which provides residents in this neighborhood access to land so they can eventually sell their produce and have a source of income. “Unfortunately, there are a lot. Access to land is a huge problem with that, and also the resources you need to get something like this really going,” says Rasheed Hislop, a farm-to-market specialist at Community Alliance of Family Farmers (CAFF).

Officials also toured the old Bank of Italy building in Downtown Fresno, which will be the official site of iCREATE, the headquarters of F3. “In this building, you’re gonna see the services and information being provided,” says Senator Alex Padilla. The 45,000-square-foot building will house a food hall, conference room, and robotics incubators which are expected to be completed by the end of next year. “The location is not a coincidence, right in the heart of Fresno, not too far from where the high-speed rail that will be coming,” says Padilla.

High-Speed Rail completes second structure in Kings County

The High-Speed Rail Authority has completed the second Kings County structure for the state project — the Kent Avenue Grade Separation located at Kent Avenue west of Highway 43 and south of Hanford. The Authority announced the completion of the 215-foot-long overcrossing, which will take vehicles over the future high-speed rail tracks, on Wednesday. Work crews placed 12 pre-cast concrete girders spanning 56 to 91 feet long to form the structure’s deck.

The new structure is the project’s latest progression in the Central Valley, following the summer completion of the Jackson Avenue separation, which was also in Kings County, and the Avenue 15½ grade separation in Madera County.

In addition, the Authority recently awarded contracts to advance design along the Merced to Madera and Fresno to Bakersfield project sections, expanding the 119-mile segment to 171 miles of electrified high-speed rail under development and construction.

UC Davis unveils plans for new agricultural research ‘hub’ funded by $50 million gift

The University of California, Davis, will build a $40 million agricultural innovation center later this decade, a “transformative” expansion to the school’s food science and sustainability programs, after the university on Thursday announced its largest gift ever bestowed by individual donors.

Billionaire philanthropists Lynda and Stewart Resnick are giving $50 million to UC Davis: $40 million toward the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Center for Agricultural Innovation, a 40,000-square-foot, LEED-certified “hub” that will include classrooms and research space; plus $10 million for competitive research grants in the field of agriculture. “This gift will extend our efforts to lead field-level research, analyze big data, rapidly breed plant varieties that can adapt to our changing climate and fine-tune existing crop varieties,” UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May said at an event Thursday morning, unveiling the donation at the Mondavi Center.  “We’ll do this by educating and training these future generations to help us meet the demands for feeding communities in a swiftly changing environment.”

University leaders said the innovation center will focus on five main research areas: solutions for agricultural byproducts; water and energy efficiency; technology development; crop resiliency and sustainability in the face of climate change; and expanding access to nutritious food. “It will serve as an anchor for new ideas, bringing together experts from across disciplines at UC Davis to focus research on California’s iconic specialty crops, such as pistachios, almonds and pomegranates,” the chancellor said.

To that end, the Beverly Hills-based Resnicks are founders of the Wonderful Co. food empire, which produces pomegranates, pistachios and more. Stewart and Lynda Resnick are among the most successful and powerful agribusiness tycoons in California. “We share a passion for progress at the intersection of agriculture, science and sustainability,” Andy Anzaldo, the Wonderful Co. chief operating officer of philanthropy, said Thursday.

Anzaldo spoke on behalf of the Resnicks, who had been slated to appear at Thursday’s announcement but were unable to make it after President Joe Biden’s arrival in Los Angeles disrupted air traffic, delaying flights out of Southern California. “Working together through research and its practical application in our fields, we are racing to make crops more productive, using fewer resources and feeding the world,” Anzaldo said. “That’s one of the reasons why I’m proud this new center will be the hub for the best researchers in the world to help agriculture be part of the solution.”

Design for what May called a “cutting-edge” research center will begin later this year with construction estimated to be complete by 2026. It will be built near the school’s current plant sciences building. The Resnicks’ donation comes amid the university’s “Expect Greater” initiative – a fundraising campaign launched in 2020 aiming to raise at least $2 billion toward “student support, health, climate change and more” by 2024. UC Davis is on track to exceed that goal, already past $1.7 billion after raising $323 million during the 2021-22 fiscal year. Founders of the Wonderful Co. food empire, Forbes magazine estimates the Resnicks’ net worth at $8 billion.

Through their farming operations, the couple is also one of the largest consumers of water in California, if not the largest. Forbes has estimated that the Wonderful farms, which sprawl across thousands of acres in the southern San Joaquin Valley, use as much water in a year as the city of San Francisco consumes in a decade. The UC Davis donation is not the Resnicks’ first major gift to a California higher-ed campus. Caltech recently broke ground on an environmental sustainability research center bankrolled by a $750 million pledge from the couple. Stewart Resnick is also a member of the UC Davis Chancellor’s Board of Advisors, a group of nearly two dozen influential figures including Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Kings owner Vivek Ranadive.

Kern Community College District unveils California Renewable Energy Laboratory

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Local officials and educators celebrated Wednesday the creation of the California Renewable Energy Laboratory. The facility is made possible through $50 million in state funding, which Assemblymember Rudy Salas says he secured in the latest budget. Local educators say the facility will put the Kern Community College District in a position to lead the way in terms of technology development and workforce training. The energy lab’s purpose, in part, is to develop a framework to keep cutting edge, high paying jobs in Kern County. The facility will include centers of excellence for carbon management, microgrid technology and clean transportation.

Power play: State plans to build emergency power plant in Lodi

After last month’s unprecedented heatwave that caused an hours-long power outage, the City of Lodi and the State of California plan to build a facility to ensure a similar event does not happen again. The Lodi City Council unanimously approved partnering with the state to locate, develop, construct and operate a natural gas power plant during its Wednesday night meeting. The facility would create anywhere between 20 and 48 megawatts of emergency power and be delivered directly into Lodi, rather than be transferred through a third-party system, city manager Steve Schwabauer said. Although Lodi owns and operates its own electric utility, the city’s energy is currently delivered through three PG&E sub-transmission lines.

On the morning Sept. 8, a set of production relays on one of those sub-transmission lines failed at the substation located near Lodi and Guild avenues. Lodi Electric Utility staff replaced the relays almost immediately, but PG&E was required to approve the repairs, which took the entire day. With one relay down, the city said it was required to shed power, and it began implementing one-hour rotating power outages at about 4:40 p.m. that day. The outages lasted 61⁄2 hours.

On Wednesday, Schwabauer told the council that staff and PG&E are currently discussing whether the rotating blackouts were an appropriate solution to the equipment failure. “But in the meantime, we are subject to this happening again if another line were to go down,” Schwabauer said. “Electric utility assets are supposed to be constructed to be resilient enough to handle one element going down. In this case, the transmission lines are not able to handle one line going down.” Schwabauer said the new facility, to be funded completely by the state, would only generate power in the event of an emergency, and must be operational by the summer of 2023.

In addition, it would only be needed until about 2028, when PG&E’s Northern San Joaquin 230kV Transmission Project is complete. Formerly known as Northern San Joaquin Power Connect, the 230kV project involves connecting an existing PG&E transmission line into the agency’s Lockeford substation on Kettleman Lane just east of Highway 88. The project also includes building a new overhead transmission line from the Lockeford substation to a new switching station on Thurman Street in Lodi.

A location for the proposed Lodi power plant has not been identified, Schwabauer said, mainly because staff only learned of the project last week at the Northern California Power Agency Annual Conference. “The location question is dependent upon a number of factors,” he said. “It needs to be close to a substation. It needs to be close to a gas line. It needs to be physically possible to get a gas line to it. It needs to be physically possibly to connect electricity to it.”

Taking these factors into consideration, Schwabauer said staff is examining the feasibility of three locations: the existing Industrial Road substation, the substation at Lodi Lake near the water treatment plant and the General Mills facility. “This is a great opportunity for our community not to ever have to experience 6.5 hours of rolling blackouts, (that is) funded by the State of California,” he said. “It will, if it’s constructed, provide some relief to the state of California as well. It has a greater benefit to the state because it creates new (energy) generation.” While the power plant will be funded by the state, Schwabauer said the city will incur about $4 million in costs.

However, he said those costs will be reimbursed by the state to interconnect the power plant into the Lodi Electric Utility system. Other costs the city could potentially incur are land purchases or leasing the site, if the General Mills facility is chosen as the location, he said. “I think this is a wonderful chance for our city to take advantage of this opportunity, that is unprecedented,” Councilman Doug Kuehne said.