Friday, May 08, 2009

San Francisco Approves Nation's Largest Municipal Solar Project

Solar project is a go, but still has critics

Despite concerns that the city is getting a raw deal, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a controversial 25-year deal with a private company to build a photovoltaic solar plant on top of a city-owned reservoir.
And from Recurrent Energy, who will be buliding this plant:
The San Francisco Sunset Reservoir Solar Project

The City of San Francisco is currently planning a five megawatt solar photovoltaic system on the roof of the City’s largest reservoir, located at 24th and Ortega Streets in the Sunset district. Upon completion, the project will consist of nearly 25,000 solar panels that span nearly twelve football fields — becoming California’s largest photovoltaic system and the nation’s largest municipal solar project. This project will more than triple the municipal solar generation in San Francisco and reduce carbon emissions by over 100,000 metric tons, furthering the City's leadership in clean energy implementation.
Everyday when I drive my son to his school, I pass by this big reservoir in the sunset district, and to think that it's going to look like this is really cool (photo simulations from Recurrent Energy's site)

Here's one from Chron with GG bridge in the background:

There have been critics that the city is paying too much money to the private builder, etc. -- and while I'm no expert, the deal does make sense for many reasons:
  • This is a great example of a city taking leadership in reducing carbon emissions, producing energy not reliant on foreign oil, and more importantly, right smack middle of the city you have the largest "billboard" you can imagine for public awareness on environmental responsibility
  • Financially, the city did a smart thing by doing a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the private builder. This way, the city only pays for the energy produced by the plant at a fixed rate of $235/MWH (about 23 cents per KWH, which is approximately similar to buying power from PG&E directly at A-6 commercial rates), escalated at 3% per year over the next 25 years. This may seem high compared to what you'd normally pay -- but what this cost doesn't reflect is the hidden price of carbon emission if the city bought that energy from fossil fuel-based sources. 
  • I as a citizen of this great city, and I'm sure I'm not the only one, feel a great deal of pride that our city has the courage to take this bold step, and also to offer new programs to promote residential solar (pioneered by the city of Berkeley); and a city thrives when its citizens are proud of it, a sentiment that magnifies all the way up to the county, state, nation, and the entire planent
So, it was a great feeling today as I drove my son to his school -- I proudly pointed out to the reservoir and said "see that? our city is going to cover all that with solar panels that will produce electricity, and help our environment a the same time.."

My son's response -- "you mean we will have electric cars?"

Well, one thing at a time..

1 comment:

Aziz Khan said...

nice illustration..

I posted this shortcut on my blog ( and linkedIn Solar group as well.