California now gets a very significant portion of its electrical generation from solar power. So much so that consumers were just advised to turn off unneeded lights and unplug appliances on Aug. 21 when a partial solar eclipse will cover the state.
With our temperate to hot temperatures, why is the city of Redding not generating its own solar power for our community? The city already owns that white elephant, Stillwater. A big solar array could be placed there and on other city-owned properties, for only the cost of installation and operation.
Since the sunlight is free, ratepayers like me who suffer with huge power bills during the summer heat should get significant relief.
In the alternative, REU should offer generous rebates to city residents who install their own solar panels. PG&E has done this for years for county residents.
We all benefit from use of renewable, non-polluting energy. It is time the city of Redding gets on board with the rest of the state in use of our cleanest and most abundant resource.
Time for Redding, REU to Go Solar, by Mary Pearl, Record Searchlight, June 2, 2017.
A public workshop was held on Monday, June 9th, to gather input on a plan aimed at improving energy efficiency throughout the City of Sonora.
The Sierra Business Council is developing an “energy action plan” for the city as part of its climate planning program that’s funded by a public-good surcharge on Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers’ monthly bills.
Earlier this year, the Sonora City Council approved city staff to aid in the development of the plan.
Paul Ahrns, program director for the Sierra Business Council, said the plan will provide a road map for residents, businesses, and government agencies in the city to increase energy efficiency and save money through reduced usage.
“The goal is to increase understanding of energy use, costs and potential savings,” Ahrns said.
The council was selected to run the program by PG&E in 2010. Since then, the council has created such plans for nine cities and counties throughout the Sierra Nevada, including Amador County, the City of Jackson, Mariposa County and Nevada City.
Ahrns said the plan is intended to help the city come up with strategies that can reduce usage by between 10 and 20 percent. However, the city and its residents and businesses won’t be required to meet any energy efficiency targets.
Such strategies can include rebates and incentives to reduce the upfront costs for upgrades to lighting, refrigeration, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, as well as building improvements that can reduce energy needs.
Ahrns said the latest readily available data from 2015 showed the city’s total residential power usage that year was 17 million kilowatt-hours at a cost of about $4 million.
Nonresidential usage, such as businesses, office buildings and street lights, was 28 million kilowatt-hours at a cost of about $6.5 million.
Based on the total city’s residential usage divided by the California Department of Finance’s estimates of occupied housing, Ahrns determined the average monthly usage per occupied household was 647 kilowatt-hours per month.
That was lower than the national average of 901 kilowatt hours, but higher than the average for California of 557 kilowatt-hours.
The plan will also analyze the amount of renewable energy being produced in the city and determine the market potential for increasing renewable energy production, including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and small hydro.
“We’re trying to do a high-level analysis and figure out what is the market potential,” Ahrns said. “It will be up to individuals to determine if it’s a good investment for their home or business.”
Ahrns said the council will collect the feedback from Monday’s workshop and online survey that will stay up until July, then work to create a draft of the plan by September with help from volunteers in the community.
Meeting Will Gather Input on Sonora Energy-Efficiency Plan, by Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat, June 9, 2017.
Energy, power and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company were the big talk at Monday night’s City Council meeting.
Jenine Windeshausen, treasurer-tax collector for Placer County, was the main source of information for a new energy program called Community Choice Aggregation.
Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) is a program that allows cities and counties to buy and/or generate electricity for residents and businesses within their areas.
The CCA gives residents more choice and local control while still working with PG&E.
PG&E will partner with the CCA to deliver the electricity and provide meter-reading, billing, maintenance and outage response.
Rate payers will also have the option to opt out of CCA service, but they have a time frame to do it before they will be charged, said Windeshausen.
There will be four letters sent to rate payers, 60 days before, 30 days before, 30 days after and 60 days after service starts.
If customers don’t opt out in that time frame they will be charged a $25 fee to switch back to PG&E.
If ratepayers opt out in that time frame they will not be charged.
How it’s set up
CCAs are set up either by a single jurisdiction or by two or more jurisdictions that create a Joint Powers Authority (JPA), which is what Placer County would be doing.
Each jurisdiction will get one seat on the board of directors, which will be a member of city council.
Other locations participating in the JPA will be Loomis, Colfax and Rocklin.
Many cities in California have already taken advantage of a CCA program including Sonoma, Marin and Silicon Valley.
Cities can choose to back out of the JPA at a later date but there may be a cost if the energy has already been purchased.
“We think the focus on local control, local resources are important,” said Windeshausen.
She also said that energy prices are at a historic low, so now would be the perfect time to buy energy.
Auburn resident Robert Snyder said that he believes in Windeshausen, but he challenged her to do more community outreach.
Accepting the challenge and working fast to alter plans, Windeshausen got up early to give the presentation to Meddler’s (Auburn Chamber forum) on Tuesday morning. The city council gave Windeshausen the go ahead to complete a legal analysis and return at the next meeting with documents necessary to authorize Auburn’s membership in the CCA.
“Today we don’t have a choice,” said council member Daniel Berlant on the current energy system. “It’s on us to allow residents to make that choice.”
After discussion, the motion was passed unanimously.
Auburn OKs Community Choice in Energy Field, by Aurora Sain, Auburn Journal, May 24, 2017.
On April 22, nonprofit solar installer GRID Alternatives joined the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Bishop Paiute Tribe at an Earth Day event marking the completion of 56 no-cost rooftop solar installations on tribal lands in California. GRID leveraged grants from the DOE and the California Public Utilities Commission’s Single-family Affordable Solar Housing (SASH) program to install the solar systems and provide workforce training to tribal members through two phases starting in 2015.
According to GRID, the 56 individual rooftop solar installations total 217 kW total power and are expected to save tribal members up to 90% off their typical utility bills and more than $2,000,000 over the system lifetimes. In addition, 18 tribal members received 725 hours of solar installation workforce training during the two phases of construction.
“Thanks to GRID and the DOE and participating tribal members, the Bishop Tribe has made steady progress toward their goals,” says Mervin Hess, tribal administrator of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, referencing the tribe’s goal to serve 200 homes – about half of the approximately 400 low-income homes – by 2020 with rooftop solar. “The savings from the installations are making a difference, especially for tribal members in the greatest need, and is a step toward become more self sufficient.”
“Our mission at the Office of Indian Energy is to maximize the development and deployment of energy solutions for the benefit of American Indians and Alaska Natives,” says Chris Deschene, director of the DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs. “Through investments in projects like these, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with tribal governments working to identify and implement viable, innovative energy and infrastructure solutions that unlock the value of their indigenous energy resources, reduce energy costs, create jobs, and improve their quality of life.”
The Bishop Paiute Tribal installations are part of a larger tribal solar program led by GRID across 24 tribal communities in Arizona, California, Montana, New York and South Dakota. The program is funded by more than $1 million in cost-shared grants to the individual tribes from the DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, which provides technical assistance, training and funding to tribes across the country.
“Solar power really helps out, means one less bill to worry about, and is a money saver that helps me take care of my family. With the money we save from solar, I’m planning to expand on our home and do improvements,” says Harlan Dewey, a member of the Bishop Paiute Tribe who had solar installed and received workforce training through the program. “I started training with GRID at the reservation’s first project and became one of the first tribal members to support the GRID program, and I still help out with installations. It makes me really good to help my people and to share the program with other tribal members.”
According to GRID, tribal communities face some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the U.S. The nonprofit solar installer launched its national tribal program in 2014, with the long-term goal of making solar power and job training accessible to tribal communities throughout the country. Since 2010, GRID has partnered with 40 Native American tribes and 400 Native American job trainees to install solar electric systems for nearly 500 tribal member families. GRID also partners with tribal colleges and departments to provide students with hands-on training to supplement their curriculum, and in 2016, five Bishop Paiute youths participated in residential installs as part of GRID’s Solar Futures educational program.
“Solar empowers our tribal communities to reach their clean energy goals – in some cases, creating clean energy access for the first time – while expanding utility cost savings and job training,” says Tim Willink, director of tribal programs for GRID. “Our model has worked for a variety of tribal communities, and these federal grants will bring solar power to even more families.”
GRID DOE, GRID Complete 56 California Tribal Solar Installations, by Joseph Bebon, Solar Industry, April 24, 2017.
The Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) is a partner in a renewable energy project in California’s northeastern Yuba County that promises to help alleviate the threat of wildfire while demonstrating the practicality of using forest biomass that would otherwise simply decay for generating power.
Dead and dying trees are a problem throughout California’s Sierra Nevada, where years of drought, warmer temperatures and bark beetle infestations have created record levels of forest residues. In the Gold Rush town of Camptonville, a bioenergy power plant is in the planning, thanks to a $4.9 million grant from the California Energy Commission as part of its Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program. The combined heat and power facility will produce electricity to sell to Pacific Gas and Electric and heat for use in conjoined businesses.
A first of its kind in the state, the 3-megawatt direct combustion boiler steam turbine generating facility will integrate advance emissions controls and a low water use condenser. The plant repurposes an old sawmill site and is set to create 27 new full-time jobs.
“This project takes what is otherwise a high-hazard risk material abundantly available in the local forest and turns it into power and revenue from the associated businesses,” said Shawn Jones, CSE senior project manager for technology integration. “Our hope is that the project also will serve as a model for biomass utilization that could be applied in other Sierra Nevada communities.”
The EPIC-funded project will be implemented by the Camptonville Community Partnership (CCP) in collaboration with ICF Inc., CSE, University of California Davis, Babcock Power Environmental, Direct Contact, Gaelectric and DE Solutions.
Over the past three years, CSE has worked with CCP to plan a wood-to-energy system, first by supplying assistance through the U.S. DOE Pacific Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnership that CSE administers, and then as partners in the project proposal. After construction, CSE will continue to help with system interconnection, operations and evaluation.
CSE Helps Create Wood-to-Energy Demonstration Project, Chuck Colgan, Center for Sustainable Energy, April 24, 2017.
South Lake Tahoe City Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday committing to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2032.
South Lake Tahoe is now the 26th city in the U.S. to adopt such a goal, including many towns in California, Utah and Colorado.
“Working on planning projects in the Tahoe Basin, it’s very challenging to get universal support on almost anything. So the fact that we have been working on something that’s so positive, it’s been a really exciting opportunity,” Nick Exline, one of the driving forces behind the 100-percent renewable initiative, said at the April 18 council meeting.
A room-full of residents and agency representatives were in attendance to express support of the resolution.
“Our goal at the Sierra Nevada Alliance is to take this, template this initiative, duplicate it, and show other mountain communities throughout the Sierra how this can be done,” said the organization’s executive director Jenny Hatch. “This is going to say something about South Lake Tahoe.”
The League to Save Lake Tahoe, South Tahoe Chamber, Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce, and the Sierra Business Council were some of the other organizations that spoke out in support of the initiative.
To reach the goal of using 100 percent renewable electricity, the resolution states that the city will “encourage the transition to 100% renewable energy by its local community energy supplier by 2032” and “endeavor to adopt policies to encourage 100% renewable energy for municipal operations by 2032.” This includes a shorter-term goal of reaching 50 percent municipal renewable energy by 2025.
Additionally, the city has set a goal to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80 percent by 2040.
To start, the initiative will be driven by a group of volunteers that make up the Sustainability Committee working alongside the city.
“Our goal in the short term is to have no costs associated with the city … We have a group of professionals that do this for a living that are willing to donate their time,” explained Exline, who is a senior planner at Midkiff & Associates, a planning and permitting consulting firm in the Tahoe Basin.
“Over the next year or two we want to work with city staff when appropriate to develop strategies to meet these objectives, ensuring by the time we come forward — if we ever do to seek money — that the economic benefits are clear and that the wins economically will outpace any cost that would be associated with it.”
So what’s the first step? The city’s contract is up next year with its existing energy provider Liberty Utilities, so negotiations will begin with an eye towards securing more renewable energy sources.
“Liberty right now generates 25 percent of their power from renewable sources. They are on track for 30 percent by 2020,” explained Devin Middlebrook, sustainability program coordinator and member of the new committee.
The city can negotiate with Liberty to buy “renewable energy credits” that allow the city to purchase energy that specifically comes from renewable sources, said Middlebrook.
Solar is another option the committee and city will explore.
“You can do a solar project where you get the community to all buy into a solar facility that generate powers for the community,” said Middlebrook. “We’ve been talking about doing that somewhere down by Topaz Lake within the Liberty network. So basically we have a solar facility that’s not in Tahoe, but all the power that goes into the grid is used in Tahoe.”
Community Choice Aggregation is another route. It is a system that enables local governments to aggregate the buying power of customers to secure alternative energy supply contracts, while also allowing those who don’t want to participate to opt out.
Kim Stevens, a Colorado-based senior regional field organizer with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, said collaboration across mountain towns in the U.S. is key in finding a path to reach the renewable energy goal.
“This is a growing movement and while you are an early adopter, you are by no means alone in getting to 100 percent,” said Stevens, citing other recreation destinations like Salt Lake City, Park City and Moab.
“There are experts in all of these communities that are so excited to work with more mountain communities to help them figure out this path as well.”
South Lake Tahoe Sets Goal of 100 Percent Renewable Energy by 2032, by Claire Cudahy, Tahoe Daily Tribune, April 18, 2017.
Taylorsville – Sierra Institute for Community and Environment, a research organization focused on education and community collaboration, has won a $100,000 national competition for its entrepreneurial approach to solving challenges facing national forests across the country.
The institute’s winning business plan capitalizes on California’s alternative energy markets and the woody material available in local national forests, which occupy two-thirds of the land base in Plumas County, where the institute is located.
The proposal calls for a three-megawatt facility that would produce both heat and electricity. Located in Plumas near other wood-products businesses, it would be fueled by small diameter trees and logging waste and sell electricity to California’s energy market, said Greg Peters, a spokesman for the National Forest Foundation, the contest’s sponsor.
The heat generated by the biomass plant would be sold to other wood-product facilities located on a campus envisioned to include a firewood production facility, a wood-chip processing facility, cross-laminated timber production and a greenhouse heated by the biomass energy plant.
The proposal drew the judges’ attention for its challenge to several traditional concepts, Peters said. It locates a small-scale biomass facility in a rural region, where conventional thinking suggests it would not be economically viable. The Sierra Institute business concept also comes from a non-profit organization, conventionally thought to be unable to raise enough capital to finance a biomass plant of this type.
Jonathan Kusel, the institute’s executive director, credited the proposal’s success to its close partnerships and the collective effort of many rural communities across California.
Sierra Institute is working with a $2.6M California Energy Commission grant, most of it going to contractors constructing a biomass-fired heating system for a building in Quincy, said Camille Swezy, the institute’s biomass program associate. Some of the matching energy grant will also fund a wood-products campus to include the enterprises envisioned in the business proposal.
The Barrett Foundation Business Concept Challenge award, to be presented Wednesday in Washington, D.C., is sponsored by the National Forest Foundation, which promotes the 193-million acre National Forest System. Named for Craig R. Barrett, former chairman and CEO of Intel and current chairman of the foundation’s Board of Directors, the contest is designed to stimulate new and entrepreneurial business ideas for managing national forests.
Sierra Institute Wins Award for Proposal to Turn Logging Waste into Energy, by Jane Braxton Little, Sacramento Bee, April 17, 2017.
Should Auburn buy energy from Placer County?
That’s the question Auburn City Council members may face in the coming months, after county Treasurer-Tax Collector Jenine Windeshausen gave an initial presentation to council members Monday.
She said the measure would allow counties and cities to use forest fuel load, waste streams, hydroelectric power and energy efficiency efforts to save residents money.
“The question was posed, how do we harness this for our citizenry and invest in our local resources back into our local community. What we realized is the best way to provide a foundation for that is for a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program,” she said.
The move could save residents 5 percent on their electric rates, but not PG&E’s distribution fees, saving rate payers $6.5 million a year, Windeshausen said. Placer County would also receive $3 million a year for energy efficiency from fees that currently go to PG&E.
CCAs were allowed through AB 117, which enabled cities and counties to combine electrical loads and purchase energy and electricity to serve that energy load, collaborating between cities and PG&E.
The utility would continue owning and operating its delivery and billing systems, but the county would provide the local resources in its stead. The county treasury would provide financing and waste energy and other facilities could be made to generate electricity.
A joint-powers authority has been made called the Sierra Valley Energy Authority, which already includes Colfax. It will be up to council members to decide whether to join when the matter comes back to the council.
Councilman Dr. Bill Kirby said it sounded good, but was concerned about more government bureaucracy, which Mayor Matt Spokely agreed with. He asked how PG&E feels, and Steve Nichols, a former 30-year employee who spoke for the agency, said it was good for the consumers and could help job growth. He said PG&E was in favor of the partnership.
A long discussion took place over whether rates would go down, depending on energy use.
Placer County to Become Energy Provider? Auburn City Council Hears Presentation on Proposal, by Michael Mott, Auburn Journal, April 12, 2017.
Placer County inched forward to purchasing and possibly generating energy on behalf of residents with a new joint-powers agreement for its Community Choice Aggregation program (CCA).
Jenine Windeschausen, treasurer-tax collector, gave an update at the Feb. 22 board meeting saying since last summer the program has: Signed agreements with consultants to develop energy load and supply portfolios; prepared rate structures to show soon; developed a community outreach plan; and started negotiating with energy suppliers.
At that meeting, supervisors approved a jointpowers agreement establishing the board with members from Placer County, Auburn, Rocklin, Lincoln and Colfax. The agreement also ensures the county is reimbursed for implementing the program.
Supervisors Jennifer Montgomery and Kirk Uhler were approved as the county’s representatives and one will come from each city or town. They were pleased.
“Any time we have opportunity to control our own destiny, we should take it,” Montgomery said. “Placer County is so rich in natural and renewable resources that will support a CCA. Any town would be foolish not to participate in this. I’m delighted this is moving forward.”
“This provides an exciting opportunity in Placer County and gives us effective tools for economic development.”
Placer County Moves Closer to Utility Role, by Michael Mott, Auburn Journal, March 31, 2017.