Altamont Clean Energy Interested in Selling to County CCA

Three clean power firms operating in Alameda County are interested in selling energy to a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) entity, which the county is attempting to form in conjunction with interested cities.

Two of the clean power firms represent renewable energy businesses that want to repower wind turbines in the Altamont. They plan to use modern, new windmills that will kill many fewer birds because, although bigger than earlier generations of turbines, there are relatively few of them.

One of the firms, Salka, creates renewable energy in various forms, including wind, solar and hydroelectric. Salka is replacing the AWI wind-power installation in the Altamont, according to Shawn Wilson, chief of staff for Supervisor Scott Haggerty. Salka could become the first operation in the county to sell renewable power to the county CCA, according to Wilson.

Wilson did not reveal the name of the other firm interested in wind turbine repowering, because talks are not far enough along.

The third interested firm is Centauri, a solar and wind power company located where Alameda, Contra Costa and San Joaquin counties meet. Centauri’s interest would be in placing solar arrays in that location.

Haggerty talked about the firms’ interest at the Dublin City Council meeting Nov. 1. It was part of a county pitch to the council about the desirability of joining a JPA involving the county and cities to purchase power.

The council asked questions of two county representatives, Senior Planner Bruce Jensen and Shawn Marshall, Executive Director of LEAN Energy USA, a consultant to the county. Marshall was a founder of Marin Clean Energy, the state’s first CCA.

According to Marshall, customers using the CCA could see savings of from 1 to 9 percent on their power bills compared to PG&E rates. However, at times, the rates could go higher than PG&E, depending on certain factors concerning supply and the market, explained Marshall. She cited a predicted spike in rates in 2024, when Diablo Canyon nuclear power will shut down.

The county team still needs to visit the Oakland City Council with information. However, so far most cities appear to be interested in forming the JPA, said Jensen. If cities want to participate in the CCA, they must approve joining by Dec. 31.

Dublin Councilmember Kevin Hart said, “This is toward the future, where we need to go.” He said he will be ready to vote on a first reading of an ordinance to support the JPA on Nov. 15, and a second reading Dec. 6. Councilmember Doreen Wehrenberg said, “I’m the same way.” Councilmember Don Biddle agreed.

Jensen told the council that while most cities are pointed toward joining, “Pleasanton has shown quite a bit of reluctance. It looks like they will take a wait and see attitude.” Livermore and Newark are asking questions. It is possible they might not join. “However, the remainder of the cities are supportive. They are asking, where do we sign on,” said Jensen.

Pleasanton commissioned its own study of the county’s study of CCA. Although residents woudl receive some benefit, the Pleasanton study found shortcomings in the rate forecasting and its assessment of hydropower risks, as to availability and costs. The risk of high-cost renewables could also be a problem, said the 12-page study, prepared by ESA, which recommended that the city discuss the issue further.

When Haggerty told the Dublin council about renewals, he also mentioned Google Rooftop, which provides the ability to show people the potential for rooftop solar power.

Using Google Rooftop, a homeowner can type in his or her own address, and see how much of the home’s roof would be available to be able to provide enough solar power production that would help pay off the installation cost.

There is a much broader use for Google Rooftop, which could assist public policy planners. A Google spokesperson said that the tool has been expanded to map an entire city or county concerning its collective potential for rooftop solar.

For example, a look at Fresno on the website shows that 94 percent of the city’s rooftops are solar-viable, compared to 69 percent in Greenville, S.C. Anyone could survey all of Alameda County to determine its total potential for solar generation.

Environmentalists opposed plans for a 3000-acre solar array in the Altamont, which was later withdrawn. Their objection was the impact on wildlife and plants under and near the solar arrays. They said that instead of impacting green fields, the county instead should be concentrating on promoting urban rooftop solar. The county agreed to investigate the option.

Google Project Sunroof Partner Development Manager Nicole Lombardo told The Independent why Google came up with the solar research tool.

“As the price of installing solar has become less expensive, more homeowners and communities are turning to it as a possible option for decreasing energy costs. Project Sunroof puts Google’s expansive data in mapping and computing resources to use to help estimate solar potential making it easy for people to understand whether solar is a viable option for their homes or for the community.”

Altamont Clean Energy Interested in Selling to County CCA, by Ron McNicoll, The Independent, November 10, 2016.

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