Solar Parking Canopies going up fast at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa

If you have visited the Kaiser medical center on Bicentennial Way in Santa Rosa recently, you will have noticed that parking is temporarily a bit trickier with a large chunk of the spaces roped off while gleaming solar parking canopies are being installed.

This is a wonderful reason to temporarily lose parking and we applaud Kaiser for making this investment. Solar parking canopies are a win/win for electricity customers as well as motorists who can park in shade and avoid that dreadful experience of entering an oven-hot car during the warm months. There is even an “icing on the cake” greenhouse gas benefit gained by avoiding the fuel use needed to cool down a hot car with the AC cranked to Category 5 force.

I snapped the photo for this brief blog on my last visit and took the time to ask one of the Collins Electrical Company workers a quick question… will electric vehicle (EV) charging stations be integrated into the installation? I was surprised by the response. “You are the 100th person that has walked up and asked that question.” Unfortunately the answer was “no.”

So, even though that worker was exaggerating, I am clearly not the only one who cares. In fact, I always notice EVs when I am at Kaiser, so yes, people who visit there would probably make daytime use of them. In fact, this is an important consideration due to the fact that daytime is when the sun is shining and the cars can charge on sunshine. And, Kaiser could promote employee adoption of EVs if for no other reason the health benefits of tailpipe exhaust-free transportation.

It’s great to see these structures, and similar ones under construction at Santa Rosa parking garages, going up. The planning and construction period is the optimal time to consider including other technologies that enhance the value of solar. Integrating EV charging and/or storage into the construction financing and closing down the parking for construction once instead of twice is the efficient way to go financially and logistically. The revenues accrued by EV charging can be shared with the host (Kaiser) and the electric service provider to recoup the installation cost over time.

Solar is no longer a siloed technology; it has evolved to what we call Solar-Plus. It is now considered a component of what is known as Distributed Energy Resources where multiple energy technologies are integrated in an optimized deployment. Solar combined with smart technology, onsite energy storage, and EV charging, is the way to go. With a mission to get 140,000 EVs on the road in Sonoma County by 2030 to help meet emissions reduction goals, future commercial solar parking canopy project developers, commercial & industrial customers, and electricity service providers should take a close look at this kind of integrated deployment.








City of Manteca: Renewable Energy Abound

The Manteca City Council earlier this month considered proposals for a solar project for its wastewater treatment plant that could potentially save the city millions of dollars over the next decade. The 5.5-acre solar array would provide one megawatt of electricity to power a third of the plant, making it the second largest solar installation in south San Joaquin County.

The current PG&E utility bill for the wastewater plant is a staggering $1.2 million per year, about a third of the cost to build the solar project at $3.9 million. The Manteca Public Works Department estimates the solar system will have a life expectancy of 25 years and an eight-year payback. For the remaining 17 years, the City of Manteca will receive free electricity for a third of the plant. It is proposed that the Sewer Maintenance and Operation fund be tapped for the solar array without a rate increase.

Like Manteca, many California communities are taking control of their resources, switching to renewable energy, and saving money. Some local governments have taken full control of their electricity supply through Community Choice Energy (CCE). With CCE, cities such as Manteca could continue building their own renewable assets while creating jobs and building revenue reserves.

A recent study that used San Jose as a case study found that even under the most conservative estimate, a CCE that procured local electricity would boost local jobs by over 1,000 per year and local economic activity by more than $12 million.

As the shift to renewable energy accelerates, Community Choice Energy will become more attractive to cities such as Manteca.

For more information on the San Jose CCE report, please visit:

For more information on CCE programs, please visit:

For information on Manteca’s Solar Farm, please visit:

Mendocino County Board of Supervisors votes to join Sonoma Clean Power

More than 30,000 residential and commercial customers could be offered a choice between PG&E, the county’s dominant electricity supplier, and Sonoma Clean power by early next summer if things go as planned, said Christopher Shaver, Mendocino County deputy chief executive office.

The next step is for Sonoma Clean Power to grant Mendocino County membership. Its board already voted in early July to offer services in Mendocino County and several of its cities, excluding Ukiah, which has its own electric utility.

Mendocino County supervisors this week unanimously adopted a resolution stating their intent to join Sonoma Clean Power.

 While it’s expected to save residents money on their bills — Sonoma Clean Power officials claim to have saved Sonoma County customers more than $62 million since it launched in May 2014 — the transition was billed more importantly as a step toward reducing greenhouse emissions, supervisors and supporters said.

The agency’s basic service has an energy supply that is 36 percent renewable, from geothermal and wind sources. Contracts for solar projects have been signed, with construction underway on installations inside Sonoma County and outside the area.

PG&E’s basic service is 27 percent renewable. Under state rules the utility’s supply from large hydroelectric projects does not qualify as renewable.

Cities and counties throughout the state have been considering so-called “community choice aggregation” agencies like Sonoma Clean Power since they were authorized by state law in 2002. Marin County launched the first such program, Marin Clean Energy in 2008.

Lake County officials also are exploring energy options.

Once Mendocino County officially joins Sonoma Clean Power, customers in the unincorporated county will automatically become its consumers unless they take action to opt out. The eligible cities — Fort Bragg, Point Arena and Willits — will first need to join the agency before consumers in their jurisdiction are enrolled, with the same choice to opt-out.

Bills will continue to be sent by PG&E, which also will continue to own, maintain and operate the transmission system.

Sonoma Clean Power and similar ventures largely search out and buy power on the wholesale energy market.

The agency serves 196,000 residential and commercial accounts in Sonoma County, representing about 89 percent of eligible electricity customers.