Clean Coalition receives CEC grant for solar+storage in San Francisco

Aerial view of Valencia Gardens

In March 2017, the Clean Coalition was selected to receive a grant from the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) Electric Program Investment Charge program, which offered “Solar +: Taking the Next Steps to Enable Solar as a Distribution Asset.” Under this grant, the Clean Coalition will lead the implementation of an innovative energy storage system that will be paired with an existing rooftop solar project.

In collaboration with project partners that include the City of San Francisco, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), PATHION, and the Mission Housing Development Corporation, the Valencia Gardens Energy Storage (VGES) project will be designed to increase local photovoltaic (PV) circuit hosting capacity and provide resilience to Valencia Gardens, a major multi-tenant housing facility in the heart of San Francisco that serves elderly and other at-risk populations. Commissioned in full by the end of 2019, the project’s energy storage will be interconnected on the utility side of the meter and achieve at least 80 percent round trip efficiency, and demonstrate wholesale market participation revenue optimization.

The project’s energy storage will be sized for Community Microgrid operations that can provide indefinite, solar-driven, backup power to critical common loads during grid outages. Further, the VGES project will be monetized through CAISO wholesale markets and will leverage in-process efforts between the Clean Coalition and PG&E to streamline wholesale distributed generation interconnection, which is happening through an existing CEC grant for the Clean Coalition’s Peninsula Advanced Energy Community.

Valencia Gardens solar+storage system diagram

Once deployed, the VGES project will highlight the requirements necessary for unleashing a market for Community Microgrids, which provide indefinite renewables-driven backup power to critical facilities by harnessing local renewables and other distributed energy resources like energy storage and demand response. Specifically, the VGES project will showcase Community Microgrids as key installations that can increase PV hosting capacity and provide resilience and reliability in the face of grid outages and natural disasters.

Clean Coalition helps California CCAs move the needle on distributed energy resources

The Clean Coalition is excited to be part of California’s rapidly emerging Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) market, and we are proud of our ongoing work to support the accelerated deployment of clean local energy through the CCA mechanism. As this market continues to mature, we see CCAs growing in size and number, as well as becoming more sophisticated and innovative in their approach to spurring deployment of local renewables. With as much as 50% of California’s electricity load likely to be served by CCAs within a few years, it’s clear that they will play a significant role in California’s clean energy future.

Over the past several years, the Clean Coalition has worked closely with California’s existing CCAs to develop successful feed-in tariff programs, which were designed to stimulate local commercial-scale solar photovoltaic systems within the CCA service territories. These programs are currently setting the bar in California’s CCA space, and they have already been effectively incentivizing the development of new local renewable energy capacity.

Moving further into 2017, the Clean Coalition is looking forward to working with our partners — The Offset Project, ALH Economics, EcoShift Consulting, and Optony — to develop a feasible and comprehensive plan for an accelerated and cost-effective deployment of distributed energy resources (DER) for the East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) CCA.

EBCE has a unique approach to integrating DER into the foundational CCA planning processes, called Local Development Business Plans (LDBP). These LDBPs will quantify the costs and benefits that DER can deliver to the CCA and the ratepayers it serves, and they will lay out a plan for maximizing CCA performance using advanced DER deployment strategies.

Our integrated, interdisciplinary team of partners for the EBCE LDBP project will evaluate a wide range of DER technologies (energy efficiency, demand response, renewables, energy storage, microgrids, and virtual power plants), policies and incentives, financing mechanisms and ownership models, and cost-effective program options. Community stakeholder engagement and expert economic and fiscal impact analyses are integral to every aspect of the project, and this foundation will allow us to provide EBCE new and actionable insights into the true value of integrating DER into the CCA’s procurement strategies and ongoing operations.

We are thrilled to see a number of innovative approaches to clean local energy deployment emerging in existing CCAs throughout the state in recent months. Marin Clean Energy recently adopted the industry’s first Energy Efficiency Business Plan, which sets a new bar for administering local energy efficiency programs through the CCA model. Sonoma Clean Power recently piloted an exciting electric vehicle (EV) program in partnership with EV and EV charger manufacturers to provide unparalleled incentives for its customers. And Lancaster Clean Energy moved quickly to forge an innovative partnership with Antelope Valley Transit Authority to support the electrification of their entire fleet of metro buses using smart charging infrastructure.

The growing momentum of CCAs throughout California, coupled with the state’s aggressive energy and environmental goals, is already driving meaningful development of local renewable energy. The Clean Coalition and our partners are honored to be part of this important movement, and we are working hard to further expand use of clean local energy to benefit communities across California.

Solar Siting Survey: Identifying vast potential for clean energy in southern San Mateo County

Over the past few decades, the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels has fallen precipitously while their efficiency has risen. Yet, less than one percent of U.S. commercial sites have installed solar PV — revealing an untapped market.

Unlocking this important market offers a tremendous opportunity to expand cost-effective local renewable energy. Commercial-scale solar PV systems are significantly larger than residential systems, securing a lower installed cost per watt. And because these projects generate electricity close to where it is consumed, they don’t rely on transmission infrastructure, which is both inefficient and expensive.

The first step to unlocking this market is assessing the technical potential for commercial-scale solar development within a specific geographic area. As part of the Peninsula Advanced Energy Community (PAEC), an initiative designed to streamline policies and showcase projects that facilitate local renewables and other advanced energy solutions, the Clean Coalition conducted a Solar Siting Survey to assess the potential for commercial solar PV in southern San Mateo County. The PAEC Solar Siting Survey evaluated thousands of potential locations — based on site characteristics, existing loads, and grid infrastructure — to identify those that are best suited for a solar PV installation of at least 100 kilowatts (kW). In total, this Solar Siting Survey identified over 65 megawatts (MW) of technical potential for commercial solar installations within the PAEC region.

An overview of the PAEC area evaluated in the Solar Siting Survey | Source: Clean Coalition

Through our unique Solar Siting Survey methodology, we evaluate all prospective solar sites and then focus in on those sites that are most viable, given existing rooftop clutter, like piping and air conditioning units, as well as shading from trees and nearby buildings. While there are other online solar potential tools, the Solar Siting Survey approach provides far greater accuracy of technical siting potential and includes non-traditional structures for evaluation, including parking garages and surface lots.

Notably, parking garages and surface lots offer more than 40% of the commercial solar potential in southern San Mateo County. The Clean Coalition also identified numerous schools with attractive solar siting opportunities. While some schools had less than 100 kW of solar potential, when aggregated with other schools in their district, the 100 kW threshold was met. Overall, 448 potential commercial solar sites were discovered in southern San Mateo County, including 260 flat roofs, 49 sloped roofs, 111 parking lots, and 20 parking garages.

A closer view of the Solar Siting Survey | Source: Clean Coalition

The Clean Coalition’s PAEC Solar Siting Survey includes a comprehensive spreadsheet and a sophisticated mapping tool to support utility staff, city officials, solar project developers, and other community stakeholders in pursuing these siting opportunities.

If you are interested in learning more about the Clean Coalition’s Solar Siting Survey work, please contact Josh Valentine at josh@clean-coalition.org.

The Peninsula Advanced Energy Community (PAEC) is a groundbreaking initiative to streamline policies and showcase projects that facilitate local renewables and other advanced energy solutions like energy efficiency, energy storage, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The PAEC will create pathways to cost-effective clean local energy and community resilience throughout San Mateo County and the City of Palo Alto; and beyond. The PAEC is a collaboration between the Clean Coalition, the California Energy Commission, Pacific Gas and Electric, and an array of municipalities, emergency response jurisdictions, schools and universities, and corporate entities. For more information, please visit www.clean-coalition.org/PAEC.

The reality of implementing 100% clean local energy

Cities can set ambitious goals for 100% clean local energy, but making sure these goals are politically feasible requires buy-in from community stakeholders. Every city and county in California has a General Plan that guides development and land use for the next 10, 20, or 25 years. The City of Menlo Park’s most recent General Plan update is of particular interest because it lays out a 100% renewable energy requirement for new developments in designated areas. This leading feature puts Menlo Park at the forefront of clean energy leadership and is supportive of California’s statewide carbon reduction goals.

An essential part of Menlo Park’s General Plan and M-2 Area Zoning Update is the flexibility it gives developers in meeting the 100% renewable energy requirement for the M-2 Area (see map below).

The M-2 Area sits along the San Francisco Bay between Highway 101, Highway 84, and Willow Road — and it is currently home to Facebook’s headquarters, life science companies, and other businesses. Given the strong demand for office space and housing in the Bay Area, Menlo Park City Council updated the General Plan to allow the development of 2.3 million square feet of new office space and 4,500 housing units in the M-2 area. However, the City Council wants to ensure that new construction in the area will help Menlo Park meet its greenhouse gas reduction goal, a 27% reduction from 2005 levels by 2020, in the City’s Climate Action Plan.

The stakeholder process

During the General Plan update, Menlo Park initially proposed that new developments should meet 80% of their energy needs through on-site renewable energy generation. A number of developers expressed support for renewable energy in principle but also raised concern that meeting this requirement would be challenging, given the energy intensity of some of the new buildings and the shading from existing tree cover. With input from Menlo Spark, the Clean Coalition, and the Environmental Quality Commission, the City of Menlo Park devised language for the General Plan update that allowed flexibility in how future development could meet the renewable energy requirement, while increasing the requirement from 80% to 100%.

New commercial construction will be required to conduct a feasibility study for on-site renewable energy generation, but developers are only required to implement 30% of the maximum on-site feasible renewable energy generation capacity for the property. Developments can utilize any combination of the following options to fulfill the remainder of their 100% renewable energy requirement:

  • Installation of on-site renewable energy (such as solar PV on rooftops and/or parking lots)
  • Purchase of 100% renewable electricity through Peninsula Clean Energy or Pacific Gas & Electric in an amount equal to the annual energy demand of the new construction project
  • Installation of local solar, or other renewable energy, within the City of Menlo Park in an amount equal to the annual energy demand of the new construction project
  • Purchase of certified Renewable Energy Credits equal to the energy demand of the project each year

Installation of renewable energy projects within the City of Menlo Park (the third option listed) ensures flexibility for developers while securing benefits throughout the Menlo Park community. For example, a property developer could pay for a 25-kilowatt solar PV system installation on the Boys & Girls Club building in Menlo Park to help meet their renewable energy requirements. This Boys & Girls Club location currently spends about $3,000 a month on electricity, and in this scenario, having on-site solar would reduce their energy bill and free up funds to be spent on programming for local children. When the City included this option in the list they were aiming to provide flexibility for development and a scalable benefit to the community.

Upcoming test case

Given the suite of options the City is giving developers to meet the renewable energy requirements, it will be interesting to see which combination of options developers pursue. Diane Bailey, the Executive Director of Menlo Spark, believes that once developers see the results of their property’s on-site renewables feasibility study, they may find it easier to install a much greater amount of renewable energy up front. Soon there will be a test case to see how developers decide to meet City planning goals.

Growth of electric vehicle charging infrastructure

Beyond the renewable energy requirement for new development in the M-2 zone, Menlo Park’s General Plan is also driving greenhouse gas emissions reductions from building and transportation sectors. The City’s General Plan requires certain ratios of electric vehicle (EV) charging spaces to total parking lot spaces, which will undoubtedly expand adoption of EVs in the City.

The transportation sector currently contributes 37% of the California’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Since California’s electricity generation portfolio is relatively low-carbon already, and on a trajectory to become even less carbon-intensive, widespread adoption EVs is a key strategy for reducing statewide GHG emissions.

Electric vehicle charging infrastructure (EVCI) will be a key element of the Peninsula Advanced Energy Community (PAEC), which is an initiative launched by the Clean Coalition in partnership with a number of collaborators, and funded under the California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge. Advanced Energy Communities (AEC) use energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy storage, and EVCI to advance clean local energy. The benefits of AECs include:

  • Minimizing the need for new energy infrastructure costs such as transmission and distribution upgrades;
  • Supporting grid reliability and resiliency by incorporating technologies such as energy storage; and
  • Establishing projects that can be replicated and scaled-up to further drive down costs and provide affordable access to renewable energy generation.

The Menlo Park General Plan and M-2 Zoning Area Update’s vision for clean local energy to drive reductions in GHG emissions has set the stage to make Advanced Energy Communities a reality. Other communities are watching to see how these new requirements will be applied and what they can learn from Menlo Park’s experience.

The Peninsula Advanced Energy Community (PAEC) is a groundbreaking initiative to streamline policies and showcase projects that facilitate local renewables and other advanced energy solutions like energy efficiency, energy storage, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The PAEC will create pathways to cost-effective clean local energy and community resilience throughout San Mateo County and the City of Palo Alto; and beyond. The PAEC is a collaboration between the Clean Coalition, the California Energy Commission, Pacific Gas and Electric, and an array of municipalities, emergency response jurisdictions, schools and universities, and corporate entities. For more information, please visit www.clean-coalition.org/PAEC.

Palo Alto is aiming high by going low… carbon

While federal energy and climate policy is undoubtedly important, action is often driven at the local level. And innovative cities, like Palo Alto, California, are leading us into the clean energy future.

In April of this year, the City of Palo Alto passed an ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goal that will see an 80% reduction of GHG below 1990 levels by 2030. This municipal goal complements and accelerates California’s groundbreaking Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), also known as the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which called for an 80% reduction of GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2050. In September, the State of California, under the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown and the California Air Resources Board, updated AB 32 with Senate Bill 32, which includes the interim goal of reducing GHG emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. While California is impressively increasing its ambitions, the City of Palo Alto is staging to get twice those results.

The City of Palo Alto is pursuing a variety of strategies to meet its bold clean energy and GHG emissions goals. Since 2015, the City’s entire electricity supply has been covered by carbon neutral sources, including hydropower. The City offsets power from any remaining carbon emitting sources by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits. With the costs of renewable energy steadily dropping, the City is continuing to increase the amount of solar in its portfolio. According to Pat Burt, Mayor of Palo Alto, the City was able to contract for future solar power at 3.7 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), not including about 3 additional cents per kWh to cover the anticipated costs of transmission.

Palo Alto has a specific focus on expanding its local renewable energy capacity with a goal of providing 4% of its total electric energy consumption from local solar by 2020. Working in close partnership with the city officials and staff at City of Palo Alto Utilities, the Clean Coalition helped design a feed-in tariff program, known as Palo Alto CLEAN, to support local solar installations. Under Palo Alto CLEAN, a standardized power purchase agreement (PPA) streamlines the process for selling local renewables to the utility at a fixed rate for up to 25 years. Importantly, this program made it possible to contract for solar canopies totaling 1.3 megawatts atop four City-owned parking structures. Net energy metering was not viable at these sites, since the parking structures have tiny loads and net energy metering does not allow annual generation to significantly exceed site load.

“Palo Alto CLEAN standardizes the process for selling local renewable energy to the utility and overcomes all of the challenges associated with load size, property ownership, and multi-tenancy,” said Ed Shikada, Assistant City Manager and Interim Director of Utilities. “Now that the first round of City-owned properties are successfully contracted, future projects can leverage the deal structure and associated contract documentation to facilitate far easier experiences. Ultimately, the solar parking structures are a key milestone and provide a showcase for more projects in Palo Alto and far beyond.”

In addition to its aggressive pursuit of renewable energy, the City of Palo Alto is also working to support wider adoption of electric vehicles (EV) and switching from natural gas appliances to electric appliances. As part of the deal to bring the solar canopies to the City-owned parking structures, Palo Alto was able to significantly advance its EV goals by having the project developer install, at no cost to the City, 18 Level-2 EV chargers and lay the wiring for an additional 80 charging stations.

In the latest example of Palo Alto leadership, the Palo Alto City Council unanimously approved the Carbon Neutral Natural Gas Plan this month. The plan further supports Palo Alto’s clean energy and GHG goals by levying an increased charge, of no greater than 10 cents per therm, on natural gas usage. The money raised through this plan will help the City continue to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels through offsets, as well as through legal and programmatic options for investing in local electrification projects, such as the use of EVs for municipal fleets and incentivizing broad community adoption of more energy efficient electric appliances like heat pumps, induction cooktops, and electric dryers. The total cost of the natural gas charge translates to an additional $3.58 per month on a typical household’s utility bill — a negligible price for supporting the clean energy future.

The Clean Coalition is building upon this innovative work in Palo Alto through our latest initiative. The Peninsula Advanced Energy Community (PAEC) is a groundbreaking initiative to streamline policies and showcase projects that facilitate local renewables and other advanced energy solutions like energy efficiency, energy storage, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The PAEC will create pathways to cost-effective clean local energy and community resilience throughout San Mateo County and the City of Palo Alto; and beyond. The PAEC is a collaboration between the Clean Coalition, the California Energy Commission, Pacific Gas and Electric, and an array of municipalities, emergency response jurisdictions, schools and universities, and corporate entities.

The Peninsula Advanced Energy Community (PAEC) is a groundbreaking initiative to streamline policies and showcase projects that facilitate local renewables and other advanced energy solutions like energy efficiency, energy storage, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The PAEC will create pathways to cost-effective clean local energy and community resilience throughout San Mateo County and the City of Palo Alto; and beyond. The PAEC is a collaboration between the Clean Coalition, the California Energy Commission, Pacific Gas and Electric, and an array of municipalities, emergency response jurisdictions, schools and universities, and corporate entities. For more information, please visit www.clean-coalition.org/PAEC.