Palo Alto to solarize city-owned parking structures and enhance EV deployment

The City of Palo Alto is creating a new model for deploying 1.3 megawatts of local solar atop four City-owned parking structures. These solar installations are the result of sustained efforts by the Clean Coalition and the City of Palo Alto to deploy local renewables on municipal properties.

In 2014, the Clean Coalition partnered with City staff to design and assist with administering a Request for Proposals (RFP) process to lease the solar siting rights to install solar parking canopies on Palo Alto’s City-owned parking structures. After a long and arduous process that resulted from this being an entirely new approach to encouraging local renewable energy generation, Komuna Energy was selected to build, own, and operate solar parking canopies atop four of Palo Alto’s five City-owned parking structures.

The ability to structure the RFP as a competition for leasing rights was facilitated by the City of Palo Alto Utilities’ feed-in tariff (FIT) program, known as Palo Alto CLEAN, which the Clean Coalition helped establish in 2013. Under Palo Alto CLEAN, a standardized Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) streamlines the process for selling solar energy to the utility at a fixed rate of 16.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for a 25-year period. Importantly, the FIT made these solar canopy projects possible. Net energy metering is not viable at these sites, since the parking structures have tiny loads and net energy metering limits the maximum size of a renewables project to the size of the site load.

In terms of the lease arrangement, a small, annual lease payment will be made to the City of Palo Alto, but far more important is the fact that the City’s electric vehicle ambitions will be significantly advanced. Komuna Energy will install 18 Level-2 electric vehicle chargers and lay the wiring for an additional 80 charging stations, which is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Complete details of the agreement are here, which includes the full lease agreement between Komuna Energy and the City of Palo Alto, as well as the standardized PPA used by the utility to buy all the solar energy generated through Palo Alto CLEAN. More details on Palo Alto CLEAN are also available at the City of Palo Alto website.