March 5 vote on Palo Alto FIT: 4 MW at 14 cents/kWh

On March 5, the Palo Alto (California) City Council will vote on a proposed new solar program–a solar feed-in tariff for the city’s municipal utility.

Some relevant facts:

  • 4 MW of total contract capacity available for wholesale power.
  • Minimum project size is 100 kW.
  • Price: $0.14/kWh for 20 years.
  • If there is more interest in the program than available contract capacity, then potential participants will be asked to bid, and contract winners will be selected by best price. That’s a better way than a lottery.
  • The city estimates that the ‘green premium’ (i.e. above-market costs) for this program, if fully subscribed, would be $0.02/kWh, or 0.2% rate increase (see pages 5 + 6 of attachment E, at the link below)
  • If fully subscribed, it would provide electricity sufficient to power the equivalent of 1,000 homes, and provide 0.6% of the city’s annual electricity usage.
  • Rebates are still available for home and business owners that want to go solar to lower utility bills.

You can get the details here (big-ish file)

Fourteen cents per kWh for a peaking resource (solar produces most when electricity is the most expensive) is a price that can scale.  But will it be enough to work?  Sacramento Municipal Utility District offered 100 MW at that price, and sold out instantly–but the winning projects were all around 5 MW in size.  That’s ~25 acres per project, and with the price of land in Palo Alto–well, that’s an entirely different ballgame.  Some developers tell us its too thin, other think they can make it work.  Seems to us that it is worth finding out.

We think this is a program worth supporting…and if you live in Palo Alto and think so too, how about sending the City Council a note to that effect?  Their website is here, or by email, here.  We pre-filled the form a bit for you, but should really just use your own words.

[more: see GTM’s great piece, here]

[more: new details on a new dedicated page — http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/renewablefit — includes a summary of the program rules, an application package, and maps.  The City Council date is March 5, 2012, and if the program documents are approved they will begin accepting applications on April 2, 2012.  The first contracts would then be awarded on May 1, 2012 ]