On Earth Day, San Francisco could strike a powerful blow against global warming by building the nation’s largest municipal solar project. Or, it could…well, not.
The choice is in the hands of the Budget and Finance Committee of the Board of Supervisors, who are considering a 5 MW photovoltaic installation for the Sunset Reservoir at 11 AM on Wednesday, April 22.
Here’s the background. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has spent the last year developing a solar project for the Sunset Reservoir, at 24th and Noriega. It would be comprised of 25,000 solar modules, covering an area the size of twelve football fields. At 23.5 cents/kWh, the price is significantly cheaper than recent solar projects by Southern California Edison and the Gainesville Regional Utility. And because it generates inside of city limits, it’s particularly valuable to San Francisco’s energy security.
When the project went before the Budget and Finance Committee for the first time last month, it received some unexpected opposition. Several Supervisors had significant questions about the project–for example, wondering why the City didn’t buy the project outright, instead of financing it through a power purchase agreement. That’s an easy one–a power purchase agreement allows the city (a non-taxpaying entity) to effectively harness the 30% federal investment tax credits. It’s pure fiscal prudence.
The good news is that all the questions and concerns raised at the initial hearing have similarly easy and compelling answers. For more, you can find a comprehensive Q and A here (pdf).
If this project doesn’t pass now, it will effectively be years before we will see any concrete implementation of solar at this scale.
This is a precedent-setting decision for the City and the country. If the City’s famously progressive supervisors can’t find it in them to support solar on Earth Day, well, this whole idea of fighting global warming is going to be a lot harder than I thought.
Let’s not take that chance. If you are a San Francisco resident, please take a moment to contact the Supes now:
Or give your Supervisor a call. Or show up at the hearing. This project is too important to fail. Note that if the Budget Committee votes in favor, it goes before the full Board on the 28th.