This is for those in the SF Bay Area. It is an excellent example of the insanity some of our ego-driven politicians share. Anyone who can be at City Hall at 2:00 today can help stop the supervisor turf war and bring sanity to the use of solar power in SF.
Examiner Editorial: Supervisor turf war threatens solar power
04/27/09 11:01 PM
If ever there were a win-win green project that San Franciscans could feel virtuous about, the Sunset Reservoir 5 megawatt Solar Energy Facility is it. However, at least two members of the Board of Supervisors are making noises about trying to stop the deal during today’s vote.
In exchange for a 30-year power purchase agreement that frees The City from $45 million in upfront construction costs, San Francisco-based Recurrent Energy would install 25,000 solar panels on the seismically reinforced eight-block rooftop of Sunset Reservoir. The 24th Avenue and Quintara Street location averages only 15 percent less sunlight than San Francisco’s sunniest areas.
The 5 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity generated by the reservoir’s solar panels would be sold exclusively to help power The City’s facilities for 30 years — at the below-market price of 23 cents per kilowatt hour delivered, far lower than the 27 cents paid in Los Angeles or the 32 cents at a similar Florida array. For this, The City would just pay $1.8 million annually.
The project would nearly triple the Public Utility Commission’s existing 2 megawatt solar output. Union-wage installation could begin this summer and finish by early 2010. Facility operations would create 71 jobs.
This would be California’s largest solar panel system and the largest municipal solar project in America. It would reduce carbon emissions by more than 109,000 metric tons.
So why would any city lawmaker resist this outstanding project backed by the Sierra Club and organized labor?
San Francisco has a peculiar statute letting the Board of Supervisors approve annual payments on every long-term contract. In effect, supervisors could back out of any city contract in any given year.
All five bidders for the Sunset project specified they could not proceed with panel installation without a waiver of the annual appropriations review, because they could not borrow money unless lenders saw a guarantee that all contracted electricity would be paid for.
However, new Supervisor David Campos has said he refuses to waive one of his “most important functions ... to provide oversight of ... city funds.” This sounds to The Examiner like ego-driven turf protection that willingly risks the deal.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi apparently wants The City to take over building and operating the power plant — although that could cost taxpayers twice as much. Only a private business is eligible for a federal stimulus 30 percent tax rebate. City bonds would cost about $25 million more than the power purchase agreement and require voter approval that is likely to delay the start-up for years.
If the Board of Supervisors kills the Sunset Reservoir Solar Project today, The City will not only lose a key source of renewable energy but will harm future partnerships that allow The City to leverage private funding with public interest.