Press Release

Mayor Newsom Powers Up California’s Largest Municipal Solar Project At Sunset Reservoir, Generating Up To 5 Megawatts Of Clean Energy Daily

Mayor Also Challenges City to Commit to Path to 100 Percent Renewable Power and Announces New Grant, Task Force to Develop Plan & Benchmarks

12/7/10- Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced the completion of California’s largest municipal solar installation, the Sunset Reservoir Solar Project. With nearly 24,000 solar panels installed on top of the North Basin of the Sunset Reservoir, the new array is online and generates up to 5 megawatts daily of clean, 100 percent renewable energy. Over the 25-year lifetime of the project, the Sunset Reservoir will reduce carbon emissions by approximately 80,000 metric tons, while helping to satisfy the diverse clean energy needs of the City’s municipal buildings and facilities.

“With this one project, we are tripling the amount of solar power used by San Francisco’s local government and powering up California’s largest municipal solar array,” said Mayor Newsom. “San Francisco is leading by example towards California’s future of green jobs and a growing economy built on renewable energy and a cleaner environment.”

The Sunset Reservoir Solar Project is a public-private partnership between the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and Recurrent Energy. The agreement between the SFPUC and Recurrent Energy leveraged a 30% federal tax credit available only to private companies, which dramatically lowered the project’s construction costs. The SFPUC will purchase power from Recurrent Energy through a power purchase agreement (PPA) at a discounted rate, saving $26 million over the 25-year lifetime of the project. Under this agreement, Recurrent Energy has also assumed all of the risk of financing, building and operating the project.

“Strong public policy and government leadership played critical roles in bringing this project online,” said Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy. “We appreciate everyone that has played a role in this project for their commitment to clean energy and a green economy.”

“The Sunset Reservoir Solar Project is a great example of public-private partnerships working to achieve our City’s renewable energy goals,” said Supervisor Carmen Chu. “We are proud that the Sunset District is now home to California’s largest municipal solar project.”

The Sunset Reservoir Solar Project triples San Francisco’s municipal solar generating capacity from 2 megawatts to over 7 megawatts. The new solar array covers an area the size of approximately 12 football fields and is California’s largest municipal, urban solar array, providing clean electricity for our City’s municipal facilities including San Francisco General Hospital, Muni, San Francisco International Airport, police stations, and fire houses.

“The Sunset Reservoir’s five megawatts of clean, renewable energy will further diversify the SFPUC’s 100 percent greenhouse gas-free energy portfolio,” said SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington. “I want to thank the members of the SFPUC Renewable Team who have added 7 megawatts of municipal solar generating capacity here in the city in less than six years.”

Mayor Newsom also announced today a $250,000 grant awarded to San Francisco from the Sidney Frank Foundation to develop an implementation plan over the next 12 months to generate 100 percent of San Francisco’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020 in support of the City’s carbon neutrality goal. The Mayor also announced the creation of a Mayoral Task Force to advise the City on how best to achieve this goal.

“San Francisco has the audacious goal of reducing its greenhouse gases to 20 percent below 1990 levels, and to reach this goal, we need to continue reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and power the entire City, not just municipal operations, on 100 percent renewable electricity,” said Mayor Newsom. “We have come a long way towards creating a brighter energy future for San Francisco. This year we achieved the Kyoto Protocol target of reducing green house gas emissions. Now we must lead the way towards a City powered entirely by energy that produces no greenhouse gases and we must challenge ourselves to achieve it within ten years. I want to thank the Sidney Frank Foundation for helping to chart this map and direct a course that will take us to 100 percent renewable electricity.”

“Some say it’s an impossible goal to achieve, but they said the same thing about San Francisco’s recycling goal – that we would never be able to achieve 75% diversion by 2010. But we did – in fact, we surpassed it and have already reached a 77% diversion rate,” said San Francisco Environment Director Melanie Nutter. “I know that we can achieve 100% renewably generated electricity by 2020.”

Mayor Newsom over the next two weeks will create a “Renewable Energy Task Force” to advise the City on how to best achieve this 100 percent renewable electricity goal. The Task Force will be headed by the San Francisco Environment Department and will be comprised of local renewable energy leaders, key stakeholders and other City departments.

San Francisco has already made significant progress in reducing green house gas emissions and generating clean renewable energy to become a 100 percent renewably powered city a reality:

  • This year San Francisco achieved the Kyoto Protocol target of reducing green house gas emissions to 7% below 1990 levels.
  • Reduced municipal, commercial and residential energy use in San Francisco by 45 MW—enough to power more than 45,000 SF households — through aggressive energy efficiency programs.
  • More than 18.5 MW of in-City renewables, with 15 MW of solar PV (more than 2,000 systems) citywide and 3.5 MW of biogas cogeneration at the City’s wastewater treatment plants.
  • All public transportation in San Francisco runs on electricity or biodiesel.
  • San Francisco has the most aggressive waste diversion rate, green building standards and electric vehicle program of any city in the U.S.
  • Virtually the entire municipal electricity load, about one-fifth of the total electricity need in the City, is met with carbon neutral hydropower.
  • Replacing the City’s 17,600 high pressure sodium vapor cobra-head streetlight fixtures with energy efficient Light Emitting Diode (LED) fixtures, which will produce a total savings of 5.7 million kilowatt-hours per year with installation to be completed by spring 2012.
  • The federal government’s pending HomeStar energy efficiency incentive program, coupled with the City’s Energy Watch and Zero Energy Homes programs, is expected to dramatically reduce residential energy consumption.
  • The City’s ten-year GoSolarSF solar incentive program is expected to triple the current amount of solar PV installed citywide by 2017.
  • A 2009 Frank Foundation-funded study showed 30-100 MW of wave energy potential off the coast of San Francisco. Potentially large quantities of urban wind and offshore wind energy capacity are yet-to-be explored.
  • This week the Board of Supervisors is hearing legislation Mayor Newsom introduced to require every commercial building in the City to conduct an energy audit every five years, which is expected to dramatically reduce commercial energy consumption.