Press release: City Of Palo Alto to Solarize City-Owned Parking Structures And Enable Its Electric Vehicle Future

With support from the Clean Coalition, the City of Palo Alto creates a new model for deploying local renewables on municipal properties.

Josh Valentine

January 26, 2016

NEWS RELEASE: City Of Palo Alto to Solarize City-Owned Parking Structures And Enable Its Electric Vehicle Future

With support from the Clean Coalition, the City of Palo Alto creates a new model for deploying local renewables on municipal properties

PALO ALTO, CA – Last night, the Palo Alto City Council approved a deal to get 1.3 megawatts of solar deployed 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 bring local renewable energy online.

“The City has pursued innovative measures to open municipal properties for solar installations,” said Pat Burt, Mayor of Palo Alto. “We have a goal to achieve 4% of our total electric energy consumption from local solar by 2020, and with the Clean Coalition’s continued support, we are working to fulfill that goal on schedule by getting many more properties in play; whether they be municipal or other challenging properties like those owned by non-profits, multi-tenant residential or commercial properties that are not owner occupied.”

In 2014, the Clean Coalition partnered with City staff to design and assist with administering the 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.

“Palo Alto CLEAN standardizes the process for selling local renewable energy to the utility and overcomes all of the challenges associated with load size, property ownership, and multi-tenancy,” said Ed Shikada, Assistant City Manager and Interim Director of Utilities. “Now that the first round of City-owned properties are successfully contracted, future projects can leverage the deal structure and associated contract documentation to facilitate far easier experiences. Ultimately, the solar parking structures are a key milestone and provide a showcase for more projects in Palo Alto and far beyond.”

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.

“Palo Alto has set a model for municipalities to unleash clean local energy and to facilitate the electric vehicle future,” said Craig Lewis, Executive Director of the Clean Coalition. “I commend the Mayor, City Council, and City staff for their leadership and efforts to reach the point where Palo Alto’s approach can be a guide to communities across California and the nation.”

Complete details of the agreement are available on the Clean Coalition website, 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 cityofpaloalto.org/PACLEAN.

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About the Clean Coalition
The Clean Coalition is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and a modern grid through technical, policy, and project development expertise. The Clean Coalition drives policy innovation to remove barriers to procurement and interconnection of distributed energy resources (DER)—such as local renewables, advanced inverters, demand response, and energy storage—and establishes market mechanisms that realize the full potential of integrating these solutions. The Clean Coalition also collaborates with utilities and municipalities to create near-term deployment opportunities that prove the technical and financial viability of local renewables and other DER. For further information, please visit www.clean-coalition.org.

Contact:
John Bernhardt
Outreach & Communications Director
john@clean-coalition.org
(703) 963-8750

About the City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU)
The City of Palo Alto is the only municipality in California operating a full suite of utility services, including water, wastewater, electric and fiber optics, natural gas, refuse and storm drain services. For more about CPAU’s solar programs, visit www.cityofpaloalto.org/solar.

Contact:
Catherine Elvert
Utilities Communications Manager
Catherine.Elvert@CityofPaloAlto.org
(650) 329-2417

Josh Valentine

Communications Manager

Josh Valentine brings to the Clean Coalition a mindful approach to communications, digital outreach, and marketing. He previously ran his own business, Promenade Media, focused on communications and marketing for renewables and climate advocacy. In Maine, Josh headed up digital efforts for Maine Businesses for Sustainability and was president of the Maine Marketing Association for three consecutive terms. Josh leads digital communications and marketing initiatives for the Colorado Renewable Energy Society.