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New solar farm at landfill to save San Joaquin County on energy costs

A local Community Choice Energy program could keep the ball rolling

A new solar farm at Foothill Landfill in Linden has hummed to life, offering $11.9 million in energy cost savings and 5.3MW of clean energy for the San Joaquin County government departments over the next 20 years. It’s a promising development as the City of Stockton explores launching a Community Choice Energy program to offer cleaner energy at competitive rates. Will San Joaquin County be next?

The county’s solar project

About five years ago, the county Board of Supervisors approved a power purchase agreement (PPA) and a lease for Ameresco Inc. to build a ground-mount solar photovoltaic system at the landfill. Following permitting delays and uncertainty over PG&E rates, the board approved amendments to the PPA and lease in 2018 to push the project forward. Construction was completed Nov. 17, 2020. 

Ameresco installed 13,770 solar modules rated at 385W-DC each, as well as 29 solar inverters rated at 125kW-AC each, enough to power over 800 homes, the company announced in a press release. The solar arrays were built on a portion of the landfill that will be unneeded for waste disposal for at least the next 25 years. The new facility is the second project the county has worked with Ameresco on at the site, the other being a 4.3 MW landfill gas to energy project.

With the new generation site, county departments are estimated to collectively save approximately $11.9 million in energy costs over the next 20 years via California’s Renewable Energy Self-Generation Bill Credit Transfer program. San Joaquin General Hospital is set to receive 51% of the savings resulting from the facility, with the rest divided among the Human Services Agency, Sheriff’s Office, Health Care Services, Public Works, and Parks and Recreation budgets. As an added bonus, the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund received an up-front lease payment of $500,000 upon completion of the project.

County Supervisors Kathy Miller and Chuck Winn were quoted in the press release touting the economic and environmental benefits of investing in renewable energy development.

“San Joaquin County, and its local communities, have long prioritized the development of renewable energy resources, both for reducing emissions and supplementing existing electricity generation,” said Chair Kathy Miller. “In addition to its environmental impact, the solar energy system will provide further utility cost savings to our region, which will directly benefit residents and local governments’ ability to better serve its constituents.”

Winn stated, “As a leader in green energy, San Joaquin County is always looking for ways to provide an improved environment for our residents while at the same time providing cost savings to taxpayers.”

Check out this video to learn more about the project.

A Community Choice Energy program could ramp up local renewable energy development

We’re encouraged to see local, innovative investment in renewable energy, and we hope the county’s next move will be to evaluate Community Choice Energy, as the City of Stockton and more than 160 other California cities have done. 

When Ameresco’s lease at the landfill site is up with the county two decades from now, the solar farm will become the property of the county. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to own that electricity and continue to build local capacity rather than selling it to another area? A Community Choice agency would make that possible.

By taking the steps to procure power on behalf of residents and businesses at competitive rates, San Joaquin County could take a lead role in coordinating renewable energy projects across its 900,000-plus acres of land. That could include initiating large-scale and small-scale solar projects, using vacant parcels, rooftops and parking lots with the potential of bringing jobs to the area. Given that Community Choice agencies (CCAs) are not-for-profit entities operated by the local government, more of the benefits of such projects can be retained in the San Joaquin County community.

Numerous other benefits CCAs have provided around the state are reasons to pursue the program as well. Those include support for electric vehicles, innovative energy storage projects, bringing residents a voice and a choice in local energy decisions, generating reserve funds that can be reinvested into the community through tailored programs, and offering competitive power generation rates, among others. Community Choice Energy is precisely the kind of economic innovation the county should be pursuing in its post-COVID roadmap.

The Climate Center recently co-hosted a business forum with The San Joaquin Partnership to provide the Stockton business community with information and updates about the City’s ongoing evaluation of launching a CCA. You can view the recording of that forum here to learn more about Community Choice Energy opportunities in Stockton and San Joaquin County.

Stockton takes a big step toward local clean energy

On Tuesday, Sept. 15, Stockton’s City Council unanimously approved a resolution selecting a consultant to complete a feasibility study on launching a Community Choice Energy program in Stockton.

Enabled by state law, the program would allow the City to procure power on behalf of residents, businesses, and municipal accounts while still receiving transmission and distribution service from Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the existing utility provider.

Benefits of establishing a not-for-profit Community Choice agency, or CCA include consumer choice, local control, and enhanced public participation. Potential benefits include offering energy programs that meet community needs, lowering electricity rates, accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources and creating local jobs in sustainable energy development.

MRW & Associates, LLC was awarded the bid on a $92,750 contract to complete the feasibility study, which will assess how achievable these benefits are for the City. The study will also explore options for governance structure, specifically to address whether it would be most feasible for the City to establish a CCA on its own, or in a joint powers authority format with another municipality, such as San Joaquin County.

Still from Stockton City Council meeting

Beyond offering some rate relief, buying from cleaner sources and creating over 4,200 jobs, the 21 existing CCAs in the state have reinvested their reserve funds into several innovative community-tailored programs. They’ve helped their customers cover the costs of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure; solar and battery storage systems; and electrifying buildings and public transportation, to name a few.

These not-for-profit locally based agencies have also collectively donated millions of dollars to COVID relief efforts in their service areas, with grants to community-based organizations and local governments, in addition to rate relief for power generation.

Energy resilience has also been a huge priority for many CCAs – in just 10 years, they’ve supported the installation of more than 3,600 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy facilities and 240 MW of battery-backup storage systems to help prevent the impacts of mass power outages.

Vice Mayor Dan Wright has been championing Stockton exploring potential benefits of a CCA since 2016 when The Climate Center first reached out to him.

“The reason I was initially interested in the idea was our withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords,” Wright said in the meeting. “It’s that idea of moving toward a greener economy and zero carbon emissions that gets me behind this.”

Many community members submitted comments in support that were read into the record by the board clerk.

“We fully support this resolution,” wrote Little Manila Rising Executive Director Dillon Delvo. “Ultimately, we believe as shown in other communities, that establishing a Community Choice Energy program would provide our city with much-needed resources to help tackle the environmental challenges all of our Stockton families face together.”

Jonathan Pruitt, Environmental Justice Project coordinator at Catholic Charities Dioceses of Stockton spoke of the benefits of a CCA, including accountability and transparency in energy matters, as well as potential for procuring from greener sources and reinvesting in the community through local energy projects.

Margo Praus, Chair of the Delta-Sierra Group of the Sierra Club and other local groups praised CCA as one way to address wildfires, air pollution, extreme heat and other impacts of the climate crisis.

“This is an emergency,” Praus wrote. “Our efforts to curtail GHG emissions urgently need to be stepped up. CCAs give people a choice in where their energy comes from. We hope you choose a consultant, and we await the results with bated and masked breath.”

Stockton’s feasibility study should take about three to four months to complete, after which the City Council will be presented with the findings and faced with a decision to move forward.

We hope that the study will yield positive results, and that the City will continue down a path toward developing an agency that could reinvest in the community for years to come.

Opinion: Methane leaks in the Central Valley may be worsening COVID-19 cases

by Karen L. Jones, California Health Report


Highlights

  • According to the California Department of Public Health, the death rate due to chronic lower respiratory disease is 12 times higher in the San Joaquin Valley compared to the rest of the state and 14 times higher than the national rate
  • The intense pollution in the region can have severe effects on Valley residents who contract COVID-19
  • Kern County does not meet federal ozone and particulate matter standards due to the pollution caused by the region’s petroleum industry among other factors such as unplugged oil wells that leak methane
  • There are reports of several wells leaking at rates over 200,000 percent above the EPA average estimate for western U.S. gas wells
  • Methane leaks detected by using airborne infrared imaging sensors show that nearly 4 billion cubic feet of methane may have been released in Kern County oil fields
  • The gathering of methane plume imagery could help locate and plug methane leaks in oil fields

Increased air pollution from fossil fuel emissions makes all of us more vulnerable to the current COVID-19 pandemic. For a safe and healthy future for all, endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform to implement scalable solutions that can reverse the climate crisis.


Read More: https://www.calhealthreport.org/2020/08/18/opinion-methane-leaks-in-the-central-valley-may-be-worsening-covid-19-cases/

California greenlights ‘Orwellian’ solar-powered fracking scheme


Highlights

  • California Governor Gavin Newsom approved two rounds drilling permits for Chevron this summer, furthering criticism from environmental groups
    • Since lifting the moratorium on fracking, Governor Newsom has approved 36 new fracking permits in Lost Hills to Aera Energy, a company he has close ties with 
    • Chevron was given permission to frack 12 wells before July 4th
  • Chevron plans to use solar panels to power their drilling operations in the Lost Hills Oil Field located in Kern County
  • The new permits will exasperate health issues within the small town of Lost Hills in the area due to pollution 
  • The approval of these permits is an example of environmental racism, as the town is comprised of 97% Latinx individuals and almost 30% of residents have incomes below the poverty line
  • Juan Flores of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment questions the Governors campaign promises:

“[Newsom] kept talking about how we needed to stay away from corporations and him not wanting to receive money for his campaign from big corporations like Chevron, Aera and Shell. He said ‘I don’t want to serve my term as Governor paying back those favors.’ And now he’s completely acting the opposite.”

  • The amended version of AB 345 was voted down on Aug. 5 Senate hearing and all of those who voted against it received money from companies or labor unions who had opposed the bill

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Platform advocates for a formal California State commitment by 2022 to 80% below 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions and net-negative emissions by 2030. This bold target requires accelerating the phase-out of fossil fuel development, production, and use.


Read More: https://therealnews.com/columns/california-greenlights-orwellian-solar-powered-fracking-scheme

The City of Stockton Pursues Community Choice Feasibility Study

The City of Stockton is one step closer to establishing a Community Choice Energy agency (CCA), which would give local residents and businesses an alternative choice in their electricity provider.

A Request for Proposal (RFP) for a CCA feasibility study was posted on the City’s website in May.

That study will evaluate whether local control of electricity procurement would allow lower electric rates for the community, accelerate the transition to sustainable power sources, and create local jobs in sustainable energy development.

The City is also seeking to explore potential for a Joint Powers Agreement with other local jurisdictions.

The CCA could support local environmental plans, including the City’s Climate Action Plan, through the purchase and development of renewable energy, the RFP notes.

We’re very excited to see that some of the goals listed in the RFP include offering cost-competitive rates with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (Stockton’s current electricity provider), increasing the proportion of renewable energy in the City’s power mix by at least 25% more than what PG&E offers, receiving revenues for programs to reinvest back into the community, and reducing Stockton’s greenhouse gas emissions, among others.

The City estimates that it could be issuing a notice to proceed by early August, meaning the study could be complete by October.

It would then come before the City Council, who would be faced with a vote on whether to move forward with CCA.

Residents can hear from local government and community leaders about the opportunities and challenges for CCA in Stockton in our upcoming webinar on July 14 at 11 a.m., co-hosted by Rise Stockton and The Climate Center. Click HERE to register.

The benefits of pursuing Community Choice Energy in Fresno

by David Castellon, The Business Journal

In the Fresno area, more than 750 manufacturing businesses use the bulk of electricity directed here by Pacific Gas & Electric, but the cost of that energy is among the most expensive in California, said Mike Betts, president and CEO of the Betts Co., a south Fresno manufacturer of industrial springs and truck accessories.

In fact, he noted that manufacturers here pay up to 40% percent more than manufacturers in coastal California.

“We’re also paying three to five times more for energy than other states, like Texas and Oklahoma. Manufacturing pays the bulk of the cost for the energy,” Betts said to the small audience attending the Fresno Community Choice Energy Business Forum June 5 at the Central Valley Community Foundation headquarters in Fresno.

Read more: https://thebusinessjournal.com/does-fresno-need-to-make-an-energy-choice/?utm_source=Daily+Update&utm_campaign=c8ca8b46dd-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_06_25_09_49&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fb834d017b-c8ca8b46dd-79043105&mc_cid=c8ca8b46dd&mc_eid=254835c42d

Taking a spin on an electric tractor

With a view of the future?

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit the ranch of Steve Heckeroth, architect, legendary clean energy pioneer, inventor, former contributing editor for Mother Earth News, and in this instance, creator of the Solectrac electric drive tractor. Steve’s ranch, and e-tractor manufacturing operation, is located along the Mendocino Coast near Albion, California, about two hours northwest of where I live.

My interest in electric tractors is partly personal. After moving to a rural area in Sonoma County in 2009 and finding that perfect place at the end of the lane away from the road noise, we woke up the first few mornings to realize we had not thought about tractor noise. Duh. Being surrounded by small farms, what did we expect? But perhaps with electric tractors now becoming reality, there may be hope for quieter mornings – and assuming they are plugging in to cleaner power, less-polluting farms.

So the first thing I noticed about the e-tractor is how quiet it is. Barely even a buzz or hum. The other thing I noticed immediately was how clean and simple it looked. No black oil, grease, or soot stains as one typically sees on diesel tractors.

One of the interesting things Steve demonstrated was the fact that you can set the tractor to move at a constant, very slow speed, which allows for an excellent seed spreading process. This is something that is difficult for diesels to do. He also explained how electric tractors have an enormous amount of torque, enabling them to tow or push many times their own weight.

There are two main models to choose from, the eUtility and the eFarmer. According to the Solectrac website, the eUtility tractor is designed for vineyards, equestrian centers, livestock operations, hobby farms, etc. It has a 20 kWh onboard battery pack that provides three to eight hours of run time depending on loads. It uses level two (240v) charging and takes about three hours to reach 80% charge, so having two battery packs and switching them out is the way to keep working all day. It accommodates a wide variety of implements on the rear hitch and uses linear electric actuators that replace inefficient hydraulic implements.

Steve Heckeroth on the eFarmer tractor.

The eFarmer is designed for row crop farms and operates at a fraction of the lifetime cost of diesel tractors. Both tractors are zero-emission and quiet with no diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid, engine noise, or exhaust fumes.

Now, yes, clearly these tractors are designed for smaller operations, but the principle is demonstrated successfully and scaling up is a matter of investment. No technological breakthroughs are required.

Another key part of my interest revolves around our work in Community Choice Energy and in the Central Valley. E-tractors will not address the air quality issues of dust kicked up by agricultural activities, but the particulate matter and other toxic air contaminants that result from diesel combustion by farm equipment, an extremely harmful part of the poor air quality in the Central Valley, is indeed something that may be mitigated by this kind of technology. We look forward to helping advance electric farm equipment as we do passenger EVs.

And how might Community Choice agencies (CCAs) play a role? CCAs have successfully demonstrated that they can design a buy-down program for passenger electric vehicles. For CCAs with significant agricultural activity in their service territories, why not do the same for electric farm equipment?

Several other manufacturers including John Deere and Fendt have recently introduced electric tractors, but given that they have a huge market base of long-time diesel customers, it is not clear that they will do much to support their successful adoption.

For more information about the Solectrac electric tractors manufactured right here in California, eager to sell, visit Solactrac.com.

Power change by changing power

Karen Barnes handles Development for The Climate Center.

This summer we continue to work on our newest project, to bring Community Choice Energy to California’s Central Valley. All regions in our state should have access to clean power. Climate and environmental impacts are magnified and debilitating for disenfranchised communities that are disproportionately impacted by higher incidences of diseases such as asthma and cancer. Children are especially hard hit when it comes to health. According to the Centers for Disease Control, children exposed to environmental contaminants are at a greater risk than adults for illnesses because their bodies are still growing.

This is an example of air quality readings in Fresno on a typical day.

That’s a major reason why we are focused on the Central Valley.  The percentage of people living in poverty in Fresno County is 24.8% and the percentage of children living in poverty in the county is 53% – the highest in the state.

Access to clean power through Community Choice Energy brings direct economic benefits to disenfranchised communities. It makes clean energy more affordable for all residents and keeps money in the community. The Climate Center symposium in June highlighted a number of local programs that have been initiated by Community Choice Energy agencies around the State. These include energy efficiency programs for multifamily housing and community energy grants, both of which help disenfranchised communities prosper.

Perhaps most important, Community Choice Energy creates local clean energy jobs. An impact study for the San Joaquin Valley estimates that Community Choice Energy could bring as many as 16,000 new jobs in clean energy fields over six years – with a moderate level of local renewable energy investment.

Bringing Community Choice Energy to the Central Valley will take time and resources. It requires local involvement and help from our organization, policy makers, the local government, and individuals.  All this is possible with your help and commitment to a better climate for everyone.

Let’s power change by changing power. Join us.

Burning Sun by law keven

A Hot Issue: Fresno’s Getting Warmer …But We Could Change That.

by Erik Cherkaski

July marks the first full month of summer. Here in Fresno, the seventh month of the year is the peak of the area’s grueling high temperatures during the season. This summer presented Fresno’s unyielding heat waves slightly earlier than normal, and will continue on until early fall. Just a few days after the summer started, Fresno experienced a record-breaking heatwave. Whereas normal days in the beginning of the season hover around the mid-nineties, parts of Fresno County hit highs closer to 110 degrees, forcing some communities to open cooling centers during the day. It should come as no surprise that the National Weather Service encourages people to stay indoors during hours of blistering temperature highs.

When the summer heat becomes unbearable, people rely on their homes to keep cool. Utility customer’s consumption of electricity goes up during summer months, particularly in areas with significant heat. Such a high demand during these periods not only raises electricity rates but also increases fossil fuel consumption used to produce the electricity, and the use of fossil fuels has a direct link to rising global temperatures.

Climate Change continues to impact the San Joaquin Valley with temperatures steadily rising over the past decades. Studies show an average of 1°C increase during the first half of the century and then a 2°C increase by the second half, combined with a significant decrease in precipitation. One particular concern is the increase of the temperature of daily low temperatures. The Central Valley is noted for experiencing a wide range of high and low temperatures throughout a 24-hour period. But according to studies, this phenomenon is declining as Valley morning and nightly low temperatures are beginning to rise, marking longer stretches of intense heat during summer months. Such elongated temperature highs during the day contribute to rising use of energy consumption throughout a 24-hour period in the season of sunshine. An additional concern about higher than normal overnight temperatures is that many fruit and nut trees grown in the Central Valley require a certain number of “chill hours” in order to produce a crop.

Although California’s investor owned utilities (IOUs) have made promises to expand usage of clean energy, fossil fuels are still a large source in generating power for homes and businesses. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the country generated four trillion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2015. Close to 67% of that electricity came from fossil fuel sources (coal, natural gas and petroleum) while only 13% came from cleaner, renewable sources such as hydropower, solar and wind. According to the IOUs maintaining the grid and expanding the use of renewable energy comes at an ever-increasing price. This month, the California Public Utilities Commission held public hearings in several Central Valley cities to discuss the area’s utility provider rate increase, with the company arguing it is needed for further investment in grid maintenance and clean energy sources.

So, Fresno and its surrounding areas get very hot during the summer, heat waves seem to be getting more intense due to climate change, and the direct culprit behind climate change, fossil energy, is still a major source for powering our electricity to cool us down: sounds like one vicious cycle, right?

Well, first, let’s take a look at that IOU claim that renewable energy costs more. The fact is that solar and wind power prices have dropped dramatically over the past six years. So much so that solar and wind are now at or near “grid parity” in many markets meaning that they are equivalent or lower in cost than conventional power sources. But who will take advantage of this fact and pursue this cleaner, cheaper power on our community’s behalf?

One answer is Community Choice Energy. Community Choice Energy is a program, enabled by state law passed in 2002, that has the power to buy, and may even generate, electricity for its residents and businesses via a not-for-profit public entity; created by the people, for the people. The program offers several economic and environmental benefits such as providing consumer choice, competition in the monopolized utility market, offering lower rates, strengthening the local economy, and utilizing alternative energy sources. The four existing Community Choice agencies in California have proven the concept. Perhaps, more than ever, now is the time to explore a program that emphasizes cleaner, renewable energy sources for its residents at competitive rates. After all, it certainly isn’t getting any cooler over here.