Utilities News

City Of Palo Alto to Solarize City-Owned Parking Structures and Enable Its Electric Vehicle Future

City Of Palo Alto to Solarize City-Owned Parking Structures and Enable Its Electric Vehicle Future

PALO ALTO, CA – Last night, the Palo Alto City Council approved a deal to get 1.3 megawatts (MW) 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, Palo Alto Mayor. “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 the solar rooftop canopies over 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 (Clean Local Energy Accessible Now), 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 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 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 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

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 organization 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. Visit www.clean-coalition.org.

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

Last Updated: January 26, 2016