State may give S.F. solar funds

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature could uncap $100 million of solar power in The City.

A bill passed by the state Assembly last week would allow The City to use millions from a 2001 bond measure for solar energy to build large-scale solar projects at locations such as reservoirs and parking garages. The governor has until Sept. 30 to sign the bill into law.

“The degree that we can produce more and more energy in a clean and renewable fashion, the less need we will have for fossil fuel,” Assemblyman Mark Leno said about why he authored the bill. “Our goal is, of course, to become energy self-sufficient.”

Leno authored the 2001 bond measure, which was passed by 73 percent of voters, while he was serving as a San Francisco supervisor. None of the $100 million has been spent, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, because of the restrictions placed on the measure.

Leno said he hopes the measure would ease restrictions from the 2001 bond measure, which limits where The City can construct projects for solar generation to sites that consume a significant amount of electricity, such as the Moscone Center and the Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant. The state bill would allow The City to generate solar power at more remote sites that do not consume a lot of electricity and divert that power to other locations, which is not allowed under the 2001 bond measure.

The sites also have to be large enough that they generate profit, according to the SFPUC, preventing The City from building on sites that might not be profitable now but could generate income in the future.

“For us, this is very significant, because it will allow us to build large scale solar projects” said Susan Leal, the general manager of the SFPUC. “Ones that are efficient and cost-effective.”

If approved, Assembly bill 2573 would help The City be reimbursed with energy from an alternative source for any power used by Pacific Gas and Electric Company generated from its solar sites, according to Leno. Currently, PG&E is not required to compensate The City for any excess power generated at a municipal site, which is required to go to the power company. The SFPUC would be responsible for any infrastructure costs.

“There will be no negative impact to PG&E ratepayers,” Leno said.

sfarooq@examiner.com

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