The Golden Gate to 100 percent renewables

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The Golden Gate City’s outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) commissioned the city’s new 5 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) plant on Dec. 7. As Newsom prepares to vacate the seat and become California’s Lt. Governor, he also announced that the city will plan to become 100 percent by renewable energy by 2020.

All of the power generated by the Sunset Reservoir Solar Project is being used by San Francisco’s municipal buildings, explained Johanna Partin, director of climate protection initiatives with the mayor’s office. The system brings the total amount of PV feeding city buildings up to 7 MW.

“The Sunset Reservoir’s five megawatts of clean, renewable energy will further diversify the SFPUC’s 100 percent greenhouse gas-free energy portfolio,” said San Francisco Public Utilities Commission General Manager Ed Harrington, in a press release.

The Sunset Reservoir farm was made possible through a 25-year power-purchase agreement between Recurrent Energy and the utilities commission.

Under the agreement, the city will purchase power from Recurrent Energy at a discounted rate. The lowered rate should save the city $26 million over its lifetime. The city contracted with Recurrent partly because the company was eligible to receive the 30 percent federal tax credit for purchasing and installing the system, which San Francisco couldn’t have otherwise done.

It was during the ceremony to turn on the system that Newsom announced that the city plans to become 100 percent powered by renewables by 2020.

The mayor said the city received a $250,000 grant from the Sidney Frank Foundation to develop a renewable implementation plan that meets the city’s carbon neutrality goal.

“We’re going to need about 12 months to do the action plan. Before Newsom leaves, we will name members of advisory committee,” Partin said.

Despite Newsom’s departure, and the fact that nothing has been legislated to force the city and residents to use 100 percent renewable energy, Partin thinks it will happen.

“I think it’s the will of the city,” she said. “And the will of people who’ve put their name in the ring for the next mayor are all in support.”

Pictured: Mayor Gavin Newsom makes a call to power up the Sunset Reservoir system, courtesy of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.