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County of Santa Clara Breaks Ground for Santa Clara County Generating Green Solar Projects

Ceremony Launches Four Renewable Energy Projects to Be Funded by Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds, Generate Major Savings to the County

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.—Today, the County of Santa Clara launched the Santa Clara County Generating Green initiative by breaking ground for the Civic Center Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Project. The initiative starts with the installation of a 1 megawatt Solar Photovoltaic (PV) system on the roof of the Sheriff’s Office and in the adjacent parking lot at 55 West Younger Avenue, San Jose, CA, as well as, in the main County employee parking lot across the street that serves the County Government Center at 70 West Hedding Street. The initiative will continue with other County operated facilities.

We are calling these solar initiatives “Generating Green” projects because they bring green energy, green savings and 92 new green jobs,” said Dave Cortese, President, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. “As a government agency, we are in a position to leverage resources and to put them to work for our community. This project creates jobs while saving taxpayer dollars.”

The Santa Clara County Generating Green initiative is comprised of a number of renewable energy projects at County sites. These projects are an offspring of a collaborative Regional Renewable Power Purchase Initiative to leverage the buying power of many localities and bring affordable renewable power to the participating government agencies. The Solar PV energy generating facilities at the sites below are funded by $20 million dollars in Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds, (QECB). These bonds are very attractive because 70 percent of the interest fees on the bonds are subsidized through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) program, meaning the County will only be required to pay 30 percent of the interest fees.

The first four Generating Green projects are:

  • Civic Center Complex - 55 W. Younger/ 70 W. Hedding St. - 1 MW system
  • Berger Service Center - 1555 Berger Dr. - 1 MW system
  • Elmwood Complex - 701 S. Abel St. - 1 MW system
  • Valley Health Clinic - 1993 McKee Rd. - 800 kW system

“It will take government, business, and residents working together to reverse global warming,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Ken Yeager. “Santa Clara County is doing its share by working toward 100 percent renewable energy use.”

The County expects that the power generated from these Solar PV systems will displace an estimated 17 percent of the total grid (PG&E) power used by these four sites. The combined system size for all four County sites is 3.8 megawatts (MW). The Combined annual power production from all four systems will be 5,482,633 kilowatt hours (kWh).

“Conserving natural resources, and reducing energy use and expenses will go a long way toward preserving Santa Clara County for future generations,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Liz Kniss. “Installing Solar Photovoltaic panels is the logical next step in the County’s comprehensive energy conservation strategy.”

Based on Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, the environmental impact of the Santa Clara County Generating Green projects will be significant. It will be equivalent to an annual reduction of 2,600 metric tons of greenhouse gases, eliminating 510 vehicles a year from the road, reducing 291,000 gallons of gasoline, or providing more than enough energy to power 315 average homes per year.

“It is exciting to invest in clean-energy projects that will enhance the County’s infrastructure and will serve as a model for others in the public and private sector, said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Mike Wasserman. “Not only are we bringing renewable energy to our County, but also, we are building a clean-tech economy that responds to the needs of the new century.”

The total cost for these four projects will be $20,123,278. However, the County is expected to receive an estimated $7.4 million from the California Solar Initiative Program, which will bring down the net costs to an estimated $12,723,000 (not including financing costs). The incentives are paid to the County over a period of 5 years and are based on actual power production from the Solar PV systems.

Estimated savings over the life of the systems included in the Santa Clara County Generating Green initiative are estimated at $16.2 million over a 25 year period. These savings represent what the County would have paid PG&E assuming a 5.5 percent annual escalation cost over the same 25 year period.

The County of Santa Clara’s Facilities and Fleet Department is managing and coordinating the projects that will be installed by Stronghold Engineering Inc., a construction company with a solid background in Solar PV systems and government projects.

“It is clear that the County of Santa Clara and Stronghold Engineering share the same vision and commitment to reducing the County's carbon footprint and producing green energy,” said Chuck Gossage, Executive Vice President of Stronghold Engineering, Inc. “Today’s groundbreaking is a significant step to a more sustainable - greener future. We look forward to delivering a great project to the County that will meet and exceed its vision to go green.”

At today’s groundbreaking ceremony, Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network presented the County with the Green Visionary Leadership Award. Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network is the non-profit organization that facilitated the establishment of the Regional Renewable Power Purchase Initiative for municipalities in the region. Although these four initial projects have a separate purchasing arrangement to take advantage of the Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds, additional County Solar PV projects will be funded under the regional initiative.

“Today’s groundbreaking ceremony is a major achievement for Santa Clara County and we commend the Board of Supervisors and the County Executive for their extraordinary vision and leadership,” said Russell Hancock, President and Chief Executive Officer of Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network. “The County of Santa Clara is a major partner when it comes to decisions that will transform our region for the better.”

Major construction of the four Santa Clara County Generating Green Solar Photovoltaic projects will start in July, 2011. Projects are scheduled to be completed and generating renewable power in mid-November, 2011.

The County’s ongoing green efforts are already generating significant savings at other sites. For instance, two parking structures at Santa Clara County Valley Medical Center already have tracking type Solar Photo Voltaic systems installed on them, with a total of 2,288 modules. The system is designed to collect 722 kWp (peak), and it has received PG&E rebates totaling $1,185,449.70 in the last 23 months. To date, carbon dioxide emissions have been reduced by 1,497 tons, since May 2009.

Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Laurel Anderson, Office of Public Affairs (408) 299-5119
Posted: June 17, 2011