On Tuesday, the County of Santa Clara, and several partnering cities, VTA, Rethink Waste, and Joint Venture Silicon Valley announced that they are collaborating to make the largest multi-jurisdiction renewable energy procurement effort in the U.S. 

It is the largest public renewable energy procurement in terms of both number of sites and number of jurisdictions participating, although not in total installed capacity.

Types of sites include office rooftops, carports, water storage tanks, ground mounted systems, bus depots, senior centers, parking garages, health centers and others from Pacifica to Morgan Hill.

Named the Regional Renewable Power Purchase Initiative, and put out to bid yesterday evening, elected officials are lauding the effort for its magnitude and because it represents a monumental step to move public agencies to renewable energy sources and away from fossil fuels.  

The purchase, with a total planned solar capacity of 14.4 Megawatts (MW), will include renewable power for a total of 70 sites across 43 separate locations, with 9 participating cities and agencies lead by the County of Santa Clara.

“This is an excellent example of what can happen when you bring a group of visionary, committed participants to the table,” said Supervisor Dave Cortese, Vice President of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. 

“You have the opportunity to build on each other’s strengths and create jobs – more than 450 green jobs.  For example, the City of Milpitas had the vision to employ renewable energy at multiple sites and took the lead in getting the dialogue started.

“The County of Santa Clara, as a part of its commitment to environmental stewardship, brought in the technical, legal and contractual resources necessary to move this idea from concept to reality for the region.”

When Phase I is completed, in 2011, this project will have the environmental impact of planting over 2,800 acres of trees, or removing over 2,600 passenger cars from the roads, or providing more than enough energy to power 2,700 California homes for a year.

“Twenty-seven of the 70 sites will be in Milpitas at 15 different locations.  I am pleased that Milpitas identified the opportunity for a Power Purchase concept and brought the Association of Bay Area Governments and Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network together to start the ball rolling.  I am also very appreciative of all the work the County has done to implement this exciting project,” said Mayor Robert Livengood, City of Milpitas, who could not be at the news conference.

“The opportunity for the City of Mountain View to explore this innovative, collaborative model of purchasing renewable energy, which will be the largest multi-agency purchase in the country, is one we couldn’t pass up, given the financial and environmental benefits it offers our current residents and future generations,” said Mayor Ronit Bryant, City of Mountain View.

Proposed sites for the City of Mountain View include several roof-mounted systems and carport structures, with each installation having the capacity to generate at least 100% of that site’s energy needs. One example involves installing roof-mounted and parking lot solar carports at the Shoreline Park Golf Pro Shop. The golf course’s numerous carts are already electric-powered, so this installation would enable the City of Mountain View to provide zero emissions transportation around the golf course.

“The City of Cupertino is pleased to be a part of this progressive renewable energy procurement,” said Mayor Kris Wang, City of Cupertino.  “We’ll have solar panels mounted at three locations – City Hall Plaza, Quinlan Community Center and the fleet parking lot.” 

“VTA has been actively involved and is a proud partner in this regional initiative lead by the County of Santa Clara,” said Margaret Abe-Koga, Mountain View City Councilmember and Vice Chair of the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Board of Directors.  “This program will reinforce VTA’s commitment to create a greener Santa Clara Valley through the reduction of greenhouse gases and the use of renewable energy.”

VTA has identified two sites for renewable energy systems – VTA’s North Bus Maintenance and Operations Division in Mountain View, and the Guadalupe Light Rail Maintenance and Operations Division in San Jose. The proposed solar panel canopies at VTA’s facility in Mountain View will provide a number of direct and indirect energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction benefits.

In Phase I, there is an anticipated overall net cost savings of at least 10% from the energy produced from the solar power project compared to current electricity costs.  The photo voltaic installations at the 11 County buildings will cover two million square feet. These projects will not only reduce public agencies environmental footprint, and produce energy costs savings, they also will spur economic activity.

“We are pleased with the thoughtfulness that went into the planning process,” said Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network CEO Russell Hancock. “We are confident that the project will stimulate local economic opportunities.  It is enormously rewarding to have played a key role in facilitating such an important public-private partnership and to see it now moving forward.”

Even though the procurement is large, sites are bundled, allowing local businesses to compete effectively.  Local businesses will be able to bid on their areas of specialty in this procurement. Local businesses also will benefit from the County’s local preference scoring policy.  This Phase I project is expected to create approximately 226 jobs during construction and installation, and another 233 indirect jobs related to the project, not including manufacturing which may occur offshore.

“The collaborative creates a force in the marketplace, one that can change the way Silicon Valley and the nation thinks about, consumes and purchases renewable power,” continued Cortese.

The County of Santa Clara’s Facilities and Fleet Department provided project management expertise and overall coordination of the regional effort and procurement. Optony Inc., a global solar research and consulting firm based in Santa Clara, assisted the collaborative in developing the strategic contracting model and is providing expertise for the procurement effort. Critigen, Inc., a Colorado based company, conducted site survey assessments including structural and electrical evaluations to determine the feasibility of solar and/or wind at all of the various sites.