BACC Editor on Monday, 01 August 2011 15:27
Opinion: Bad economy can't stop Bay Area communities from advancing clean energy - San Jose Mercury News
Opinion: Bad economy can't stop Bay Area communities from advancing clean energy By Rachel Massaro and Rafael Reyes.
Special to the Mercury News
With unemployment still alarmingly high and budgets thin everywhere, great concern about the direction of the economic recovery persists. At the same time, the continuing tragedy surrounding Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant reinforces the importance of safe, clean energy to power the economy. Can we create jobs, improve budgets, strengthen our energy security and address climate change? Yes, and throughout the Bay Area, communities are showing leadership by moving toward innovative energy initiatives.
As one example, Santa Clara County, the Valley Transportation Authority, RethinkWaste and several cities are collaborating to make the largest multiagency purchase of renewable energy in the United States.
When the installations are completed later this year, 4 million square feet of space at community centers, city halls, fire and police stations and other public facilities from Pacifica to Morgan Hill will be covered with solar photovoltaic panels. The collective effort saved money, and when the installations are deployed, they will generate more than 14 megawatts of clean, safe power -- enough to power 2,700 average California homes. This will stimulate $60 million in local economic activity and create more than 300 jobs. These sites will more than double the entire existing solar-installed capacity for nonresidential systems across Santa Clara County in one year.
Sonoma County recently won the EV-Ready Community Award for its work preparing to support electric vehicles. As part of the Sonoma County Local Governments Electric Vehicle Partnership, the county has streamlined permitting for home charger installation, is deploying public chargers in strategic locations to support shopping, tourism and sightseeing -- nearly 90 over the next 12 months alone -- and is deploying plug-in vehicles in its fleet, including the region's first municipal Nissan Leaf in service. If just 10 percent of the Bay Area's vehicles become plug-in vehicles, residents would save over $1 billion otherwise used for gasoline that could be reinvested in the region, creating jobs.
Palo Alto is considering a community power source that will turn costly and pollution-inducing waste into fuel to power homes, with a leading-edge "anaerobic digester" at its old dump. An initiative on whether to allow it will appear on the November ballot. The technology, proven abroad, would be a national showcase in the U.S.
A digester is a facility that uses microorganisms in a closed container to break down yard and food waste into biogas and compost. The biogas is then prepared to produce electricity. The project would likely save $1 million annually, power some 1,400 homes with clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20,000 tons per year.
These are but a small sampling of the many opportunities communities around the bay are grasping to power the economy and create jobs. The advances are stimulated by California's Global Warming Solutions Act, known as AB 32, which has spurred investment in clean energy. Advancing these kinds of initiatives will pay off big. Leaders in all sectors should pursue them aggressively to rebuild the economy, create jobs and safeguard our resources from climate change.
RACHEL MASSARO is associate director of Climate Initiatives at Joint Venture Silicon Valley. RAFAEL REYES is executive director of the Bay Area Climate Collaborative, a project of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and a member of the national Sierra Club board of directors. They wrote this for this newspaper.