23 Aug 2014
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Albany Investigates Solar Power Partnership

A solar power plan in which Albany would join three other cities — El Cerrito, Piedmont and San Pablo — to solicit proposals for solar panels on 25 buildings won approval from the El Cerrito City Council on Monday night.

Albany Investigates Solar Power Partnership Albany Investigates Solar Power Partnership Albany Investigates Solar Power Partnership Albany Investigates Solar Power Partnership

Albany will soon consider the placement of solar panels on four city buildings, according to a staff report prepared for the El Cerrito City Council's Aug. 15 meeting.

El Cerrito's council approved a  Monday night to put solar panels on a dozen of its city-owned buildings. 

The  measure authorizes El Cerrito to join Albany, Piedmont and San Pablo to solicit proposals to install solar panels on 25 municipal buildings in the four cities.

The other three cities have yet to approve the agreement but all are expected to do so in September, said Maria Sanders, an environmental analyst for the city of El Cerrito. She said El Cerrito acted first because it would be the lead partner in the project, with more buildings affected than any other city.

"The good news," Sanders said after the council's unanimous approval Monday, "is now we'll be able to move forward with putting together agreements with other cities."

Albany's council is on recess through August, but will return to an active meeting schedule in September; the council meets the first and third Mondays of each month.

On the list for potential Albany locations are City Hall and the Teen Center, Community Center and Children's Center. The panels could reduce carbon dioxide usage by 75 tons, generate 267,135 kWh per year and reduce the city's electric bill substantially over the expected 25-year life of the system.

The panels could reduce the annual electricity usage of the four buildings by 56 percent.

The largest photovoltaic array — generating 152,102 kWh — would be placed on City Hall, followed by panels generating about 70,236 kWh on the Community Center; 34,510 kWh on the Children's Center; and 10,287 kWh on the Teen Center.

A fifth building was considered for the project but only four were selected as feasible.

Information about projected cost savings in Albany was not available because the report, attached here as a PDF, focused primarily on El Cerrito. According to the report, El Cerrito would save 28 percent of its annual electric bill and reduce greenhouse emissions by 7 percent.

Pooling resources and purchasing power gives small cities the economy of scale and ability to do what would have been difficult if not impossible alone, said Melanie Mintz, manager of El Cerrito's environmental services division.

"This kind of agreement really broadened what the city could do on its own," she said.

In January last year, a partnership of the four cities with the non-profit Strategic Energy Innovations won funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Showcase Communities Program to pursue climate protection and energy management activities.

The grant proposal, titled the " Small Cities Climate Action Partnership," was intended to create a model for small cities to pool staff, consultants and electricity demand for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving climate action planning, the staff report said.

According to the El Cerrito staff report, "the collaboration is to jointly issue a solicitation and to cooperate in negotiating contract and financial terms," but "El Cerrito will in no way be responsible for any aspect of any project in the other cities."

According to El Cerrito's current time line, installation could happen as soon as spring or summer of 2012; details were not available for Albany.

Albany's was adopted in April 2010 with a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Albany by 25 percent below 2004 levels by 2020. 

Everybody makes mistakes ... ! If there's something in this article you think should be corrected, or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at  emilier@patch.com. 

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