Mirror Staff Writer
Santa Monica’s City Council conceptually approved a Community Energy Independence Initiative this spring that includes a commitment to using solar power along with other strategies as well as a two-year demonstration project.
According to the City staff report, the purpose of the demonstration project is “to verify potential program benefits and develop proposed financing and full-scale implementation plans for the initiative.” The staff report also mentions that the “integrated energy approach” would provide the City with “both financial and environmental benefits. The community would be able to create its own self-contained ‘micro’ power grids that would be much more efficient, cleaner and less prone to power outages. Since solar energy systems do not depend on fuel commodity markets, they are not subject to energy price increases once installed.”
Other potential benefits would be “a cost-effective source of new peak demand power, improved power quality and reliability, reduction in utility charges, potential source of emergency standby power and a potential source of high-reliability power for critical government facilities, hospitals, banks, internet providers, digital entertainment firms, etc.”
The City estimates the initiative will cost approximately $200,000 in fiscal year 2005-06, $440,000 in fiscal year 2006-07, and approximately $322,000 in fiscal year 2007-08 in one-time expenditures. The City currently has budgeted funds in the amount of $637,780 available in the “Energy Efficiency/Conservation Fund” to cover the costs of the project during the remaining portion of the current fiscal year and for fiscal year 2006-2007. Other funding will have to be approved by the Council in future budget years.
According to Susan Munves, the City’s Energy and Green Building Program Administrator, the goal of the demonstration project is to install solar panels, solar thermal (hot water heating), and small co-generation systems (small fuel cells) and micro turbines in 50 buildings throughout Santa Monica “to demonstrate the cost effectiveness and other benefits” of these technologies. Buildings from the City’s residential and commercial districts will be included.
Munves added that those wishing to participate would take a survey to make their home or business more energy efficient. Then after they’ve reduced their demand, a decision can be made about what type and how much of the integrated alternative technology is needed to meet a participant’s energy demand. Participants will be able to purchase solar equipment from pre-approved solar vendors at a negotiated price.
The demonstration project will “be launched to the public in a few months,” stressed Munves. “Right now we’re putting together the pieces.” One of those pieces will be a website which is described in the City staff report as “a place that will feature descriptions of energy products and their benefits, case studies showing the cost effectiveness of integrated energy management systems, calculators for citizens to perform quick analysis of their property’s potential for installation of energy efficiency and solar systems, permitting guidelines, rebate information, tax credit forms and other financial information.”