In an effort to reduce energy costs and to continue to develop sustainability initiatives, the City of Mill Valley is moving forward with the plan to install solar arrays in the parking lots and on the rooftops of the Community Center, Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Corporation Yard.
“This is a potentially wonderful opportunity,” City Manager Jim McCann told the City Council in June. “This addresses the Council’s interest in sustainability and for us to reduce our greenhouse gas production while also reducing some costs in our electrical consumption.”
The City Council reviewed the proposal in depth, focusing on both the financial impact of the solar projects as well as the aesthetic impact on the rooftops and parking lots of the impacted City facilities at their meetings in June and August.
The project comes three years after the City installed a solar energy array behind the Public Safety Building. The array supplies enough energy to run both the Fire and Police Department sides of the building, and returns between $3,000 and $6,000 annually in revenue for excess energy sold to Marin Clean Energy.
The latest solar project comes via a program called Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED), a public-private partnership between San Rafael-based nonprofit Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI) and Optony, Inc., a Silicon Valley solar consulting firm that specializes in setting up municipal solar programs and projects.
The SEED partnership involves a host of cities and agencies in the North Bay, including the City of San Rafael, which is coordinating the projects, as well as Marinwood Community Services District, Southern Marin Fire Protection District, City of Novato and Marin Healthcare District, among others.
The City’s estimated cumulative energy cost savings under the deal would be slightly more than $5 million, with the bulk of the savings – $3.29 million – coming from the solar array at the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
One of the crucial components of the SEED project’s success in Mill Valley is the concept of net metering – the idea that the City’s solar arrays would produce more electricity than its facilities regularly need, thereby generating excess energy that can be sold back to the utility grid and generate additional revenue as the Public Safety Building solar array has done, City officials said.
At their June meeting, City Councilman John McCauley, among others, asked for some additional analysis of the current energy use at those facilities to get a better sense of whether or not the solar arrays would produce excess electricity.
The City’s pursuit of the SEED projects stems from its dedication to sustainability. The City Council has identified sustainability as a Core Value and Key Issue and has identified the pursuit of sustainability initiatives as one of the Priority Projects for 2014.
Mill Valley's recently adopted General Plan also serves as the City's Climate Action Plan, which identifies emission-reduction programs such as supporting and providing incentives for using clean energy and energy efficiency solutions to assist the City in meetings its emission reduction targets.
The City has established a goal of reducing City-related emissions by 20 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020. In 2010, approximately 21 percent of City-related emissions were related to its buildings and facilities.
At their meeting on August 4, Council approved the proposal, which allows the City to execute agreements on the Community Center and Corporation Yard projects, while the Wastewater Treatment Plant project would potentially go to the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin board this summer or fall.
Proposed Roof Mounted Solar Array on the Mill Valley Community Center.