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City of Gold Vies to Become Solar City

by Mary Weston, Staff Writer
Oroville Mercury-Register, September 4, 2002

While other cities in northern California are turning off lights to pay skyrocketing electric bills, Oroville leaders are planning to eliminate the energy costs on most city owned buildings and drastically reduce the costs on others.

The city has been exploring the feasibility of installing solar panels and other energy technologies in various city owned buildings, saving thousands of dollars on PG&E bills.

"During the day, the panels would produce excess power and send it to the grid," said Mayor Gordon Andoe. "The city would get credit for the excess power - it's like putting energy in a bucket." "If you produce more than you've used, at the end of the year your bill would be reduced to zero."

The city project is coming on the heals of a 520 kilowatt solar project announced last month by the Sewerage Commission-Oroville Region (SC-OR), which will provide 80 percent of the energy needed to operate the water treatment plant.

Sun Power and Geothermal Energy of San Rafael would install solar panels and energy technologies at City Hall, the Fire and Police Facilities, the corporation yard, the State Theater and the Pioneer Museum. Robert Friedman, Vice President of Sun Power said the new systems would reduce the energy costs at city hall by 100 percent, the corporation yard by 100 percent, the Pioneer Museum by 100 percent, the police/fire facility by 70 percent and State Theater by 60 percent. Later, the theater's bill will be reduced when state rebates are available for 17 watt systems.

Although some Bay area cities such as Vallejo have pursued solar power alternatives, renewable energy options are still cutting edge in a state blessed with sunshine. In sunny California, less than 1 percent of the state's energy comes from solar, according to the states energy commission, according to

"These projects will really put Oroville on the map as a city that's leading the way in the renewable energy market place," Friedman said. "Oroville is becoming Solar City, U.S.A."

Sun-Power and Geothermic Energy of San Rafael bid on the project last month, and city staff explored financing options for the project. Tuesday, City Council approved the proposed financing options and authorized staff to proceed with the project, which council and staff wants to get underway before the end of the year in order to qualify for California Energy Commission cash rebates for 2002 and 2003.

"The photovoltaic systems will in time pay for themselves by virtue of the money saved on annual utility costs," City Administrator Ruben Duran wrote in a staff report.

The gross cost of the project is $1,655,919, with expected cash rebates reducing the cost to $896, 832. The general fund and RDA bonds would finance the remainder of the project, with the savings on PG&E costs eventually off-setting the cost and reimbursing the general fund.

"We'll get that money back, hopefully, as we save money on PG&E," said Sandra Sato, Director of Finance.

The solar projects for city hall would be paid for from equipment replacement money from the general fund. The equipment fund would be reimbursed at a rate of $19,000 a year, using money. Other projects would be financed with a proposed Redevelopment Agency (RDA) bond issue. The bond issue will make $5.2 million available for projects within Oroville that benefit the public and fight blight.

Mary Weston, Staff Reporter
City of Gold Vies to Become Solar City
Oroville Mercury-Register, September 4, 2002

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