San Francisco OKs California’s Largest Municipal Solar Project

  • Published on May 7th, 2009

sunset reservoir solar PV

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s plan to create one of state’s largest solar photovoltaic plants was approved by the city’s Board of Supervisors.


San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors Tuesday passed a proposal giving clearance to Recurrent Energy to Construct a 5 megawatt solar photovoltaic plant and sell energy to the city at a cost of about $2 million annually. The new plant, to be built in the city’s Sunset District, will be the largest municipal solar power project in California.

“Yesterday, San Francisco took another major step towards achieving our commitments to reduce greenhouse gases and grow our green economy,” said Mayor Newsom in a statement.

Newsom, who sponsored the legislation, added that the project would more than triple San Francisco’s solar energy production and “help lead the state towards a future of clean, renewable energy.”

Developing the project will be San Francisco-based Recurrent Energy. Under the deal, Recurrent will assume initial financial responsibility for the cost of installing and operating the plant. In return, the city incurs no upfront cost, but enters into a purchase agreement with Recurrent, buying the plant’s energy at a cost of 23.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, plus 3 percent per year.

In March, Recurrent purchased the solar project pipeline of up to 350 megawatts from UPC Solar, a Chicago-based renewable energy development company. The recent transaction provided Recurrent Energy with direct access to project opportunities in development across the continental United States, Hawaii, and Canada.

Note: If you live in San Francisco (or other cities) and are looking for residential solar, check out 1 Block Off the Grid’s group purchasing program. Both GO Media and 1 Block Off the Grid (1BOG) are owned by Virgance.

Image: Artist rendition of solar PV plant at Sunset Reservoir courtesy of Mayor Newsom’s Office

[UPDATE]: This project has passed the Board of Supervisors. See the official press release on page 2.

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.
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  • Half of it is being paid by Federal incentives, as is noted on the Recurrent Energy website.

  • Who ever said it was funded by tax dollars. Read the article for once.

  • Interesting comments. Not living in California I can only comment that at least they are trying….

  • Just an educated guess by someone who lives in the area, but I suspect that the location was selected precisely *because* of the still-insane property costs.

    The proposed project is slated for the Sunset Reservoir; it's an already established expanse of space that they really can't build upon or do anything else with. It was probably among their lowest cost options for securing a sufficient area up to the task of significant power generation.

    Repeat: just my hunch. Having lived in the outer Richmond, comments above regarding fog in western parts of the city are well taken.

  • Gerg

    it sits on top of a reservoir- you cant zone for housing. it's definitely a step forward no matter how you look at it.

  • Dan E

    This is totally stupid subsidizing programs like this just drives up the cost of solar, and places that need it don't install it. They should do this in the desert east of San Diego. Land is cheap, so they could afford to build a much bigger plant. And because there is more sun, the plant will be significantly more productive per square foot.

    This is people wanting to feel good about themselves actively hurting the planet.

  • I think this project is awsome, I hope every city do the same thing

    greetings from Kansas!

  • Cliff

    Its being built on top of a water reservoir. so instead of just having a bare concrete surface they're putting solar panels. so there's no land wasted

  • John G.

    True about the fog. The decision to build a solar farm in the Sunset District is obviously a PR ploy by Newsome (who is supported by Senators Feinstein and Boxer) to gain popular votes for Newsome's upcoming bid for Governor.

    Wake-up California. With our budget and economy in turmoil, we need fiscally responsible leaders, not more of the same.

    John G.

  • hvacmach

    dumb and dumber, just because it sounds good on paper does not mean it will work. How about some wave generators instead???

  • Awesome the city is up for doing this, but why the sunset district? That's one of the foggiest places in SF.

  • Jacobi Grillo

    This makes little sense to me…I'm from sunny southern Nevada and lived in San Francisco last Summer. How many days a year of sunshine does SF get?

  • Tyler

    Knowing how expensive property is in SF, I am surprised they didn't leave the land for residential development. They could have easily changed the zoning laws to require the installation of PV cells on the rooftops of all new development. Your energy production density would be less, but at least you're getting multiple uses out of the land that's already at a premium.

  • Allan

    The Sunset is one of the more foggy areas of the city. Why are they placing it there when there are more sunny areas in the Mission, Hunters Point, or Treasure Island?

    Why not treat solar energy like water and put PV generation east of Pleasanton – the Altamont Pass wind turbines wound't mind sharing energy generation duties, not to mention making better land use.

  • Eric Johnson

    The Sunset District is fogged in most of the year.

  • goblueth

    Don't think anyone can deny San Fran's got their shit down and understands the importance of alternate energy. Continue to be a model for sustainability, and be aggressive in pursuing projects like these!

  • Structure looking really amazing!