The largest private commercial solar power system in the Western Hemisphere was dedicated today in California.
FOUNTAIN VALLEY, California – The solar installation involves almost one acre of advanced solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof of the three story City Centre office building in Fountain Valley and on the roof of the Carlsbad Pointe industrial building in Orange County. The Fountain Valley building is owned by Arden Realty of Los Angeles, while the Carlsbad Pointe building is owned by CalWest Industrial Properties, a joint venture of CalPERS and RREEF of San Francisco. “The real estate industry – the bricks-and-mortar home of the U.S. economy – is waking up to the deteriorating reliability and increasing cost of the deregulated power industry,” says Dan Cashdan, chairman of RealEnergy Corp. of Los Angeles. “Distributed generation systems offering reliable, high quality, economical energy, are an extremely attractive hedge against a repeat of the near-disasters of last summer. And they’re a clean source, offsetting the creation of tons of toxins produced by old central power plants.” The two installations are the first in a series of distributed generation systems that RealEnergy anticipates it will develop to provide renewable energy to the real estate industry and to create on-site power alternatives. RealEnergy will sell the electricity from the PV panels to the building owners. “Given the brownouts in San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago and elsewhere last summer, buildings with reliable power will increasingly be seen as premium, preferred locations,” explains Richard Ziman, chairman and CEO of Arden Realty, the largest commercial real estate landlord in Southern California. “Distributed generation supports the environment and our tenants. Companies dependent on their computer systems or who have global 24/7 operations increasingly are recognizing they are at risk to a serious or even fatal business interruption tied to poor quality power.” Arden was honored this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the “2000 Buildings – Commercial Real Estate Owner of the Year” for owning the most energy-efficient buildings in one portfolio. Arden owns 30 percent of all buildings that submitted applications to the EPA last year for the Energy Star label that indicates high energy efficiency and environmental conservation designation. Distributed generation is the use of on-site energy systems such as solar PV, microturbine, natural gas reciprocating engines, fuel cell and other green power alternatives. The units are deployed to generate electricity and heat that displaces power from central plants which, otherwise, would be consumed during peak daytime hours. Peak-hour electricity from the nation’s power grid is the most expensive, and most vulnerable to spikes, surges, brownouts and blackouts. “All companies, not just technology firms, have heightened awareness to everything from minor surges or dips in quality to major blackouts that can affect their operational data, machinery and employee productivity,” says Larry Garberding of DTE Energy. No property owner can guarantee uninterrupted power, but distributed generation solutions offer more choice, he adds. DTE’s subsidiary, Edison Development, supplied the solar system that was installed by PowerLight Corporation. The company claims that its pre-engineered roof-top solar panels are more efficient and less expensive than most solar technology in use today, and feature penetration-free, flat installation. The project was supported by grants from the Department of Energy and the State of California Energy Commission. “Although solar electricity costs roughly 15 cents per kilowatt hour delivered versus traditional regulated power ranging from 3 to 12 cents under tariff, solar competes on a time-of-use basis with peak-demand, peak-price kilowatts on any given day,” says Paul Slye, president of RealEnergy. “Many property owners and operators appreciate the risk management tool that solar represents.” “Peak-period grid-delivered power costs 19 cents per kWh in certain municipalities, and runs as high as 27 or more in investor-owned utility service territories,” he notes. “Fixing the all-in cost for power with solar at 15 cents per kWh can help stabilize budgets and effectively cap energy outlays. This feature is gaining value in regions outside of San Diego as more utilities abandon old tariff rate schedules and customers are exposed to the real price of power.” The CalPERS/RREEF project in Carlsbad and Arden’s property in Fountain Valley have five million square feet in initial deployment. The output from the Fountain Valley system is equivalent to the electricity needed to power 240 homes, while the Carlsbad system generates enough electricity for 120 homes. “We hope distributed generation will be a win-win because it can potentially enhance a property’s investment potential,” says Michael Flaherman of CalPERS, the California Public Employees Retirement System. “It is also environmentally friendly.” “This is the forefront of implementation of alternative energy solutions, at a critical time when traditional power generation and distribution systems are aging and damaging to the environment,” adds Donald King of RREEF. “The air quality benefits are compelling, especially for corporations wanting to demonstrate their concern for the environment,” adds DTE’s Garberding. “The Fountain Valley and Carlsbad systems, which generate approximately 545,500 kWh annually, will offset the burning of 41,300 barrels of oil, or 12,000 tons coal, or 2600 million cubic feet of natural gas over the first 30 years than traditional fossil-fuel power sources. That also means sparing the air with 9,300 fewer tons of harmful cumulative emissions.” The Fountain Valley facility also includes a microturbine supplied by Capstone Technology and a fuel cell from Fuel Cell Energy. Utilities see distributed generation as a means to reduce peak load and reduce the possibility of power outages. California Governor Gray Davis, following power shortage alerts last summer, issued Executive Orders 14, 15 and 16 to accelerate the use of “sustainable energy” programs in State offices and in the private sector. DTE Energy’s principal subsidiary is Detroit Edison, an electric utility that serves 2.1 million customers in southeastern Michigan. Detroit Edison has two solar facilities in its service area that werethe first applications of its award-winning SolarCurrents programto deliver solar energy to customers through its electric grid.