Selling Sun in the Sunset

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The City's Sunset district has a view into the future. Photo: Hanson S Lee on Flickr

    The rooftop of the Sunset Reservoir boasts some of the sweeping views of San Francisco. From its concrete floor you can view the crashing waves of Ocean Beach – and survey acres of tightly packed Sunset homes. It also has a prime view of the future.

    In the past few months, its once stark rooftop has come to life with acres upon acres of solar panels.

    Workers have installed 6,000 panels, with another 18,000 still to go. Once it’s done, the panels will cover a chunk of land the size of twelve football fields, able to generate five megawatts of energy.

    “This is the beginning of the transformation of our economy,” said

    Adam Browning

    of the

    Vote Solar Initiative

    .”Off of fossil fuels to clean solar emission free electric power.”

    The Sunset Reservoir Project will soon be California’s largest municipally-owned solar array -- and one of the largest in the nation. The plant will power city buildings, Muni buses, public schools, hospitals and streetlights.

    “We’re well beyond the level of pilot projects, of demonstration projects,” said Browning. “This is actually a significant power plant.”

    Rather than build the plant, San Francisco teamed-up with company Recurrent Energy to let them do the work.

    The City will buy power from Recurrent at a discounted rate. But some critics have blasted the arrangement, wondering why San Francisco doesn’t fund and operate the plant itself.

    Mayor Gavin Newsom

    said working with a private developer qualified the City for 30 percent in rebates municipalities.

    “Had we not done that, over the life of this project it would have cost the taxpayers an additions $26 million dollars," the mayor said. "Made no sense.”

    The project will add to San Francisco’s options for purchasing energy. Right now, the City buys hydroelectric power from

    Hetch Hetchy

    , and on the open market. Now it will be able to buy power from its own solar plant.

    Newsom and other city officials lowered a row of panels onto the array Tuesday, as part of a groundbreaking. Crews expect to install all 24,000 panels by the end of the year, with a ceremonial flipping-of-the-switch to follow. Then, it will be up to a place called the Sunset, to shed some light on a quickly changing energy world.