P.G. Mayor envisions solar panels on city buildings, schools.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
First water, now sun: Pacific Grove Mayor Dan Cort is pulling out all the stops to turn his city into a self-sustaining community.
On Aug. 20 Cort got the City Council’s nod to design a new city reservoir to store stormwater. Now he plans to ask the council to consider solar panels for all city buildings, and possibly P.G. schools.
“I’d like the city to look at it as a part of our sustainability program,” Cort says. “It’s a great idea for the future of power in Pacific Grove.”
Cort will present the concept at a yet-to-be-scheduled joint meeting of the school board and City Council.
For now, Cort is paying his personal intern, Monterey Institute of International Studies graduate student Max Perelman, to look into financing a city-wide solar scheme.
Because cities don’t pay taxes, it would take some economic wrangling to get the most sunshine for P.G.’s buck. Through a “power purchase agreement,” the city would sell the solar facility to a third-party developer who would get the tax incentives and government rebates. Roughly five years later, the developer would sell the facility back to the city at a significant discount.
The incentives would pay for about half of the $3 million dollar array, Perelman says, and the remaining $1.5 million loan would likely be financed by a large bank. The National Development Council, a New York-based nonprofit, has offered to act as the middleman.
“If they are interested in us pursuing it, we would love to arrange the financing,” says NDC director Michael Johnson. “We try to make it simpler for [cities] to really get the benefits from those tax credits.”
The array could produce an estimated 550,000 kilowatt-hours per year– almost 90 percent of city buildings’ electricity needs, Perelman says. The electric bill savings could be used to help pay off the loan. In roughly 10 years the city would own the solar panels, which could last another 20-30 years.
Bigger solar arrays are more economical than small ones, so Cort hopes local schools will sign on. On Aug. 27 he and City Manager Jim Colangelo met with P.G. school district officials.
Until and unless the City Council approves the concept of going solar, it’s a personal mission for Cort. He’s just beginning to see what solar can do on the roof of his own foggy P.G. home whose solar system went online in August. “I looked at my own house and said, ‘Walk the walk, dude.’”